Thursday, July 28, 2011

Best logo ever, secondary education division

"Yes, our spirit will conquer all …"
My pick is my alma mater, Cabrillo High School, Lompoc, Calif.

Yeah, I'm biased. Also — one wouldn't break a sweat arguing — lazy. But I'd wager a lot of hard searching would transpire before one found a better high school logo.

To start, it's unusual. Of all the violent, oppressive mascots one could conjure to represent secondary education, few could measure up to Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and the conquistadores. Only one other California high school, in Long Beach, calls itself Cabrillo High. Though named after the same guy, the Long Beach school chooses as its mascot the jaguar. Huh? Cabrillo College in Aptos, Santa Cruz County, is home of the Seahawks. (Strange typeface, too.)


Of course, Cabrillo High in Lompoc has eviscerated, stuffed and prettified the conquistador for safe student use, so that he's no more a threat than a cuddly Disney™®© pirate. But I feel sorry for the students of so many other high schools and colleges, with their cookie-cutter mascots. Lions and Tigers and Bears. Oh, boring. I attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, a university world renowned for many majors (none of which I studied); its mascot is the Mustangs. Boring and bland.

Secondly, the Conquistadores mark has gone remarkably unchanged and untrammeled since 1965, when the Lompoc school began, named for the Spanish explorer and destroyer of worlds who sailed the coast nearby.

(I guess that's why the high school is so named. My junior high's mascot is the Minuteman, and since it's the school serving an Air Force missile base, I'm guessing it refers to the nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile, though the figure is a revolutionary war hero. The missile would have been funnier and more fitting.)

As with the Monterey Bay Aquarium logo, this mark's maker is unknown, but I'd like to meet him/her. Long before I thought about illustration and graphic design as something to do, I was drawn to this logo's conquistador in profile, with stark shapes in white to define the face in a black mass, and just enough detail to delineate the helmet and plume.

This is the full mark (above), with a variation on the Spanish crest (castle and lion). I'm not sure about the four stars; they might have filled an otherwise large dark space in the mark.

We used USC's "Conquest" to celebrate touchdowns,
but the band rocked it …
Here's the conquistador's profile in the school's marching band logo (right). Some color is added to the black and gold (seriously awesome color combo, by the way!), and the shapes have been sharpened, but the mark maintains its integrity. The typeface is a bit different from the main mark, but doesn't deviate much.

(The marching band used to wear conquistador helmets as part of their uniforms; now I notice they're more like black vaquero hats …)

My point is, Cabrillo has stuck with the mark throughout the years, rarely getting off track. Even my junior varsity baseball cap bears the gold elongated C on a black field, nearly a quarter-century after the school began. The school's web site displays the mark prominently.

It's almost as if Cabrillo has a graphics standards manual, like many businesses have, dictating the do's and don'ts of their logo's use. I doubt one exists, but I give credit to my old school for respectful and consistent use of its marks.

(I'm sure it wouldn't take long before someone showed me that Cabrillo has muddled the mark on its uniforms and other uses, but don't bother; leave me to my delusions.)

The graphic integrity of Cabrillo's mark, I'd bet, is the exception.

More common is the school where my children attended, El Camino Fundamental High School in Sacramento, home of the Eagles (all but one of the high schools in the San Juan Unified School District are saddled with alliterative nicknames: Mira Loma Matadors, Casa Roble Rams, Bella Vista Broncos; yawn …).

Don't mess with Boston College!
Maybe there's a reason
this eagle is screaming …
El Camino is older than Cabrillo by far, but has no visual center. Any and all eagle graphics, and every conceivable typeface is used for whatever manner and need arises. Apparently, Boston College put down the legal hammer and forbid uses of its mark, which meant El Camino, even though it had changed the B to an E and red and gold to green and white, had to stop using the mark. The football team's helmets still bear the same eagle that adorn the Philadelphia Eagles' helmets, so I'm not sure what's going on there.

El Camino has since unveiled its own mark, created by an art teacher, that combines the E and C into the shape of an Eagle's head. You can judge for yourself how it turned out (above, right); the eagle looks like it's been skinned alive, giving it a sort of Freddy Krueger look (left).
Robert Mott created this for all his fellow fogies assessing progress
on their long-ago dreams and plans.

My friend and high school classmate Robert Mott, who went on to run his own stellar graphic design shop, designed the mark for our 30th reunion (I didn't attend); though it's the farthest afield, graphically, that I've seen the Conquistador mark, Robert maintained its integrity while re-purposing it (man, I hate that neo-word) for this one-time use.

Robert was true to the logo and to his school.


  1. I agree! It was awsome being a Conquistadore (Conq)I moved to Oklahoma and graduated as a Pirate, I guess they were sort of the same, but not quit as cool.

  2. pirate? in landlocked oklahoma? do these creators of schools have no imagination? i was glad whoever thought up cabrillo's came up with the conqs. i see new schools going up nearby, and the nicknames are the eagles, titans … come on, here's your chance to have some fun, but what they come up with is so blah.

  3. All these years later, I still feel a welling of pride when I see our logo. No namby-pamby woodland critters for us! We struck fear in the hearts of our foes just by beginning the cheer, "Give me a C . . . " Because they knew how long it was gonna take before we finished the damn thing. CHS, Class of 79!

  4. right on, soulaz. Of course, the Record and a few students (whom we'll forgive) sometimes by necessity shortened our nickname to the Conqs, but we won on spelling alone.