What's the Deal with the NCSU Seal

What is a seal? What is a hallmark? Why do we have both?

Sep 23, 2021 5 min read
What's the Deal with the NCSU Seal

When NCSU Football introduced the Light it Red uniform set prior to the USF game, the University Seal was front and center on the crest of the uniform tops.

I love the seal because it's a logo representative of the University as a whole as opposed to something specific to the Athletics Department - like the Block S or Tuffy Head.

What I think has always separated State fans from a lot of other fanbases is our love for the entire University, because lord knows we haven't gotten much of an ROI from the Athletics Department in the last...

*checks calendar*

...three decades.

I love State because it's where I spent four of the best years of my life and received an education that I firmly believe is second to none in the state of North Carolina (now that I've put this in here, there's absolutely going to be a typo or ten that I missed before hitting "Publish"). That is why the University seal has always been important to me. In years past, I purchased merchandise that featured the seal - such as a rear window decal for my car, a pewter front license plate for my car, a pint glass, a t-shirt, etc. I've also got a hand-me-down sweatshirt with the seal on it that my Dad passed down to me years ago.

However, when the Light it Red uniforms were released that included the seal, I wondered why I hadn't seen any merchandise that featured the seal on it in a while. I'd seen merchandise that included something that was introduced a few years ago called the "University Hallmark", but nothing that included the actual seal design of the University.

When I checked in with the NCSU Bookstore about this, I was directed to a page from the NCSU Trademarks website that indicated there are currently two "official" University seal logos: (1) the "Chancellor's Seal" and (2) the "University Hallmark". The Chancellor's Seal is only to be "used for formal or official university documents and special events" and can also be found embedded into the floor of Talley Student Union:

The University Hallmark was introduced in 2018 to replace the "Commercial Seal" and is used to "promote the university on commercial retail items that have an academic or institutional focus, as well as for college-level and department-level certificates, awards and gifts of appreciation."

The Commercial Seal referenced above was essentially a version of the Chancellor's Seal with a different border that was introduced in the 1980's and that was allowed to be used on official University merchandise, much in the same manner that the University Hallmark is now employed.

A quick comparison of the University Hallmark and Commercial Seal shows that the three primary changes are that the University Hallmark utilizes a much more dumbed down version of the Belltower, replaces "North Carolina State" with "NC State", and adds "Raleigh, NC" to the design.

I was later made aware that the University went through a branding overhaul in 2015-2016, part of which was to make "NC State" the standard reference to the University and to remove any/all mention of "NCSU" on official merchandise. This rebrand involved the later development of the University Hallmark in 2018. The two reasons behind the introduction of the University Hallmark were that: (1) there had been unauthorized uses of the Commercial Seal that had not been allowed by NC State's Trademark Department and (2) the University Hallmark was simpler, which allowed it to be printed more easily for merchandising purposes.

First of all, those two reasons seem to be at odds with one another. If the goal is to avoid unauthorized uses of a University insignia, why make it easier to print and mass produce? Additionally, if we wanted to introduce the University Hallmark to "improve" our branding, then why introduce yet another logo that looks entirely different from the Chancellor's Seal? The Commercial Seal that NCSU decided to replace bore a much closer resemblance to the Chancellor's Seal.

Secondly, I personally find the University Hallmark to look more like something that would be marketed to the Junior Wolfpack Club demo. I created a Twitter poll yesterday showing both of these designs. This poll ran for 24 hours, garnered 402 votes, and ultimately showed a 93.3% to 6.7% split in favor of the Commercial Seal design. The replies to that Tweet referencing the design of University Hallmark weren't overly positive either.

I don't think the University Hallmark is a terrible design and I would have been fine with it if NCSU wanted to create the Hallmark as an alternate logo simply to pump more t-shirts through the Bookstore. My issue with what they opted to do is that it seems like an attempt to solve a problem that wasn't really there to begin with.

The same could be said with how the University now does not allow the use of "NCSU" on merchandise - only "NC State". If we only wanted to be exclusively referred to as "NC State" in official University marketing materials? Fine, that absolutely makes sense. I understand the importance of external branding, but why are we extending that branding across our own alumni base and student body in such a strict and extreme manner?

Individuals in North Carolina are always going to refer to the University as "NCSU", "NC State", or "State". Those are also the same individuals who will be buying the merchandise sold at the Campus Bookstore or the Red & White Shop. Would it really have been such a detriment to State's branding to give its alumni and students the option to purchase shirts that say "NCSU", "NC State", or "State"? To that point, there's been a social media campaign by State fans for years to get ESPN to finally use "NCSU" instead of "NCST" on their score bug during games.

In regard to the merchandise that features the University Hallmark, if I was purchasing something "nicer" like a diploma sleeve, diploma frame, rocks glass, clock, sweater, etc., I wouldn't want that item if it featured the Hallmark. I would want the actual seal of the university that I attended on that item. The Commercial Seal looks much more professional and dignified, which - in my opinion - should be the primary goal for a University insignia.

If you look at what's offered by other universities: UNC-CH (apologies for the light blue), UVA, FSU, etc. - these universities all allow their actual seal design to be used on official merchandise sold to students and alumni. Oddly enough, the first of those linked above from UNC-CH and UVA look exactly like the Commercial Seal that NCSU has now "outlawed" for some reason.

Why NCSU has decided not to allow individuals to purchase merchandise that features the actual seal of the University is beyond me. Currently, if NCSU students and alumni wanted to purchase something similar, the only option is to purchase something with a logo on it that looks like it would fit much better within an NC State-specific coloring book.

The design of the NCSU-seal wasn't broken and I don't understand why we decided to try and "fix" it.

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