Art and design schools are keen to establish and promote their individual visual identities. Do libraries at these institutions need to follow suit? At The New School, where half of the student body is enrolled at Parsons School of Design, communications are highly visual. In the spring of 2015, the university commissioned Pentagram to design a new typeface (“Neue”), logos, and Pantone color (“Parsons Red”), for the university.
The Neue typeface was met with positive reviews from Tobias Frere-Jones at Typographica and Armin at UnderConsideration. (The comments section is another matter: the words “fascinatingly ugly” were used to describe the new design.) However, the new identity put the libraries in a bit of a conundrum.
Just a year earlier, before Neue was born, we had printed bookmarks as promotional materials to accompany our move to the new University Center (read about it in an earlier blog post by Kira Appel). This bookmark uses the angular design of the University Center façade as its motif, and looked to its interior walls for its color scheme. Should we continue to use these bookmarks that had become obsolete more quickly than an iPhone? In the interest of sustainability, we decided to continue to distribute the bookmarks at computer workstations as “scrap paper” until they run out. The bookmarks do appear to be used, as evidenced by their being tucked inside a large number of the books that are returned to the library.
Next to change were our environmental graphics. Our shelf labels were updated with the new typeface.
Then there the task of updating our online presence. Our library technology department redesigned the website with the help of the marketing department of The New School, which distributed Neue to the University. A custom logo was also created for the Libraries. The new logo is used in our PowToon videos on Youtube (although we used one of PowToon’s typefaces, Nexa, which is the most similar to Neue, in our videos).
Finally, we updated our email signatures with the style and format that is being used university-wide. When it comes to printed material, librarians each take an individual approach when creating and distributing handouts that support instruction.
Does your institution promote the use of any specific logos, typefaces, or colors? Does your library (1) adhere to the same visual identity as the school; (2) have its own, separate visual identity; (3) have multiple identities, depending on library function or division; or (4) doesn’t really have a defined approach to visual identity?