Mascots can represent a number of things, from sports teams, political parties to advertising a product and even in military service. This is usually a character or animal that is an identifiable symbolic representation for something. Mascot design is very important to the organization the character will go on to represent.
Mascots are somewhat of a superstitions notion with sports teams as the general stigma associated with them is that a mascot may bring luck to a sports team. Mascots work to hype up the crowd and act as a leader or representing figure for a team.
When creating an icon to match with a product, team or service a great deal of thought must be put into the design itself of the product. With some official and very real mascots such as the elephant for the republican party of the USA first used in 1874 which came to be used from a political cartoon published from the time. This was one of the first political mascots and the image has shown many different forms to represent the party from then on.
With sports we can look to the evolution of the Olympic mascots. These mascots generally take shape to represent both the sporting events and the host country for each Olympics. Since the 1972 games in Munich Germany there has been a great number of designs and changes to the complexity and style of Olympic mascots. From the patriotic Sam the eagle, mascot of the 1984 games in the United States who was decked out in a star spangled top hat and red white and blue, to the 5 collectible mascot “good luck” dolls made for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. These new mascot designs have become more complex and marketable for sale. The idea of selling plush toys increases the exposure for both the games and the host country.
University and college mascots for teams have also gone through various evolutions since the inception of their first designs. An example of this is Iowa state’s mascot which began as a simple cardinal and today has many graphics added to it including a whirlwind effect and a less cartoon-like bird to represent the team. It is a much more modern take on the classic and this is the case with many established mascots.
Some sports teams have also come under some controversy because of their chosen mascots. For example the Washington redskins mascot was quite established and came under fire for being possibly offensive, as a result the team had to change the image of their team only slightly to detract from any racially bias connotations the imagery may have had. Mascots sometimes need to update in order to be appropriate and topical to still reach a wide audience and put a positive image forward for what they are representing.
In conclusion, with much of the new technological advancements and other media outlets such as the web, it is easier to get a mascot or icon out into the world and gain some real exposure. With the graphic design software that is available now as well we are seeing a number of old mascots being updated and changed for a more modern look. Even with an established look a mascot can change their image once and a while to keep up with the times. This modernizing results in mascot designs that update the entire look in a fashion that is relevant to the times and the intended audience. Mascots will continue to be a part of our society and serve a vital role by putting a face to our products, teams and organizations. We will continue to see new mascots, and see the old ones continue change and evolve for many years to come.