TPL’s new logo: is it really controversial?

TPL’s new logo: is it really controversial?

The Toronto Public Library (TPL) has a new logo and some folks are a bit peeved.

Let’s start with the fun stuff – TPL’s logo.

Image of Toronto Public Library's new logo - lower case TPL seperated by a colon and the words toronto public library

Activate Something Great – TPL’s new logo and slogan

If you pay attention to Toronto’s Twitterati, the new logo is a bit controversial. Or so goes the claim. The bulk of the controversy  seemed to stem from a single BlogTo article1. There really isn’t anything controversial about the logo. To some it’s a bit bland or they preferred the more artistic eye appeal of the previous one. That’s fair criticism but hardly controversial.

Ok, the slogan is trite, like something that came from caffeine deprived people trapped in an endless meeting, desperate to escape. But I understand the point. The TPL (Toronto Public Library) is trying to move the library into a 21st century feel, beyond the idea it’s just books. The TPL is a community hub and here are a  few fast facts2:

• 972,213 million library members and 17.5 million visits
• 100 branches across the GTA
One of the world’s busiest libraries
• Over 7 million digital loans to date and climbing rapidly
• When I looked up the stats yesterday, there were over 6,300 active digital loans and 2 million active holds
• Extensive computer training/usage available
• digital hubs allowing for 3d printing
• recording studios
• new comer services
• archives both digital and inhouse
You can find out more here

So, yes, it was time to update the slogan and logo to meet a more millennial feel.  Here’s the old one:

Toronto Public Library's logo from 1998 to 2019

Toronto Public Library’s logo from 1998 to 2019

There’s nothing wrong it, but the new logo has a modern clean, simple font, easy to read, no frills appeal. It also looks good in all sizes because of the uncluttered design. I’m a big fan of uncluttered. The new tpl design looks good on a small smart phone screen and blown up for building signage.

Here’s the logo from 1978 for comparison. It’s interesting to see how the art of logo design changes over the years. This would make a good case study of how logo preferences morph.  Tastes change over time, including typography and logo styling. And colour. Thankfully. That brown was a dreadful choice. Just saying.

tpl logo 1978 sm

TPL is 209 years old. Beginning in 1810 as a private subscription library, becoming a free public library in 1883, it’s had several makeovers.1

According to the design team, Trajectory, they wanted a “new identity” that “recognizes our roots while looking to the future”. No issues with that logic. However, the rest of what they wrote is a finely tuned bit of bafflegab:

It’s grounded in the written word
It’s a promise, a connector, an advocate
It connects the breadth of TPL’s offerings with ever-changing needs of our city’s people and communities
It’s flexible and adaptable to showcase the incredible range of programs, services, ideas and information we have today… and what’s to come.3

It’s a nice logo. Let’s leave it at that.

I do agree with their assessment of the new font:

The typography is accessible and welcoming, and our colours have been refreshed with a welcoming and cheerful new spin on “Toronto blue,” along with a complementary palette of supporting colours that reflect the energy and vibrancy of our city, our people, and our library.3

Now the bad. Or maybe just plain bizarre – a little abuse

Trajectory, the company behind the redesign, issued a video and press release detailing the logic behind the new design. Here’s a bit from it:

 Our multi-pronged, immersive, and experiential design process was structured to be future-focused and anticipate emerging customer service opportunities.3

Fucking hell, it’s like an episode of Dilbert. Why didn’t they simply say “we field tested the design extensively and are excited about the response”. Or better still “we think we have a kick ass design Library users are going to love”.

The logo is a good fit. Not in the least controversial. Tastes will vary but that’s one of the great problems with any design – you can’t please everyone.  The slogan is a bit of a miss, and a tad trite, but I can ignore it.   So, what do you think of the redesign?

Want more information?

1 – Read the BlogTO article here Toronto Public Library’s new logo proves controversial
2 – Some facts about the TPL
3 – A little TPL history
4 –  Trajectory Co

Looks like nipple to me

Looks like nipple to me

I sat for at least 5 min, chin on hand, pondering an ad that popped up on my Facebook page. I cocked my head a few times and thought “dear, oh dear, oh dear, where was their proof reader?”

  Screen capture of Ripple "milk" font that makes the world look like Nipple

I’m having a mini debate with myself whether the choice of font was deliberate or just unfortunate and someone didn’t spot the obvious. I had to read the product writeup to find out the name is Ripple not Nipple.  My brain simply couldn’t process the first letter as “r”.  And, to be brutally honest the font makes the product a little off putting. Not quite sure I want a bottle of nipples sitting in my fridge.

This year’s Pantone colour is …

This year’s Pantone colour is …

Pantone colour for 2019 of the year is "living coral".

Salmony coloured living coral

This year’s Pantone colour has been announced. Oh lordy! It’s pink on steroids.  Living Coral, or as those of us who survived the colour palettes of the 60s and 70s, it’s a bad flashback.   It looks like salmon to me.  I’m sure I’ll be raked over the coals (wonder what Pantone colour coal is) for that, but it is too reminiscent of bad colour schemes of my youth – avocado appliances, salmon coloured bathrooms, shag carpets and rec room panelling. Whoa, I feel dizzy with the flashbacks.  In the late 90s my sister bought a house that was painted in a similar colour.  When I say painted, I mean all over the inside – the kitchen, the living room, the halls. When she found plastic containers left behind in the dishwasher that matched the walls, she quickly dubbed the place The Rubber Maid House until she repainted.  Overwhelming would be an understatement.

I understand the rationale behind the name, it does have the colour of a certain type of coral. But I don’t feel the “vibrant” or “life-affirming” qualities. It screams staid, old, and dated.

“An animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energizes and enlivens with a softer edge…. Vibrant, yet mellow PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral embraces us with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment.” Pantone Website

Prepare for a yearlong onslaught of salmon pink Living Coral.


Design to die for – Saha’s ad makes my heart palpitate

Design to die for – Saha’s ad makes my heart palpitate

This is a design style I adore & wish I could create:

Saha's post card advert showing a busy, colourful design

I grabbed this postcard a few weeks ago because I needed something to job my memory about some marinades I tried at a farmer’s market.  I’ve pulled it out and looked at it repeatedly, pouring over details since tossing it in my backpack. It’s the type of graphic design I wish I could do. Oh, I’ve tried over the years, but no, it’s not something I can pull off with any success. I lack both the training and the unique creational bend.

When looking back over things I’ve created, I see a linear pattern in pretty much everything. Creating visual explosions of colours and conflicting patters takes a talent that is way out of my league. Part of me is envious of such talent. But, the other part of me takes a childlike thrill in being able to sit back and  appreciation the talent.

The Saha International Cuisine postcard accomplishes the goal of conveying the companies philosophy in a small 6×4 space. The artist evokes India, natural foods, vibrant flavours & colours and a sense of adventure without falling off the cliff of clutter overload. I’m a huge fan of white space. A friend once said the simplicity of white spaces can speak louder than an over complicated design. And that has stuck in my mind for decades. With the passing of years I’ve grown to appreciate minimalism more and more.

…. but this ad! It speaks to me in a way I can’t quite explain. I said it isn’t cluttered and I know a few people raised an eyebrow (or two). It’s busy but each item has a purpose and tied together by the large circle n the middle. It avoids the “death but clutter” design trap quite nicely.

The flip side is equally well done. The colours and fonts make the content easy to read, despite the lack of white space and overall busyness.

Saha International Cuisine's post card

Everything is there – clear content, how to connect, company philosophy and a personal note. I tried to do a mock up using my own business as a model to stretch my mind a bit. I tried for a pastiche but ended up with a grab bag lacking a clear mission statement.  I moved back to what I do best – minimalism. When  my new rack cards come back from the printer next week, I’ll put one up to show you what I mean. I like my new ad, don’t get me wrong. As a matter of fact, I really love the simplicity, but that doesn’t stop me from admiring the elegant design of ads like Saha.

The fellow I spoke to at the Saha booth talked about how they were proud to use a stripped down taste – no fillers, no additives, just the flavours. And oh those flavours. Did I use the word explosion earlier? A spoonful was eye popping-ly fresh and pleasingly warm. Don’t know if the ad designer tasted the marinades & bases before creating the advert, but I’ll bet my bottom dollar they didn’t wing it without knowing about both the company philosophy and tasting everything. The post card compliments the products.

I occasionally do small jobs for customers, simple things, but I normally tell them to hire a professional designer for large, complex projects. I know my limits. Putting an ad  in a magazine or on a website? You have one chance to grab the reader’s eye before they flip the page. A good graphic designer knows how to get the reader’s attention and drive them to your product. In the end, a  professional is worth every penny.

If you’re curious about the marinades and curry bases, check out Saha’s website. I still haven’t gotten around to order any, much to my embarrassment, but the flavours are embedded in my memory. They have some kick ass recipes online to explore as well so it’s worth a wander over.


Free NASA travel posters? I’m there!

Free NASA travel posters? I’m there!

Did you know NASA created travel posters? I didn’t until today.  Check out the artwork created by the Jet Propulsion Lab team. The hi-rez  “Visions of the Future” series is available to download in pdf and tiff format. And they are HUGE.

Travel posters for cosmos  – illustrator Liz Barrios De La Torre

Scan of NASA travel poster for Europa - illustrator Liz Barrios De La Torre

Travel to Europa

They print out @ 30″ x 20″, so you might need to trot down to the local print house to make a poster sized copy, but, the quality is worth it. Of course you can always shrink them down, but the posters deserve a full size printing and framing. The series also makes kickass wallpaper, by the way.  Under each poster is a small write up about the planet and NASA’s work regarding it.

 Astonishing geology and the potential to host the conditions for simple life make Jupiter’s moon Europa a fascinating destination for future exploration. Beneath its icy surface, Europa is believed to conceal a global ocean of salty liquid water twice the volume of Earth’s oceans. Tugging and flexing from Jupiter’s gravity generates enough heat to keep the ocean from freezing.
On Earth, wherever we find water, we find life. What will NASA’s Europa mission find when it heads for this intriguing moon in the 2020s?
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Get frosted on Saturn’s moon – illustrator Joby Harris

Visit Titan and be awed - another travel poster from NASA - illustrator Joby Harris

Visit Titan and be awed!

Frigid and alien, yet similar to our own planet billions of years ago, Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, has a thick atmosphere, organic-rich chemistry and a surface shaped by rivers and lakes of liquid ethane and methane. Cold winds sculpt vast regions of hydrocarbon-rich dunes. There may even be cryovolcanoes of cold liquid water. NASA’s Cassini orbiter was designed to peer through Titan’s perpetual haze and unravel the mysteries of this planet-like moon.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

There are 15 in the series, and again, free to download and enjoy.  An absolute must is a visit to the “learn more” page to see the thinking involved in the creation process.  They have a great retro, 1950s  feel to them. The colours, design and content made me immediately flash onto my all time favourite sci fi movie  Forbidden Planet (1956) and travel posters of the era.  Turns out there’s a reason: “As for the style, we gravitated to the style of the old posters the WPA created for the national parks. There’s a nostalgia for that era that just feels good. David Delgado, creative strategy”.

Movie poster from Forbidden Planet 1956 - courtesy MGM

Forbidden Planet 1956 – courtesy MGM

Travel poster "Visit the Pacific Northwest" from 1950s

Train travel poster from the 50s

See what I mean – colours, style, fonts and concept certainly evoke the era.  It would have been amazing to sit in on the creative process.  Check out all the posters at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab’s Vision of the Future page – You can download individual posters (each about 200megs in size) or download all of them at once.