With the alighting of Kenyon’s new Owls moniker, the Lords and Ladies are a thing of the past. When the College announced the anticipated change to its moniker, many community members shared a sense of relief that the sports designation was replaced by one that better reflected students’ values. However, since the moniker design was approved in July, a new conundrum has emerged: Some say the logo bears little resemblance to an owl.
During the late spring and early summer, the Office of Communications and Kenyon Athletics collaborated with illustrator Joe Bosack and the Boston-based agency Moth Design to spearhead the design of the logo. The team worked with a small group of people on a tight deadline to complete the design before the fall semester, with the added pressure that the new owl logo supplement the symbol of the traditional Kenyon shield. The owl design came to fruition in about three months, but in the process, the designers did not consult with students or any of the four bird experts who teach at Kenyon.
Assistant Professor of Biology Natalie Wright, an ornithologist at Kenyon, shared a tweet saying that the new logo does not resemble an actual owl. Wright explained the moniker design contains a number of anatomical inaccuracies, such as the placement of its eyes and its heavy brow ridge. “One of my colleagues on my Facebook page said that it looked like a falcon cosplaying Batman, and now that I’ve heard that, it’s all I can picture,” she said. “Its eyes are on the side of its head like most birds’, but an owl’s eyes are on the front of its head. So it looks like it’s a falcon or an eagle or a hawk, but with ear tufts like a great horned owl.”
To achieve the enticing effect of a fierce sports logo, the team made the owl design flexible to interpretation. According to Kenyon’s moniker webpage, “The owl was designed to align with owls native to Ohio, including the Horned and Eastern-screech owl, but — because it is a logo and not a figurative drawing — it is not a strict interpretation of any one species.”
Director of Design and Publication Adam Gilson confirmed that the design is not meant to look like any one species. “We’re trying to take some sort of esoteric idea. I mean, we’re not literally owls on the field; we’re people,” Gilson said. “So we’re trying to represent that in a sort of playful and provocative way in a two-dimensional space that works within the entire context of athletics communication.”
For now, the design stands as a compromise between artistic design and biological reality. “I recognize that they wanted it to look angry or aggressive,” Wright said. “And if it looked more like an owl, it would probably look less aggressive. So I imagine that’s a tradeoff that they decided to go with.”
Students are engaging with the new emblem in different ways. Kenyon swimmer Drew Grier ’23 fears that Kenyon athletes will be hesitant to sport the logo due to how it looks on gear. “It doesn’t quite look like something that can be proudly worn by athletes at this school. On the shirts we were given at our all-athlete meeting, the logo looks comically bad,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. “The larger the logo gets the worse it looks, but on the hats, I think it actually looks good.”
Regardless of how realistic the owl looks, student-athlete Flynn Klace ’23 shared that she isn’t opposed to wearing gear with the moniker on her soccer game days: “It wasn’t necessarily what I was expecting, but I think it came out pretty well.” she said. “I think it looks relatively like an owl for the most part.”