5608 Merle Hay Road · Johnston, Iowa 50131 · 515-278-0470

New Johnston dragon mascot revitalizes district brand

Consider it a face lift for JD, the Johnston Community School District’s athletic and activity mascot. A new branding system, including a mascot and lettermark, was approved by the Board of Education at the June 24 meeting.

A new mascot has been years in the making. The original dragon was designed in 1950 and has graced apparel, artwork, and spirit gear until now. In recent years, teams and groups have used the dragon less due to complications in replicating the intricate design. Many are familiar with the “Fire J” used for the last ten years. However, a lack of consistency in the artwork led to confusion and misuse of the mark.

The new “Fire J” primary lettermark, re-designed by (c)3 Marketing as part of the district’s rebranding efforts.

“As the Johnston school system grows and is recognized on local, regional, and national levels, having a well-recognized mascot is a part of how we are identified,” said Laura Dillavou, communications and marketing coordinator for the district. “In our case, when we looked at all the confusion of what kind of mark to use for what activity, it was decided to start with a fresh approach that would serve the district for many years.”

The mascot project was bid out among local marketing groups in January, and the contract was awarded to (c)3 Marketing, a sister company to Love Scott & Associates that works solely with non-profit organizations.

“We were honored and excited to be chosen to lead this mascot branding project for Johnston Schools,” said Andrea James Iverson, President of (c)3 Marketing. “From the very beginning, we shared how important it was to gather input from the students and community throughout the process. Only this way can you produce something that everyone can be proud of and stand behind.”

To gauge initial feedback, a survey was given to students and staff with various dragon designs and they were asked to describe things they liked and didn’t like. From there, a small committee of students Jeremy Caracci, EmmaGrace Walter, and Hezekiah Applegate, athletic officials Gary Ross and Josh Tobey, principals Brent Riessen and Tim Salmon, board member Marci Cordaro, superintendent Clay Guthmiller, and Dillavou met four times over the course of five months to work through possibilities, choose a mascot, refine ideas, and give the OK to take the final marks to the board.

“The new logo was something Johnston definitely needed,” said Caracci. “There are so many t-shirts with different fire J and dragon designs that made our logo too generalized. The new logo gives Johnston a brand new identity that we can use in all sports and activities while keeping everything in the district consistent.”

An all new dragon and series of marks for athletics and activities will start appearing on merchandise this fall.

The branding system brings together official district colors, guidelines for use and replication, and standards for keeping the mascot and letter marks distinct among a sea of school mascots in Iowa. Each activity group and team, along with every school in the district, now has their own artwork for use on apparel, spirit gear, and for other purposes.

“Creating a consistent look across activities and schools is key in establishing brand identity,” Dillavou said. “With a full set of artwork for nearly every student group in our schools, we are well on our way.”

Students, staff, parents, and citizens can pick up new dragon apparel in local stores starting this fall. The original dragon will be “retired,” along with any other marks previously used. Complete transfer to the new marks will take time, as things like sports gear, uniforms, and activity equipment is cycled through.

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