Dropping Circus Font Leads To Trajan War At Kansas
Some schools try to overhaul an entire uniform to change the look of their athletic teams. But at Kansas, the athletic department just wanted to tweak one thing: the font. The Jayhawks, specifically their basketball team, had become synonymous with the old-time Circus-style font that featured a curling arc-serifed typeface. But the KU athletic department wanted to change it to something different: Trajan font. And to this day some fans aren’t happy about it.
The change from the Circus-style to Trajan began in 2005. Kansas had hired a design company to help come up with a new look for the athletic department after the university decided it wanted to unify the graphic identity of the school. Part of this rebranding meant eliminating the Circus-style font in favor of Trajan font.
The basketball team switched fonts for the 2007-08 season, but there was tons of backlash.
Wrote Kansan columnist Rustin Dodd: “It seems from an outsider’s perspective that the font change on the uniforms is more about justifying the money paid to a Portland design company that advised Kansas Athletics on the change than actually improving the look of KU uniforms.”
Some Kansas alums weren’t enthused. One group started the web site TrajanSucks.com, which not only spread the gospel of Circus-style lettering but also sold t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Trajan Sucks,” in a Circus-style font of course. Matt Kirkland and Brad Lewis, both ’03 grads, came up with the web site.
Said Kirkland in 2007: “It is a well constructed font, speaking as a designer myself,” Kirkland said of Trajan. “But it is overused. It doesn’t mean anything; it doesn’t stand for anything. Certainly not our University. It doesn’t say Kansas Athletics.”
On one message board, according to the Kansan, a poster wrote: “Trajan on the basketball jerseys is a sin. Do what you want with football, but let basketball be,” one poster wrote.
On another message board dedicated to the hatred of the Trajan font, a poster wrote: “A good typeface for the wrong job. Just one step short of Comic Sans with those jerseys.” Somewhere a light bulb just went off in the head of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.
While the jerseys with the Circus-style font look straight out of the 1940s or 50s, they haven’t been used at Kansas very long. In fact, the basketball team didn’t even start using them until the 1997-98 season. The font before that was very similar, but not Circus font.
But the hysteria died down when the Jayhawks went on to win the 2008 national title, proving that all that really mattered was which players were wearing KU’s uniforms, not what font they were.
And while the change in fonts was clearly traumatic for those living in Kansas, most people nationally probably never even noticed the font switch and can still hardly tell the difference between the two. Just don’t tell that to Kansas fans.