Notre Dame History Expressed Through Signage and Design

Notre Dame

Founded in 1842, The University of Notre Dame is one of the world’s most iconic educational institutions. This recognition extends to its football program. The Fighting Irish make their home in “the house that Rockne built,” an on-campus stadium initiated by legendary coach Knute Rockne, in 1930.

In 2014, the $400 million Campus Crossroads addition and stadium renovation represented the largest single project Notre Dame had undertaken in 175 years. The stadium was re-imagined with a fan experience designed to transport visitors back to the 1930s Rockne era. This included numerous architectural details, stadium graphics, and signage that recaptured history.

Chicago-based Cardosi Kiper Design Group has worked with the University for fourteen years and was selected to lead a $1.6-million stadium placemaking and wayfinding signage design and build phase. They partnered with twelve different fabrication firms and Gemini Sign Products to implement over 4,000 signs and 750 thematic graphic elements throughout the stadium and Crossroads buildings.

Notre Dame
Mock-up of the new Notre Dame Celebration Entrance.

The Crossroads project added academic spaces to the stadium creating a year-round facility. The stadium itself was re-imagined, with a fan experience designed to transport visitors back to the 1930s Rockne era as they moved into and around the stadium. This included numerous architectural details, stadium graphics, and signage that recaptured history, with materials and design that not only look timeless but have the longevity to stand the test of time.

Rich with tradition and history, the Cardosi Kiper team sought to capture the essence of this historical era in its design elements. A modernized version of the typeface Statendam was selected for its retro appearance. Materials and finishes reflected the heritage across a wide array of Gemini products used in a number of stadium applications (fabricated and flat cut metal letters and logos, cast bronze and aluminum letters, and precision-tooled bronze plaques).

Numerous, made-to-order Gemini products were specified by the design firm and their Notre Damefabrication partners and were installed in a number of stadium applications—ranging from the locker room to ballrooms, academic facilities, club level venues, the athletic director’s box, at all gate areas, and in honors and recognition applications throughout the stadium.

At the North Tunnel Team Entrance (pictured, above), Gemini’s precision-fabricated stainless steel letters and the Notre Dame monogram provide the inspiration for the Irish throughout the locker room, player facilities, and as they take the field. Stud-mounted to the brick walls, the dimensional letters feature the contemporary athletic program typestyle and graphic standards.

The Celebration Entrance (pictured, right) bridges academics and athletics through the expression of Notre Dame’s five core pillars: Community, Excellence, Education, Tradition, Notre Dameand Faith. It measures twenty-four feet high, and designers wanted dynamic letters that could be mounted on the wall at a height of eleven feet. Cardosi Kiper specified unique, five-inch-tall Gemini dimensional letters based upon the Statendam typeface, custom cast in a thirty-degree angled face design that projects from the elevated mounting point to the viewer below.

The precision cast letters were painted black and stud-mounted to the brick entrance walls. Overhead lighting is directed down on each pillar creating a dramatic look and elevating the meaning and impact of the University’s core principals.

In the Accolades Area (pictured, left), Notre Dame highlights the program’s All-Americans, College Football Hall of Fame members, Heisman Trophy® winners, and eleven National Championships. Each player and team is recognized with a Gemini precision-tooled brass plaque, and a second plaque was provided to each honoree’s family.

Detailed photos are part of the team and Heisman plaques, using Gemini’s Giclée process that prints a UV-cured image onto the metal, creating a durable and resilient solution. Gemini’s leatherette finish was chosen for the plaque background, which was painted in the program’s blue color and contrasted by the raised brass letters and the Notre Dame monogram.

The design required tight tolerances, so Gemini’s precision-tooled plaques were specified, which reproduce crisp detail and the thin strokes of letters as small as 1/4-inch high. Most importantly, because this is a “living” display, the designers chose Gemini for their ability to maintain consistency and repeatability, year-after-year, as new honorees are enshrined.

Historically, students at Notre Dame enter stadium gates (pictured, left) marked by hanging banners representing their class year. Cardosi Kiper Design Group immortalized this tradition by replacing the banners with ten-inch cast metal prismatic letters in the classic typeface used on campus buildings. The letters are finished in the same gold leaf as the famous Notre Dame “Golden Dome.”