Design Dialogue: Rachael Bickerton


As we kick off our speaker series, we are excited to introduce Rachael Bickerton, director of Trademark Licensing & Enforcement for Boise State University. She will be our featured speaker on October 16th as she educates us on the legal front of the design business as it pertains to trademark and licensing. Take a look at a bit of her story below and be sure to come to our event to meet her yourself and become more educated on a business end of things. 

Rachael’s Role at Boise State

As the director of Trademark Licensing & Enforcement for Boise State University, Rachael Bickerton oversees the university’s 365 licensees, working with Boise State’s trademark licensing agent, as well as the school’s 80 local crafter licensees. She also works with the General Counsel’s office on enforcement; sending out cease and desist letters and dealing with infringements.

Currently a department of one, Rachael has been with Boise State for over 6.5 years and holds true to it’s brand by wearing blue and orange to work EVERY.DAY.

Among her many roles in this position, Rachael is also part of the Brand Committee on campus, who oversees the graphic identity policy.

The Beginnings

Making her way to Boise from the UK, Rachael specialized in Trademark and Copyright Law and began her journey working at one of the top 10 London city law firms focusing on trademark and copyright, and internet and new media related issues, which were very new at the time.

Her next step took her in-house to join BMG Records (RCA Records and Arista) in London and then New York working with music licensing and record contracts.

Los Angeles was Rachael’s next stop, with Warner Music / Rhino Entertainment. Her role entailed dealing with legal and business affairs, recording contracts, merchandising agreements, record licensing and film licensing.  Then Sony Music Group wooed Rachael back to London to oversee the Legacy Recordings label.  A great job, but Rachael missed America and wanted to change industries.

Rachael found her way to Boise in perfect timing as Boise State had just won Fiesta Bowl and needed to create a separate licensing position. Finding the job from the Idaho Statesman Classified Section, Rachael has now made Boise State University her home for over 6 years.

Music Industry vs. Collegiate

Rachael really enjoys the Collegiate Industry due to its endless support system and resources from other schools. This was not so much a factor in the music industry due to competition. “The work on campus is great, I can’t tell you how amazing it is to work for students and scholarships; to raise money for scholarships.” Seeing students walking on campus and knowing she contributed to their education, makes her love her job, especially having come from a country where higher education was free for her. As she pauses, Rachael adds that it is really about being able to provide a benefit for the greater good that makes her enjoy her role as much as she does.

Rachael mentions some impressive facts regarding the scholarship funding at Boise State. All the net profit raised from merchandising is shared between the General Fund scholarship and athletics programs, coming out to a value of around $1 million/year. This not only show’s the importance of Rachael’s role but also the Universities growth over the last 6.5 years, as numbers were nearer $350,000 when she started.

“I’ve seen our royalties grow from $350,000 to over $1 million in 5 years, which is pretty amazing.  In those figures, you can really see the impact of the success of the Athletics program and the rapid growth of the University!”

Trademark and Licensing for Designers

The important thing for designers to understand is that a logo isn’t a brand. There are many factors that contribute to a brand and its her role to help perfect these factors while also keeping things interesting within their boundaries.

One of the challenges Rachael faces come with selling merchandise around a logo, recognizing whether a trademark should be used as an indicator of origin or allowing room for design flexibility. It becomes a balance of showing a flexibility of design that will keep fans happy, while also standing strong the Boise State brand.

‘If you’re designing a logo, think about all the ways it will be used (ie stationary, flyers, statues, digital, on apparel, on promotional items etc.) and design around those much wider parameters.

University Branding, the ‘B’ logo

Boise State has two logos, one for the university (B logo) and one for athletics (Bronco logo). Before the ‘B logo,’ the University’s mark was a diamond which was replaced recently with help from a well known brand not far away from us.

Nike provides the University’s athletic uniforms and equipment and part of that service was to take a look at the Boise State logos and help improve the brand. “The stronger and more consistent our brand is, the more benefit they get from it.” There is benefit both ways in keeping a strong brand in the case of the partnership between Nike and Boise State University.

As Nike came in and consolidated all of Boise States logo assets, they create the ‘B’ brand that is showcased in its massive statue in front of the Administration building today along with a family of logos that ties the brand in together nicely.

Creative Flexibility with the Boise State Brand

All licensees have to go through a process where every piece of artwork has to get approved. Rachael not only approves about 50 pieces of art a day, but also educates Boise State’s licensees about what they can and cannot do.

It is always a necessity to make sure the University Brand follows the guidelines set up to ensure that the same type of message is always reflected. “For example, when approving t-shirt designs, we are fairly conservative as well as very respectful.  We don’t have slogans that put down other teams – we’re pretty humble in our success.”

With a great energy and a lovely English accent, Rachael speaks of the importance of her role at the University highlighting not only the details of her day-to-day but also looking at the bigger picture of the good she is doing. Among her many talents, she is a runner and has ran the Boston Marathon three times. Come meet Rachael yourself at our speaking event on October 16th and learn more about licensing and trademarking.

By Amela Subasic
Published September 30, 2014
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