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Go, logo, go!

Jan 14, 2013 1:48 PM | 14 comments

If you've used the library website in the last few days, you may have noticed that Brooklyn Public Library sports a snazzy new logo and color scheme on its homepage. Gone is the sad little black box that for so long meekly defined our presence in the digital realm. There's something invigorating about the facelift that comes with rebranding -- it seems to signify a fresh start, a new direction. The library has gone through several such reincarnations over the years, and today's blog post concerns itself with the various iterations of the our logo, from classic to retro to ultramodern.  Think of it as the institutional equivalent of embarrassing photographs of yourself in 1970s bell-bottoms or 1980s shoulder pads.

The above book plate image appears, with minor variations, in the library's earliest materials.  Joy's blog post about our book plate collection goes into greater detail on the many iterations of the torch image with the Latin motto "Litterae, lux, scientiae".  Images like this one were employed to establish ownership of library materials or the provenance of book donations.  On some of our older books you will also see perforations on the front page that spell out "Brooklyn Public Library".  It may not be a logo, per se, but I do think its an interesting graphic rendering of our name.

Logos as we now know them -- a kind of iconic shorthand representing a larger concept -- started appearing in Brooklyn Public Library materials, as far as I can tell, in the 1960s. 

The above logo, from a 1967 BPL Bulletin, oozes mid-century-futuristic charm, while the masthead below, from ten years later, employs the iconic Brooklyn Bridge in a more nostalgic style.

One especially unique design campaign, which you will still see on our letterhead and on the signs at our many neighborhood branches, celebrated Brooklyn's status as a home to authors by incorporating the autographs of well-known writers from the borough, including Gay Talese, Isaac Asimov, Anais Nin, and Norman Mailer, among others.

It was also deployed on our library card design.  Residing as they do in the wallets and purses of hundreds of thousands of Brooklynites, library cards serve as a little plastic ambassador of the Brooklyn Public Library brand. 

Although they started out as purely functional, like the paper card above from 1954, library cards have transformed over the years to become a bit more colorful and playful.  Here are a few different designs you may remember (or maybe you are still carrying them around, even, in your bursting-at-the-seams wallet).


And lastly, here is the black box logo we've used for so many years, to which we now happily say goodbye, and thanks for the memories. 


1/15/2013 12:44:01 PM #

The new logo is really terrible.  Blocky, misspelled, awful.  I hope you guys keep going and settle on something more acessible and design-forward.


1/15/2013 2:04:21 PM #

if there is no money for books how is there money for a new logo and promotions?

dana cubitt

1/15/2013 4:19:15 PM #

I love the library more than anyone, but I am shocked at the choice for the new logo design. The design looks like something from the late 90s. I am picturing plastic signs sitting in tacky suburban parking lots. I don't understand what message the library is trying to send with this design. The spelling is inappropriate for an institution that promotes literacy. The redesign is unnecessary when the money can be used elsewhere. Just because it's new, doesn't make it good.


1/15/2013 8:40:00 PM #

Yes, it is horrible: hard edge, harsh, no class, no grace, no soul, no sense of history.  What are they aiming for? why bother?

Evelyn Friedman

1/16/2013 11:54:56 AM #

I'm going to have to disagree with everyone and say that I think the new logo is amazing. Forward-thinking, modern, fresh, and perfect for the digital age and the future of the library.


1/16/2013 9:55:40 PM #

I'm disappointed. And I'm disappointed by the new online catalog system too. No renew all option? Really? 10 emails every time my books are close to due? No thanks!


1/17/2013 9:57:50 AM #

Your new logo is awful. I am generally supportive of the idea new logos (change is good) but this new one is insanely BAD. I am a graphic designer living in Brooklyn and I loved the old logo and website. Now it looks like a horrible logo from the 1990s, designed by someone's cousin who 'knows desktop publishing'. I really think you have made a huge mistake here, and I am very sad you did away with the excellent old design. I challenge you to get any positive support from even one designer on this. The old logo was not a sad little box to me, it showed seriousness, confidence and reliability. The new one looks unrefined and seems like a misspelling, what could be a worse image for a library to project?


1/17/2013 1:13:12 PM #

I won't go negative on the new design but I much prefer the "sad little black box". It's timeless and simple.


1/17/2013 2:45:50 PM #

The new logo is nice but I much prefer the old logo as it fit the personality of a library better. I mean neither really gives off the feeling of library but the new one seems off color-wise and the choice of using "Bklyn" as opposed to fully spelling it out. Also the green color scheme fits in better with knowledge and growth with the library the blue with grey brings on feelings of sadness.


1/25/2013 7:40:54 PM #

The old logo and color scheme were much better.


2/1/2013 11:46:18 AM #

I can just repeat, what I already said on LinkedIn/Communication Arts Group:
Good or bad, we keep on discussing, which is undoubtly a quality. The relaunched brand seems to me more adequate than the former one (much too long for a quick world). To work with TYPES in case of a library I find it reasonable. If it's „Book“ or „Brook“ in the end doesn't really matter. As long as people recognize it as such (context), everything is ok. A provocation puts always our brains on work. What would be nicer for a library than that?
17'5 GR347 FUN 70 R34D 4LL 7h15 57UFF. 1F Y0U C4N R34D 7H353 L1N35, W3LL, 7H3N 17 W1LL B3 N0 PR0BL3M F0R Y0U 70 R34D... 0R 5P3LL Blyn (BR00KLYN PUBL1C L1BR4RY) C0RR3C7LY Wink

István Z. Barra

2/2/2013 7:39:06 PM #

Sorry to say, but the new logo is very "generic low-tier tech company" and looks like something straight out of freshman graphic design class. The "sad little box" is strong, smart and dignified. The faded blue seems really corporate and clinical compared to the bright green. The logo was really something that didn't need fixing.


2/19/2013 9:28:22 PM #

The new logo = middle-aged administrators saying "yea yea the kids who love texting will love this!" I agree with Brio that it looks like something out of a freshman design class. Futura is big among inexperienced designers who want to let the played-out typeface do all the heavy lifting for them.

From afar the banners at the library merely appear to say BKLYN with no mention of a library. Did no one at the design firm or library print this out large scale and view it from afar? That's logo design 101.

I don't believe the design firm is the main culprit because they have plenty of good work in their book. Design by committee doomed this project. You don't have to trash a brand to give it a facelift and bring it into a new era. The only sad little black box is the one in which the minds of those responsible for this reside. It's a travesty that a dime of desperately needed library funds was spent on this rebranding which was clearly a vanity project for someone new in the administration or board (which is so typical - it happens every time someone new comes in and decides to throw the baby out with the bathwater). The new information commons at the central branch is inspired and forward-thinking. This logo is not.

Here's a much more inspired reinvention of the existing branding:


8/5/2013 8:23:29 AM #

Would BlllKLYN (with the ROO) turned sideways
be considered shouting in a library?

Eugene Fleming