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Archives Why your library’s logo might be terrible: understanding what a logo does

Why your library’s logo might be terrible: understanding what a logo does

In my job as a front end designer/developer, I work with a lot of library logos. I also work with a lot of library staff that don’t understand the importance of what they do, or how a good one is created.  When faced with a sub-par logo, there’s often not much I can do other than work with whatever I’ve been given.  Even libraries with awful logos cannot undertake a redesign lightly, or particular staff people may be emotionally invested in their creation and don’t want something new…even if it’s better.

(Part One of a series)

In my job as a front end designer/developer, I work with a lot of library logos. I also work with a lot of library staff that don’t understand the importance of what they do, or how a good one is created.  When faced with a sub-par logo, there’s often not much I can do other than work with whatever I’ve been given.  Even libraries with awful logos cannot undertake a redesign lightly, or particular staff people may be emotionally invested in their creation and don’t want something new…even if it’s better.

In this series, I want to break down the issues surrounding logos in a way that’s quick, clear and understandable.

The function of a logo

In truth, logos have a few different jobs that they have to accomplish:

  • It identifies your institution.  Perhaps the primary mission of a logo. This seems self-explanatory, but there’s more to it than just being able to slap this image on the library’s letterhead.  It has to provide a visual cue that people understand is “yours”–that is, it represents the library and all that it is.  That’s a tall order, and there’s a few criteria in here we’re going to get to later on in this series to give you some more concrete ideas about how this function has to work. For right now, just hold onto the idea that this image represents the library in its entirety.
  • It’s the visual foundation of the library’s brand. Some folks mistakenly equate “brand” with “logo,” and assume they are the same thing.  A brand includes the library’s logo, but it’s far, far more than just that one element. A brand is also much more of the intangible and encompasses everything the library does and how it presents itself to its community. A well-done logo will take that into account and a qualified designer will understand that need as part of the design process.
  • It differentiates you from everyone else. There’s a reason that logos aren’t replicated by others and, if they are, lawsuits often ensue. No organization or business wants to be mixed up with another.  Even if libraries don’t technically have “competitors,” it’s still important to them to be recognized clearly by their communities.
  • It makes your library credible. Of course you’re not worried about your library looking sketchy. It’s a library!  However, as library people, we know better than anyone that people really do judge a book by its cover…and people also judge organizations by their logos. “If your logo looks unprofessional, people will undoubtedly question how well you’re able to deliver your products and services. Have you ever hit the back button or chose one company over another simply because they look more legit? People make snap judgements and poor design makes people leave.” (DesignPowers.com)

Part Two coming soon:  Things to Consider Before Creating a Library Logo