From Pie to Bar

Evolution of Chicago Public Library logos

Above, left: the evolution of the Chicago Public Library logo. Originally based upon the ‘municipal device’, where the Y shape represents the Chicago River. That device shape was simplified and refined over the years. Above, right: new logo by FCB


With only the tiniest of announcements, Chicago Public Library revealed a new brand identity on February 4, 2016:

The Library also utilized this time to do a small brand refresh inclusive of an updated logo and seal with the goal of driving cohesiveness across the Library and its sub-brands. This work is yet another example of the type of public-private partnership the Library and the Chicago Public Library Foundation have come to be known for thanks to the generous support of the Chicago’s business and philanthropic communities.”

Chicago Public Library News, Feb. 4, 2016

New CPL Seal

Redesigned ‘seal’ mark

The quietness with which this branding was announced (tucked away into an announcement about fine amnesty, that is difficult to even find on the website) seems in intentional contrast to the consultative approach of the recent failed Seattle Public Library rebranding. This contrast is even sharper when we take into account the legacy that the Chicago Library’s logo has – a variation of the Y-shape seal has been in use for decades (while SPL’s ‘bow-tie with a globe’ lacks the same historical resonance). The new design (at the top of the post), in stark black-and-white, is a significant departure from the old green pie-chart logo. It should be noted that the pie logo is not gone forever (see: right), it has a been redesigned for use in, I suspect, special applications, and is now referred to as the ‘seal’.

One of the roles the new brand identity has is to capture and represent the different services and branches within the system, something the previous design could not do easily. In the animated design below, we can see how the ‘black bar’ of the logo can be modified to contain a different service, in this case “You Media”, using a green colour that the brand manual has associated with teens.

Alternate logo for You Media

Animated GIF of logo transition. Source:

“Welcome Home”

The brand refresh also comes with a few extras. Those pie-pieces from the original logo have become part of a semi-circle motif that can be used in marketing applications or re-formed into animal shapes, like the CPL ‘owl’. An associated tagline is “Welcome Home”.


Above: Collection of posters for Chicago Public Library, featuring the semi-circle motif and the new tagline, “Welcome Home”. Source:

Chicago Public Library card mockup

Above: mock-up of a library card featuring the new logo, and possible owl mascot. Source:

Institution: Chicago Public Library
Designers: FCB (Foote, Cone & Belding); Art Direction and Design Lead: Jordan Sparrow