Making a creative mark with UCC Rugby 150

15 Jul 2022

UCC Rugby will celebrate a significant milestone in its history later this year, as it marks 150 years in existence. The club has not only left its mark on the pitch over that 150 years but also contributed something else of huge significance to the University, originating the distinctive skull and crossbones which later came to represent UCC Sport overall. The rugby club was founded in 1872 by medical faculty staff and students, with the skull and crossbones as a fitting emblem.

When it came to the branding for the UCC Rugby 150 celebrations, the club turned to UCC Academy, which had previously overseen the redesign of the UCC Sport branding. The resulting logo was unveiled earlier this year at the announcement of a season of events to celebrate the anniversary, kicking off in September.

Jonathan Leahy Maharaj, Creative Lead with UCC Academy, worked on the graphic design for both projects. The UCC Sport rebranding was a significant project, initiated and overseen by Head of Sport at UCC, Morgan Buckley.

Jonathan enjoyed the creative challenge the new UCC Sports website redesign posed. “It was a real team effort both with UCC Sport and within our own Creative Services team to ensure we would deliver a website design that would excite and engage.”

Morgan stresses the importance of the UCC Rugby 150 celebrations. “Rugby 150 is a huge opportunity for us in UCC Sport to recognise the history of the skull and crossbones. It is also a gathering which will strengthen the relationships around rugby, as well as raising the whole profile of rugby and sport with the decision-makers in the college.” 

Jonathan was also very much aware of the responsibility of providing the visual representation for such an historic celebration when it came to his design work.

“UCC Rugby is the third oldest rugby club in the country, it’s got serious history, and the skull and crossbones come from the rugby team. This is a significant anniversary to be celebrating, it is a really big deal,” he says.

Jonathan’s brief was to produce something that reflected the occasion appropriately while staying within the branding guidelines of UCC Sport.

“At the same time, we were doing something that would potentially stand up to a global stage. UCC has global reach through its alumni and the celebration of Rugby 150 is very much a way of connecting them again and starting conversations with people,” he says.

Jonathan worked closely on the project with John Fitzgerald, PRO, and Vice-President of UCC Rugby, and Chairman of the 150th celebration. He says it was important to make the branding appeal to the current players.

“It is about taking people on a journey. What I was looking for was something that was fresh and young that the students would look at and say ‘I like that, I want that’. Promoting UCC Rugby 150 will happen with the students saying ‘I want to be part of this’ and using social media to achieve that. Jonathan got all of that. He was able to deliver something that enabled a transition from the traditional to the new,” says John.

“The best way to get to rugby is through existing players. If you want to get traction fast, you won’t get it through a mailing list. You will do it through people, and platforms like Instagram and Twitter. At the start of next season, I want to have something that all the players will say ‘we want to change our profile picture to this’ for the season. Then people will ask ‘what’s this?’ That is how you get traction and get people who want to come back in and be involved in the club again. I am excited for next season, I think what he has achieved here is something that will be adopted across the entire University.”

The UCC Rugby 150 logo and branding will be used on a range of merchandise and most importantly, on the jerseys of players in all matches next season.

“Jonathan took all our existing performance kit and worked on that as well with UCC Sport,” says John. “I want to use this as a way to get alumni who have been gone from the club a long time to come back and reconnect with the university. We have a dual mandate — to the club itself to celebrate our history, to use it to move the club on to the next level but I also believe we have a responsibility to the University to reconnect with people who have drifted away. The way you do that is by doing something fresh. The University today is very different to when I was there in the mid-1980s and we need to reflect that.”

This range of use was something Jonathan had to bear in mind while designing the logo and branding.

“As a designer, my job is to figure out that this is going to go from a 2.5cm enamel badge all the way up to, potentially we could wrap the Quad in it if we wanted to. You need to have that scale in your head. You have to keep those technical requirements in mind from the outset,” he says.

He adds that he was also conscious that people will be interested in keeping UCC Rugby 150 branded jerseys and other items for posterity.

“I remember when the GAA did the jerseys for the centenary a few years ago, I still see them around and they really stand out. It is an interesting use of a jersey, to bind people together. It is very much a community…it is not just a community of students, but that camaraderie that comes with teams. You know when you see the fella in the Offaly jersey in Australia, it’s that. For me, if you were halfway up Machu Picchu and you saw someone wearing a UCC rugby jersey, you would have to talk to them. Those are some of the things that we really wanted to get across.”


 Learn more about UCC Academy's work on the  UCC Rugby 150 Visual Identity Project



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