Virginia Athletics announced the release of a new brand identity Friday morning that aims to “provide updates on a brand rich in history and tradition.”
This new identity includes “updates to the iconic V-Sabre mark, two new secondary marks, a revised color scheme and the introduction of new typography, numerals and patterns,” according to the Virginia Athletics press release.
Though the timing of the unveiling may seem strange in light of recent events related to COVID-19, Virginia hopes the new branding will help excite the community until sports activities resume.
“Moving forward with this new identity system is a vital part of our preparation for the fall and the hopeful return of U.Va. Athletics competition,” Athletic Director Carla Williams said. “In this way, it is also symbolic of our belief that we will not only endure our current circumstances but that we will be stronger because of them.”
The project to rebrand Virginia Athletics began 18 months ago in collaboration with Nike’s Global Identity Group. It started with a discovery process led by Nike that consulted coaches, student-athletes and administrators to determine objectives for the redesign.
“Nike’s discovery process was fascinating,” Williams said. “They are global leaders in marketing and to be able to be part of their process was unique and special.”
This discovery process led them to an objective — “to build upon the existing strength of the brand and create an innovative and cohesive system that reflects the unique characteristics and traditions of Virginia Athletics and positions the program for the future,” according to Virginia Sports.
With this objective in mind, the team drew inspiration from architecture on Grounds — such as the Rotunda, the Lawn and serpentine walls — to construct the new brand and design the new marks and typography incorporated elements. Virginia Athletics hopes that its new visual identity will help it stand out from other ACC programs while also symbolizing everything Virginia stands for.
“It’s exciting and it maintains U.Va.’s sense of history and a strong connection to the past,” Williams said. “It pays homage to our tradition and what we hope our future will be, which is to be bold, creative, innovative, competitive, fierce and fiery. The new marks and logos have all of those qualities in each one of them.”
The quintessential V-Sabre mark is still the primary logo, although it has undergone a few design changes and sizing adjustments.
The new V-Sabre includes a beveling effect to the “V” and the swords to give the mark more weight and make it appear bolder. It also features more detail on the grip of the swords to represent the serpentine walls found near the Lawn and around Grounds.
“The V-Sabre logo is uniquely Virginia,” Williams said. “Updates to the V-Sabre enhance our primary mark and enable it to be pronounced when it is positioned side-by-side with our competition.”
Two new secondary marks have also been added — the Cavalier Shield and the Virginia Cavalier. Both are unlike anything ever seen before in a Virginia logo.
The Cavalier Shield is a new take on a coat of arms, a hereditary symbol used to represent families, corporations or countries since early medieval Europe. The top of the mark is a trace of the Rotunda’s dome, a classic architectural element of the University. The hat in the middle is, of course, a nod to the Cavalier — the University mascot. It also features the new, more detailed swords found in the V-Sabre mark.
The Virginia Cavalier mark highlights the University mascot in a unique way. The Cavalier is in a fighting stance with its head down, so as to not reveal its face. The idea is that each person who sees this mark is able to see themselves in it as the Cavalier does not represent a specific gender, ethnicity or background.
The new typography was drawn based off of architectural grids including straight lines, perfect circles and clean angles. These elements can be seen in original drawings of the Rotunda, which was the main source of inspiration.
The new numbers were not only inspired by the Rotunda, but also from the sabres included in each mark. In each number that contains edges, there is a sharp edge similar to that of a sabre.
The primary colors of Virginia Athletics will remain Cavalier Orange and Jefferson Blue. However, to add depth to the new designs, new orange and blue accent colors, inspired by the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding Charlottesville, have been added.
The introduction of this new brand did not include any full, detailed images of new uniforms, but the new marks, typography and numerals will be featured on student-athletes’ uniforms for the 2020-21 season.
Virginia Athletics also stated that the new branding will not increase the cost of the uniforms. Uniform designs for specific sports will be released closer to when their season begins.
Virginia Athletics’ introduction of new brand elements has elicited mixed reactions within the University community. Many have taken to social media to share their thoughts.
Many Virginia sports fans have been opposed to the secondary marks. Virginia alumnus Chris Dembitz, who runs the comedic Phony Bennett account, tweeted that, while he accepts the refreshed primary mark, he is less certain about the secondary Cavalier Shield mark.
“[This new visual identity] sure is something,” Dembitz tweeted. “I’m fine with the [V-Sabre] change I think. It needed to be a little bolder, and that’s more or less what they did. I’m getting strong XFL vibes from the secondary logo though. It looks cool, I’m just not sure it’s us. But I imagine it will grow on me.”
In addition to alumni, some members of the student body are skeptical of Virginia’s new branding. Jack Mead, second-year Engineering student and executive board member of men’s club lacrosse, was “pretty appalled with the new designs,” though he thinks the new V-Sabre mark looks good.
“I am deeply troubled by the fact that the Athletic Department went through this whole process and never thought to get input from the [general] student body,” Mead said. “Despite the widespread criticism of the new look, I don’t expect the Athletic Department to do anything about it considering the money and effort into the project, and [it] feels as though it is too late to turn back now.”
On the other side of the debate, multiple Virginia student-athletes — past and present — have shown their support for the new changes. Former men’s basketball guard Kyle Guy has been outspoken in favor of the new marks, tweeting that he likes the new branding, regardless of what others think.
Women’s soccer goalkeeper junior Laurel Ivory has also tweeted with enthusiasm about the new marks, engaging with multiple tweets about them.
“Personally, I always thought there was an assertiveness missing from our logo on scoreboards, and this changes things,” Ivory tweeted. “I’m here for it.”
Beyond the new branding’s visual aesthetic, some have also raised concerns about the use of the University’s serpentine walls as inspiration for the handles of the redesigned sabers, given the walls’ history. The walls were originally built to conceal enslaved laborers from the Academical Village.
“Every single day, Black students, staff, faculty and community members walk by those walls … and try to reconcile who we are with who, or what, [Thomas Jefferson] thought us to be,” Media Studies Assist. Prof. Meredith Clark tweeted. "While our student athletes, coaches, and administrators are the ambassadors for these logos, they’re not the only people who wear them, who are represented by them."
Clearly, the discussion around Virginia Athletics’ new identity has many dimensions. Regardless, when sporting events resume, the Cavaliers will have the opportunity to showcase the intended qualities of their new branding — intensity and fierceness — in their play.