A New Look for the Public Library’s Lion LogoBy JENNIFER 8. LEE
The library lion has shed its shaggy mane for the digital age.
For the first time in at least a quarter century, the New York Public Library has unveiled a new logo, this one designed to work both online and in print. Consisting of a profile of a lion inside a circle, it sheds the fussy detail of the old one. Instead, it uses bold, simple lines that evoke the style of stained-glass windows, woodcuts, or old printers’ marks.
The strong lines allow for the logo to be scaled to different sizes — a requirement in an age when people are as likely, if not more likely, to see a logo on their computer as they are in print. “It’s got to be able to work that small and that large,” explained Marc Blaustein, art director for the library system, who oversaw the creation of the logo. The old logo had a hard time maintaining its detail as it shrank, Mr. Blaustein said.
At the same time a logo can’t be overly simple. “If it gets too minimal, then it doesn’t have any energy,” said Brian Collins, a designer who has been involved with a number of logo redesigns, including one for Yahoo.
The new logo has already been introduced on the library Web site and will be adopted eventually on library signs, library cards, and printed materials. (One hopes it will have a more positive response than the New York City taxi logo.)
The library started considering a redesign more than a year ago, in large part because it wanted to convey a more modern and digital-friendly image. The process also included adoption of a new color palette and a new typeface. Instead of going to an outside agency, the task fell to the library’s own staff. “This is an in-house product,” said Paul LeClerc, president of the library.
The logo started with a lion — specifically, Fortitude, the northern of the two lions that flank the steps to the main library, also known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. The other lion is Patience.
(”It’s primarily based on Fortitude, but it’s a combination of both,” said Mr. Blaustein. “The angle is Fortitude, but some of the features are inspired by Patience.”)
While the lion had to be the focus, the conceptualization of the design was left open. “We explored dozens of concepts and did hundreds of drawings,” Mr. Blaustein said.
After searching through hundreds of typefaces, the staff settled on a sans-serif typeface called Kievit, which was designed by Michael Abbink in 2001. It was chosen in large part because it was contemporary and worked well on the Web and in print.
In contrast, there are fonts, such as Microsoft’s Verdana, that are designed to be screen-friendly. But the migration of some of these fonts into print, as in the case of the Ikea catalog, can be very controversial among typeface aficionados.
One enduring mystery: the origins of the old logo and its age. Mr. Blaustein said his search had turned up little about its history. “No one knows who designed it,” he said. Libraries excel at preserving history, but not always, it seems, their own.