I prefer to highlight good design choices instead of rip bad ones, but for the new brand identity for the Library of Congress, I’m making an exception.
Pentagram was tasked with the redesign. And I can’t for the life of my tax dollars figure out why we needed a redesign or why the final design was chosen.
I’ll give you 5 reasons this new logo and design system should have been axed early on in the process.
1. Where is the Unique Selling Point?
I visited the Library of Congress for the first time a few months ago and was privileged to visit the Main Reading Room.
You know what made this trip to the library special from any other library I’ve visited?
I was inside the Library of Congress.
Of the United States of America.
And yet the new logo shrinks the word “Congress,” choosing instead to highlight the word “Library.”
I don’t know that “Congress” can ever be more prominent than “Library” for a design, but it should at least be equal in visual weight. (You know, like it was.)
I can take the current logo and replace “Congress” with any location or company (e.g. “Library of San Francisco”, “Library of Amazon”, etc.), and the logo is fine.
I can’t do that with the old logo.
To lessen the impact of “Congress” is to diminish the very ethos of the Library of Congress itself.
2. Typeface Selection
Druk Condensed was used for the main “LIBRARY”, and it is great for headlines. The Cooper Hewitt-esque typeface for “Library of Congress” contrasts nicely with a rounder, more geometric flavor.
I like these typefaces together, but why two sans-serif typefaces? The current trendy decision to sans-serif everything fails to provide any connection or visual substance to the historical records of the Library of Congress (which are overwhelmingly in a serif, mind you).
The old logo used Trajan, which is far from a perfect serif. But it wasn’t bad at all and worked well with the open book logo.
Speaking of books…
3. The Amazon color scheme
Books + orange = Amazon
Red + white + blue = America
Abandon the American blue for Amazon orange reveals how badly the Library of Congress wanted to feel new and modern.
4. The lock-up variations should be locked up…forever
Just look at the first lock-up. Why does the L in the subtitle sit between the B and the R? It’s not lined up to anything.
Now look at the second lock-up. The L sits right at the R, or does it? It’s off to the left a little bit. But hey, at least the S at the end of Congress lines up with the Y.
Then there’s the entire concept of splitting the headline and inserting "Library of Congress" (or really anything they could think of) in between the main LIBRARY wordmark.
Now that wordmark with the the narrow letters is supposed to symbolize books on a shelf, and Pentagram said, "Hey, people keep stuff between the books on their shelf. So let's do that here!"
But I’ll say it again: This is for the Library of Congress! This is not a personal library; this is the library!
Why abandon the quality and respect of our nation’s information nucleus for a cheap replication of my home bookshelf?
5. Department of Redundancy Department
I can’t help but read “LIBRARY Library of Congress” every time I see the logo.
No imagery. Odd lockups. A bizarre orange popsicle color choice. Why did we ever trash the old design?
This logo was only completed in 2010! And it was done by one of the best design firms in the world in Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv.
And CGH has a reasonable explanation for their design: The open book symbolizes the free and open availability of information, the serif typeface displays a sense of historical authority, and the unmistakable American flag subtly reveals the roots of the Library of Congress.
And we, the people, gave it all up for BIG BLACK LETTERS.
Thanks for coming to my TED talk