The lasting imprint of the Paw

President Barker's view from his office in Sikes Hall

President Barker’s view from his office in Sikes Hall

From my second-floor office window in Sikes Hall, I look down every day on Bowman Field and a giant orange Tiger Paw painted on the road at the intersection of Old Greenville Highway and Calhoun Drive. You can see it, too, on a live webcam at

From all points on the globe, alumni send us photos of themselves holding Tiger Rags and Tiger Paw flags. The backdrop may be the Eiffel Tower, a glacier in Alaska or a fighter jet on a dusty runway in Afghanistan, but the people are always smiling. You can see these photos, too, in this and every issue of Clemson World magazine and throughout the social media world.

Wherever Marcia and I travel, our Tiger Paw shirts and caps and lapel pins are recognized by strangers. They also smile and say: “You’re from Clemson!”

These are the measures of a successful graphic design.

The Tiger Paw is universally acknowledged as the most recognizable logo in all of college sports. It has helped define Clemson athletics and Clemson University for more than four decades. It has brought joy to thousands of alumni and fans.

The evolution of a symbol

The paragraphs above were read aloud from a message I sent to Arlene Antonio, the wife of the late John Antonio, at his memorial service in June. John and his talented team at Henderson Advertising had created the Tiger Paw logo for Clemson.

On behalf of the Clemson Family, I was proud to express our gratitude for the excellent work they did on our behalf.

More literal representations of tiger mascots — even cartoon versions — come and go in style. Some are ferocious and intimidating, others are cuddly and lovable. The Paw, on the other hand, is ageless.

The Clemson Tiger Paw is as fresh today as it was when it was introduced in 1970. As a designer myself, I can appreciate the skill it took to create such a successful, enduring piece of graphic art.

As an alumnus and Clemson’s 14th president, however, I have come to appreciate its symbolic power.

The Paw has evolved from an athletics logo into a university symbol. Why? Because the Tiger Paw managed to capture something essential about the “One Clemson” spirit. It is beloved by all and we are united, as a community, by that simple affection.

It also represents not only our ferocious power, but the lasting imprint Clemson folks leave upon the world as we pass by.

Go Tigers!

James F. Barker, FAIA

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