The pair of arcing lines above the new logo for Gallaudet University, unveiled Wednesday, might look like a random flourish of decorative branding. But to the Gallaudet community, they mean a great deal more.
Gallaudet leaders believe they have come up with the first university logo to incorporate both English and American Sign Language. The arcing lines, which sweep across the letters of “Gallaudet” and meet in a point, represent the unique sign that corresponds to the university’s name.
It’s a bilingual logo for a bilingual university. Administrators of the Northeast Washington institution have championed the dual-language model in recent years, to preserve traditional deaf culture at a time when rising numbers of deaf and hard-of-hearing students are immersed in the hearing world. It’s increasingly common for Gallaudet students to come from mainstream public schools, and to arrive without proficiency in sign language.
Gallaudet’s old logo, a sort of framed letter G, had been in place since 1986. Last summer, president T. Alan Hurwitz empaneled a committee to find a new design.
I happened to sit in on an administrative meeting last fall that included a half-hour discussion of the new logo. Many designs had been considered and many opinions taken, and the university had narrowed the choices to four. The designs played on various themes: the capital G, the university’s iconic tower clock and the arched windows within the chapel.
Each rendering had appeal, but there was no clear favorite. And no one was particularly happy with the comparatively anonymous G; Gallaudet is one of several Gs on the local higher-education landscape.
“I just think people wanted to see something different,” said Catherine Murphy, university spokeswoman.
The artist responsible for the designs mentioned, at one point, that the arch in the chapel window served a dual purpose as an iteration of the Gallaudet symbol in sign language, formed by a swooping motion of the forefinger and thumb.
The swoop caught fire, and soon the old designs were off the table. When the university community considered a slate of new renderings, “people really gravitated to the swoop design,” Murphy said.
Administrators collected more than 2,000 comments on the logo, part of a new and painstakingly democratic process at a university with allegations of autocracy and exclusion in its past.
“We were amazed by the number of people who participated in the process. This shows how important the logo is to the identity and perception of Gallaudet University and the deaf community,” Hurwitz said in prepared remarks, which he was to deliver to that community Wednesday in an unveiling ceremony.