When your university president is a native of Scotland, creating an official school tartan seems like a natural thing to do. Last week, eight tartan designs were submitted by University of Lynchburg students, one of which will be chosen as the school’s official tartan.The winning tartan will be revealed in October at the inauguration of Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar, the University’s 11th president and its first to be born outside the U.S. Morrison-Shetlar, who took the reins at Lynchburg in August 2020, grew up on the Scottish Isle of Bute.
“Tartans are about ‘belonging’!!!” Ursula Bryant, associate professor of art, wrote in an email announcing the tartan design contest. “Designing a new University of Lynchburg tartan is an excellent opportunity to involve you all in an awesome collaboration and cross-discipline experience.
“You have been identified by University faculty as a student population that is driven and eager to leave your mark! This is your chance!”
About 20 students responded to Bryant’s email and signed up to design a tartan. Some would create a design on their own; others would work in groups. “I wanted to design the tartan because I thought it would be very cool to have a part in making something that is going to be representing the school for many, many years in the future,” Kate Duncan ’22, an art major and digital media arts and graphic design minor from Charlotte, North Carolina, said.
Tartan design workshops were held in April and students were encouraged to research tartans and their history, along with the University’s history. The students also had to operate within certain design parameters, including limiting their tartans to no more than six colors, which is typical of tartans.
“Color is an extremely important part of designing a tartan,” Bryant said. “Students were given the University of Lynchburg Brand Guidelines as a resource and for consideration as they selected colors.
“During the workshop, we did talk about the significance of each color in a tartan. As part of their research and in their proposals, they were asked to explain the use for each color selected and describe its connection to the University.”
For Duncan, who admitted designing a tartan was more difficult than she thought it would be, the process has been both challenging and educational. “Before this, I didn’t even know what a tartan was, much less how much history they have and how important everything is that goes into making it,” she said.
“While they appear to be simple designs, each color means something very specific, so that must be thought about while designing the tartan. … Turns out, it’s hard to design a plaid. However, my housemates enjoy thrift shopping, so I’ve been going with them and looking at all the flannels and plaid shirts to get some inspiration.
“I’m happy with what I have come up … and it’s been a very fun process. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else comes up with and what the school decides on.”
The tartan designs will be judged by a panel of 15 faculty, staff, and community members. “I plan to ask President Morrison-Shetlar to assist with the judging or at least be part of the review team, as this is a very big decision for the University and she probably has the most knowledge and expertise with tartans on our campus,” Bryant said.
Not only will the winning design be unveiled at Inauguration, it also will be registered with the Scottish Tartans Authority. Once the tartan is official, it will be screen-printed for University apparel and merchandise and eventually weaved for kilts and other items. A woven piece of the Lynchburg tartan will also be framed and displayed in the atrium of the Daura Museum of Art.
“Tartans are all about belonging and this experience is a great way to connect students, share the University’s rich history, and collaborate on what will be a legacy that I’m proud to be a part of,” Bryant said.