The students at Roseville’s William Kaseberg Elementary are going to get a big surprise this morning, thanks to some creative thinking by parent Jim Espinoza, who wanted to design a gift for his daughter Rainy’s kindergarten class.
Every Friday, students and staff celebrate their school spirit by wearing red T-shirts emblazoned with Kaseberg’s hawk mascot or plain red T-shirts if they don’t have one with the school logo. Rainy didn’t have a Kaseberg T-shirt for a while, Espinoza said, so he thought it would be cool if her graphic designer dad updated the outmoded school logo and printed up T-shirts for her entire kindergarten class.
The idea was a no-brainer for Espinoza. He produces a line of streetwear under the Brickhouse Industries label that sells online at brickhouseindustries.com and at Getta Clue and Good Stock boutiques in Sacramento, he told me. And he got the idea to update the school logo while dropping off and picking up his daughter from school. He would see the outmoded Kaseberg Hawks logo, he said, but he also spotted a number of children carrying backpacks bearing the logo for the video game franchise Angry Birds.
He married elements of the two images into a school logo and presented them to Kaseberg principal Marc Welty, who liked them well enough to give Espinoza permission to approach the company that owned the Angry Birds franchise, Finland’s Rovio Entertainment, to determine whether the designs would infringe on its trademark.
“I just wanted to be ethical,” Espinoza said. “As a designer, I don’t want to take anyone else’s intellectual property.”
Espinoza didn’t think he would hear anything back, he said, and he was stunned when Helsinki-based Rovio’s brand director, Christian Tierney, promptly wrote back with an encouraging response: “We really appreciate you emailing us and asking permission to use that image and font. If you’re interested, we’d love to have the opportunity to create an exclusive one-of-a-kind T-shirt design for you to print for the school spirit project. It would be based on the hawk character you sent but we would give it the special Angry Birds treatment!”
Rovio’s brand art director, Toni Kysenius, took Espinoza’s concept and worked on it for several days. Neither of the graphic designer’s creations exactly duplicates the company’s trademarked Angry Birds: The final Kaseberg Hawks logo has a swoopy gray unibrow rather than two slanted black brows. Its beak is longer and curvier, and it has two rows of pearly white teeth. The body of the two birds do look a lot alike.
The company receives daily requests from people who want to use the Angry Birds’ brand imagery for commercial purposes, Kysenius told me in a telephone interview, but Espinoza’s request stood out because he wasn’t looking to make any money.
“These are the type of projects that actually get the creative juices flowing,” said Kysenius, a father of two young children. “If this was all about just going for the biggest buck every time, that … would make one quite cynical after a while.”
Rovio is donating 500 red T-shirts with Kysenius’ Kaseberg Hawks logo to the school, and at an assembly meeting at 8:40 this morning, Welty will unveil them to students and staff. He will also share a two-minute video greeting from Rovio executives who worked on the project.
The T-shirts sounds like great product placement for Rovio, especially given that the company is releasing a movie in 2016, but Welty said he has long wanted to update the school logo and couldn’t have afforded someone of Kysenius’ pedigree to do it. There are no plans for Kaseberg to adopt the logo for all its media, he added, but it’s a cool option.
Joseph Knowles, a senior public relations writer at Rovio, said the gift creates a bond with Kaseberg families, but he doubted it would bounce very far beyond that.
“It would be quite a costly strategy if we did this at schools all over the country and at schools all around the world because we have a global presence,” he said. “That’s not the way we go about building brand loyalty. We do that with the … games and with the products and with the animated movie and so forth.”