Story of the Seal

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Written by Beth McMahon, Director of Public Relations & Prospective Student Service (July 1991—February 2000)

The first brochure for Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond was produced in the spring of 1990. At the time, I was working in the marketing department at Proctor-Silex which is a small appliance manufacturer based in Richmond. The seminary contracted with me to design a brochure; so, I enlisted the senior designer in the Proctor-Silex marketing department, Barry Roebuck, to work with me in the overall design and photography for the brochure. Since BTSR had no buildings and only a few faculty members (Dr. Tom Graves, Dr. Linda McKinnish Bridges, and Dr. Tom Halbrooks had been approved by the BTSR Board of Trustees in the spring of 1990.), producing this piece was a real trick. The result was designing a seminary brochure that would symbolize what the school wanted to stand for, which was service.

One of the main “service” images in the brochure was the towel and basin, which is how that symbol was integrated into the school’s history. Barry and I also developed a multi-part design for the brochure – the outer cover was actually a nice four-color brochure with a pocket built in, like a folder. Inside the folder, we placed less elaborate two-color inserts that could easily be replaced as the school evolved. Barry thought of the idea to use the same cover and creatively update the information as the school grew. During the design process, I remember being very impressed with Barry’s creativity.

And, if we had a brochure, we had to have a logo. I thought a cross would be a good, solid symbol to incorporate as it would immediately communicate what this institution was about and impart a sense of history for a brand-new institution. It was good theology, but a boring design. A cross is not really a very exciting shape, graphically. Barry began to pull cross images from many places; nothing seemed to work. One day, however, Barry moved in a different direction. While looking in a book of antique clip art, he discovered a circular design with a filigree interior. He began to experiment with the design on the computer and incorporated a stylized cross shape into the center. When he showed it to me, I loved it. The cross looked solid and “established” and interesting, more than a standard plain cross. Once Barry determined that I liked the direction, he continued to experiment. Upon viewing the next proof, I was astonished. The design now incorporated a stylized B, T, S and R…created from only slight modifications to the original filigree design of the clip art. It was as if something had reached out from beyond our efforts and given Barry the perfect original shape to sculpt into the perfect logo for BTSR. As time has passed, it has been interesting to observe how the logo (now described as the seminary seal) became such a strong part of the school’s “brand.”

Of course, it has always been difficult to work with the logo or seminary seal. When attempting to print a banner or embroider a towel or print t-shirts, the seal always seemed to get printed backwards, with the parts that should be colored, uncolored, and vice versa. But apparently it was worth it.