Do we have a new Girl Scout membership pin? According to the online Girl Scout shop, we do.
Did anybody get a memo?
Girl Scouts of the USA has just completed one of its periodic rebranding campaigns. Every decade or so, the Powers-That-Be decide to “refresh” the look of Girl Scouts. These changes are typically inoffensive–a new font, a new color palette, some new placement of the trefoil. However, the membership pin has always been sacrosanct.
The last time GSUSA tried to present a new “face” to the world, they really flubbed the rollout. Here we go again.
Debut or Debacle in Denver
The climax of the 1978 National Council Session in Denver came on the final day. With great fanfare and suspense, GSUSA President Gloria Scott unveiled the “new face of Girl Scouting.” The national Board of Directors had adopted the new logo as the building block for an identity project that would modernize the organization with a fresh, new image. Gone was the golden trefoil bearing an eagle. Gone was the close resemblance to the Great Seal of the United States. Gone was the design that founder Juliette Gordon Low had patented in 1914.
The new Girl Scout emblem was still trefoil shaped, but it now depicted the overlapping profiles of three females. Instead of gold, the new logo had a bright, eye-catching, green-and-white color scheme. The logo was introduced to the entire membership in the January 1979 issue of Leader magazine. Designed by Saul Bass, the new face presented Girl Scouts as “contemporary … pluralistic … an independent organization that helps girls to grow and develop values.”
Reaction was mixed. Fans agreed that it would never be confused with the Boy Scout emblem. But many long-time volunteers were appalled. They saw no reason to mess with tradition. Opponents dubbed it “the three faces of Eve,” referencing the 1957 Joanne Woodward movie about a woman with multiple personality disorder.
Some critics pointed out that it violated the Muslim practice of not depicting the human form.
Perhaps worst of all, the new logo bore a very strong resemblance to that of Rely tampons, which had just been recalled because the brand had been linked to several fatal cases of toxic shock syndrome.
New Logo and New Pin?
If the new logo was official for everything, did that mean there would be a new membership pin too? Well …. maybe?
According to Leader magazine, Audrey Finkelstein, chair of the GSUSA Board of Directors’ Communications Committee, told delegates and guests–mostly adults–to work with the design and note public reaction. “Above all, we need time to get a sense of how girls feel about having the new trefoil for the membership pin.”
Many councils polled their members after the convention. But additional statements from GSUSA implied that the decision to change the pin’s design was a foregone conclusion.
The Nation’s Capital president and executive director, among others, asked for clarification. “We were distressed to hear recently, from National Personnel, that it was their impression that Mrs. Finkelstein had reported at the Denver session, that the National Board had adopted the new logo for use on a membership pin.”
Nation’s Capital received input from 3,700 of its members, almost all negative. Respondents were very attached to their traditional pin and declared they would fight any change. Forwarding the results to headquarters, the Nation’s Capital representatives asked for “the date and actual wording of the National Board action.”
A definitive answer came out of the May 1979 meeting of the GSUSA Board of Directors. The meeting summary sent to council presidents and executives stated, “The National Board regrets that its action in May 1978, to seek guidance on this matter from the membership, was not adequately communicated.” How they would “seek guidance” was not specified. The question did not appear in Leader.
Faced with criticism on multiple fronts, the National Board decided in January 1980 to have two membership pins. The new logo would be used on merchandise and other materials, but individuals could decide for themselves whether to wear the traditional gold pin or the new, “contemporary” pin. Both pins would be sold at the same price. (Disclosure: I wear the first contemporary pin.)
Bangs! We Need Bangs!
Another brand refresh occurred just prior to the Girl Scouts 100th anniversary in March 2012. Each program level was assigned its own color that would be consistently carried through uniforms, badges, and publications. The contemporary logo and pin received a facelift, but no major surgery.
The branding-industry newsletter Under Consideration liked the changes immensely, but their review is now behind a paywall. Here’s their (very detailed) take:
In other words, the girls got bangs and the design became pointy-er. The words “Girl Scouts” were ALSO moved from the bottom of the pin to the top.
Faceless for the Future
The 110th anniversary celebrated in 2022 included yet more refreshment. The change is not immediately obvious because the difference is what is missing–the faces. This is major–a decision with consequences as far-reaching as the logo introduced in 1979,
The controversial three-faces motif has been quietly replaced with a solid trefoil emblem. Collins, the graphic design firm tasked with the re-do, pushed the traditional green trefoil into a new prism of multiple colors.
The Girl Scouts movement has been represented by the Trefoil since its inception. It has seen many iterations, but is now simplified in the hopes that it communicates its “iconic essence.” While the symbol is rooted in green, it can now selectively expand beyond green-only applications so the mission can come to life in multicolor.GDUSA
The three-faces pin is no longer offered on GirlScoutShop.com.
I try to keep up with Girl Scout news, but this new membership pin caught me off guard. I can’t find any mention of it on the GSUSA blog, nor press releases going back three years.
How and why has this development flown under the radar?
We have another national convention coming next July. Perhaps GSUSA plans to follow the rollout used in 1978 and make the announcement a big event, with balloons, confetti, and baby juggling. But selling the pins now takes away the suspense.
One again, it appears that headquarters ordered a few million pins and then asked for feedback. Did GSUSA really think we wouldn’t notice?
GSUSA did not respond to my inquiries on this topic.
©2022 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian