There, I said it. 

I was born in Toronto, Canada, and lived there for half of my life. The Toronto Public Library (TPL) is a behemoth of public libraries. With 100 branches and circulation of 32 million items per year, it is considered one of the world’s busiest urban library systems on a per capita basis

“With 100 branches, Toronto Public Library is the largest public library system in Canada, and the world’s busiest urban library system. Every year more than 18.5 million people visit our 100 branches and borrow over 32 million items.”

Toronto public Library

All of that preamble is to set up my thesis, which I state out of love: TPL is using an old, uninspiring logo, and if they aren’t considering replacing it, they should.

The logo, now two decades old, features the library name in blue, bold capitals with two arches stretching over the word “library”. The arches probably are drawing from visual elements present in downtown Toronto, like City Hall and the adjacent Nathan Phillips Square (or maybe even the iconic SkyDome, now (sigh) the Rogers Centre). Given that the logo came with the amalgamation of multiple boroughs into one mega-library system, those arches are also probably supposed to represent connections across the city. The overall effect, though, is uninviting and does not readily reflect what the library stands for or wants to achieve. In sum, the right justification of blocky text, the singular colour palette, and dated swooshes are due for an update.

Luckily for TPL, the last twenty years have provided time for lots of up-and-coming designers eager to test their skills on redesigning this visual identity. A few of these were produced for the York University / Sheridan College course, “Corporate Identity Design”  YSDN 4007, and others are unidentified.

Design Concepts

Certainly the most iconic design here, the logo is a simple T in a blue a shade darker than the current logo. The type gets a nicer font treatment, but still in all-caps. A good choice for a library that doesn’t want to stray far from the path.

“The design objective was to construct a corporate identity that aligned with the organisation’s values and evolving role in the community. Additionally, the identity would appeal to the most frequent users of the library, which are youth ages 10-19 and adults 20-34 years of age.

This visually powerful and iconic corporate identity resonates with the Toronto Public Library’s vision to become the most recognized library in the world.”

by Saamia Meghji

by Maxi-Ann Smith

A design much more in step with current library visual identity implementations. Colourful and extensible.

“The colourful experiences are shown through the gradient blocks, giving visitors a glimpse of what awaits them within the library. Clear and friendly typography allows easy readability and quick recognition for readers of all ages, while the bright colours create an attractive and energetic atmosphere.”

by Saarah Saghir

Iconic in a different way, this visual identity would not be out of place on an art gallery or museum. I like the use of “TO” in the logo – a common shorthand for Toronto.

“The TOPL monogram, which was given an O as tribute to Toronto’s acronym TO, is designed to appear around the city as an icon associated with the core values of the library — knowledge, literacy, history & heritage, and multiculturalism.”

by Gillie Natra

“We used the original arches as a huge inspiration to our logo concept. The 4 rings or “waves” represent the 4 pillars in which The TPL strongly bases their brand behind. (Read, Learn, Create, Deliver)”

by Mathieu Domengoni

Bright, Ad/Lib-esque colours feel light-years away from the current visual identity. Bold and exciting.

by Rebecca May

This treatment only exists in motion form, but it seems to blend some of the other ideas we’ve seen here.

by Yasaman Kh

“The design objective is to present the organization as a network of places that fosters community, the exchange of knowledge which provides tools for innovation. The digitization of the library books is to show modernity and the library’s many technological facilities. The pixels also represent diverse pieces of a community coming together. Green is used to represent growth. Cyan is used to represent high energy or activity and indigo is used to represent intelligence or knowledge.”

by Madison Pflance

by Pei Li

by Bridget James aka Blackapinaa


  • If you are the original artist and would prefer not to see your design here, please contact the author.
  • The above designs should in no way be construed as having anything to do with Toronto Public Library.