From: Dan Giroux
If you have been around Fire supporters for a while you will often hear people say we were some of the first in the league in many aspects of supporters culture. While that can sometimes be brushed off as misplaced pride from years gone by, it’s worth remembering that Fire fans really did take the lead on many aspects of MLS supporters culture. We led the way with chants and in-stadium coordination. We took the initiative with our non-for profit and community work before many others in the league had even formed cohesive groups. Perhaps more than all of these though, we led the league in design. Fire supporters have been producing great looking scarfs, banners and tifo since before Seattle even invented soccer. I was lucky enough to get to use many of these symbols in my time as Section 8’s in-house graphic designer and again as Chair when we finalized the process to trademark several of them. To commemorate some of this work heading into our home opener, let’s look at some of the most famous pieces of Fire supporter symbols, all designed by Section 8’s original meistro of iconography and minister of propaganda, Liam Murtaugh.
The laurel is about as iconic as S8C iconography gets, perhaps behind only the 8 symbol itself. The laurel has appeared on many mediums over the years, from banners to scarfs to shirts, even on the cf97 challenge coins.
The laurel itself incorporates several classic Chicago design elements. In my eyes, it incorporates the Chicago city flag, the Chicago municipal device, and the city motto so seamlessly it can easily be missed if one doesn’t know where to look. Focusing mainly on the red six-pointed star in the center, the flag takes center stage. The star is surrounded by two thin strips of sky blue, creating a unique take on the Chicago flag while still incorporating all of the major elements. Below the flag is the municipal symbol of Chicago in grey. This municipal “Y” symbol has been in use since 1892, with its three arms symbolizing the three branches of the river.
Outside of the star and stemming from the “Y” we have the green laurel leafs flanking the star on both sides and stemming from the municipal device. Laurel leaves are an ancient symbol of prominence, going back to the heraldry of the Roman Empire, but in the cf97 laurel, they contain a different connection to Latin. With the green of the leaves surrounding the central star of the flag, the design creates a direct metaphor for the city’s motto “Urbs in Horto”, translating to English as “City in a garden”, with the leafs creating a surrounding effect for the star symbolizing the city. Finally, this symbol can’t be appreciated in full without mentioning the cf97 typeface at the top, a supporter-made and owned invention that has become the unofficial moniker for the Fire community, particularly online.
This most encompassing symbol of Chicago Fire supporters, representing the city and its people, has become the closest thing Fire supporters to a universal symbol. Here are some instances of the Laurel in action.
Fire Axe Symbol:
Clean, simple, strong and a reference to the Fire-fighter culture that the team’s name references in part. The axe symbol has been received so well over the years that a strikingly similar design has even made its way onto the Fire’s kits (though I’m not going to get into the legality of that today).
One of my favorite uses of the crossed axes is a subtle appearance in the “Urbs in Horto” scarf. While the scarf is often known for its green coloring, rare for a Fire scarf and great if you like people asking if you are a Timbers fan, half of the axe symbol appears on each of end of the scarf. The result, as demonstrated below by Cider Cunts member Maud Squiers, is the axe symbol is created when the wearer drapes the scarf around the back of the neck evenly. This clever design integration makes the “Urbs in Horto” scarf still one of my personal matchday favorites.
We Will symbol:
The We Will symbol is the last, and probably the least used of the symbols we will look at today. In a bit of a deep cut reference for the Chicago history nerds out there, the We Will design harkens back to the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. The “We Will” symbol and motto is actually a reference to the symbol and motto “I Will” which came out of a contest sponsored by the wonderfully named, and now defunct, Chicago Inter Ocean newspaper. The contest challenged artists to come up with a slogan and figure that represented “The Typical Chicago Spirit” and the winged figure below with the slogan was the winner.
Section 8 repurposed the motto as “We Will”, a much more egalitarian iteration that fits the communal spirit of soccer supporters better than the ego-driven “I will”. Since it’s repurposing, the “We Will” has made its way onto a few pieces of merch here and there, serving well on both the Section 8 standard scarf as text and the “Schweinsteiger Scarf” (or Schwienscarfer if you will) as the full design.
These symbols are only a few of many that have been created by Fire supporters over the years. The use of Fire colors, city symbols, and uniquely cf97 imagery have created an identity distinct to Fire supporters in North American soccer. This identity is a living, breathing embodiment of what our community is, and if you are sitting at home wondering why we haven’t updated to anything new, well that’s on all Fire fans. Hands are always needed to hold banners, brushes and even pens and pencils to create work like this. If you have a design you feel like represents the community well, reach out and talk to the board. Show up at a tifo build or board meeting and talk to the Ops crew. This community is here for you, but also by you. Don’t wait for your invitation, it’s not in the mail.
Dan Giroux works in design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He formerly served as Chair of Section 8 Chicago and can be seen most Wednesdays at the Globe Pub drinking cheap wine with his WB05 colleagues.