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The University of Idaho Starburst

by Ariana Burns & Dusty Fleener, Palouse Anthropology

Photograph of Publications Dept., 1968 - Ray Cauwet, Rafe Gibbs, and Leo Ames. UI Special Collections Photo: PG1_238-02

Though no longer in use, a keen eye can still spot the University of Idaho starburst in various locations around campus. Also referred to as “the daisy” or “the snowflake,” the starburst was the official logo for the university from 1971-2006.

Leo Ames, the creative director and head of publications at UI, wanted a design that would have an immediate visual impact and hired Kern Devin, Jr. out of Seattle to create the logo which he did by alternating “U”s and “I”s in a circle. Ames explained that the “U”s & “I”s symbolized the various disciplines which united to form the university. The star-shape marked the university as the oldest Idaho higher education institution, radiating out to serve the rest of the state. (Argonaut Nov 13, 1973, Argonaut Oct 23, 1970).

The UI starburst in the Idaho Commons. Photos by Dusty Fleener.

When a new marketing campaign was launched in 2006, it was decided that the logo was too frumpy, had admirably served its purpose, and the time had come for it to be retired. There was outcry from some of the alumni and students but to no avail (Associated Press, Nov 20, 2006, Argonaut Mar 27, 2007.)

Removing the starburst from campus was a daunting challenge. It was everywhere – light fixtures, refuse bins, decorative embellishments on fireplaces, courtesy phone panels, and informational plaques. Finally it was decided it would be gradually phased out during the course of regular maintenance of areas around campus. It was officially retired in 2007.

Circa 1970s punch card with the UI starburst logo. LCHS Object ID: 2010-34.21

Palouse Anthropology is a group of researchers interested in preserving the micro-history of the Palouse through the collection and compilation of historical artifacts and oral histories for the benefit of researchers and future generations. Email or find them on Facebook.

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