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An inside look at designing a college mascot

An inside look at designing a college mascot -cover

Southwestern Michigan College (SMC) approached ddm with the task of recreating its roadrunner mascot. The goal was to have an updated mascot the school could incorporate into its logo and could also be converted into a physical mascot for events around campus. We were thrilled with the opportunity to tackle a project like this, and grateful SMC trusted us with this responsibility. ddm’s creative department manager, Brian Bekins, lead the design exploration and explains the step-by-step process he took.

Step 1: References

After meeting with SMC's team to hear more about the look and feel they wanted for the mascot we began collecting reference materials. References included other school mascots, roadrunner illustrations and photography. During our kick-off call we heard that SMC wanted a mascot with attitude and confidence, but they didn’t want it to look angry or too aggressive.

roadrunner mascots

When searching for reference materials, we wanted to look at different poses and expressions that mimicked the characteristics SMC was looking for. We also wanted to find photos of roadrunners to explore exaggerating some of their features.

roadrunner icons

Step 2: Sketches

Once we found enough reference materials, we began the process of sketching out our initial concepts. Often times these sketches required additional overlays to capture a more fine-tuned representation of the mascot we wanted to present.

Our first design concept was more realistic and active which allowed the mascot to be easily identified as a roadrunner. Additional options were explored that felt more like a cartoon mascot. These options had more character and were more playful than the running roadrunner concept.

roadrunner sketches

From here the sketches were inked in and brought into Photoshop so color could be loosely applied in the school’s palette. This helped bring the sketches to life and allowed the client to see how the finished images would look.

Step 3: Client feedback and round 2 revisions

ddm suggested that SMC could use a more realistic mascot in corporate scenarios and a second cartoon mascot in things like athletics and apparel. The team agreed. From here we took the two approved directions and revised them to bring them closer together, so they looked more like a family, even though they were in different styles. By updating features like curved beaks and detailed feet, we brought the two mascots closer together and made them feel more like a true roadrunner. We also incorporated text into the designs to create additional logo options using the full college name and initials.

roadrunner sketch

roadrunner cartoon 2

roadrunner cartoon2

Step 4: Secondary logos

ddm also created secondary logos of the cartoon mascot that could be used in athletic apparel scenarios. This allows the main logo to be the hero while the secondary logo seal works as an emblem in another location to help complete the overall look. This solution allows SMC to have many different formats of its logo for any space restrictions they may run into.

corporate roadrunner

roadrunner 3C


This was a fantastic project to work on! It gave ddm the opportunity to push our creativity and use skills outside of traditional design and layout. The project was very collaborative which always produces the best results.

Overall the client, including the college President and Board of Trustees Chairman, was very happy with the final logos and were excited to roll them out to the students when they arrived on campus in the fall. 

Interested in seeing more of our work with SMC?

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