Why the acorn?

By Haley Hodges on August 4, 2017 in Blog

INHF acorn

The story behind the INHF logo

A light snap, and it hits the ground. If it’s lucky, it’ll land just right and persevere, surviving the anxious squirrels and hungry deer. In time, it will sprout roots and send them into the ground below. Slowly, as it prospers in the right environment, it will grow for years to come. In time, that small, lucky acorn will pull off its greatest success story and become a towering oak tree.

It’s no coincidence that Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation’s logo is an acorn. Much like INHF, they’re small but mighty and full of potential, and it was a designer 38 years ago who brought that association to life.

When INHF was founded in 1979 we contracted CMF&Z, an Iowa-based design firm, to create the logo and do a lot of the early branding work. Bill Fultz, a former INHF board member and the “F” in CMF&Z, assigned the logo design to Gary Anderson of Cedar Rapids. We also happened to need his design the very next day.

“The concept of preserving something for future generations intrigued me,” Anderson said in a 2008 email to INHF. “What natural thing would symbolize that? I recalled that our state tree is the oak, and it begins as an acorn.”


Anderson’s design was ultimately chosen, and the little acorn with its full oak tree potential slightly hidden within it has been with us ever since. The logo colors came from Anderson’s original design using natural hues and have been updated only slightly since. Otherwise, Anderson’s tree-in-acorn has been alive and growing since 1979.

In addition to the INHF logo, Anderson was best known for designing the Tree of Five Seasons in downtown Cedar Rapids. The 61-foot monument was inspired by Anderson’s logo for the City of Cedar Rapids 20 years prior. Other artwork is displayed proudly around the city as well.

Anderson passed away in October of 2014, but his legacy lives on. His Tree of Five Seasons is known nation-wide, and at INHF, his acorn is proudly displayed on every note, every invite, every handout, every shirt and every publication. The acorn has been with us from our humble beginnings and continues as a reminder as we grow.

“In that little acorn is a future gigantic oak tree waiting, preserved for the future,” Anderson said.