IS Logo History

instruction section

The Section is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year! And in honor of the event, we have selected a logo to represent the Section. The new logo, which was overwhelmingly chosen by the Section at the ALA Midwinter meeting in Washington, D.C., is incorporated into the newsletter banner above. Further digital enhancements of the logo and banner are forthcoming.

In its simplicity, the IS logo has many ideas woven into its design that help to represent us, including personal interaction and a pathway of knowledge with no beginning or end. Choosing the logo was an exciting process, and because I have been involved in the process over the years, the IS Executive Committee asked me to write down the history of the logo for the newsletter.

I've long wished to have some kind of a visual identification mark for the Section. Beginning back in the 1980s, I began advocating for one, and eventually got some support for having a logo contest. We advertised for and received some entries, but nothing stood out as THE ONE...and besides, the Section was deep in a discussion over changing its name and felt that the time wasn't right to select a logo for an organization in transition. The name change idea moved forward over quite a few years, and eventually we came to a resolution and a new name. Soon after the name change, I was elected to the Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect position, and it seemed inevitable that I should take up the quest for a logo once again.

As a Section, we discussed what we wanted, and what we didn't want. It was easier to define what we didn't want: a computer, a book, a tree of knowledge, or other symbols that seemed limiting. We stood for more than books and/or computers, and trees were beautiful but overused and not unique to our goals. Finally, we decided that what we had to work with was our section's acronym: IS.

Since we were focusing on letters, a lettering artist seemed a likely choice. We invited a calligrapher to sketch some designs. At Midwinter we looked them over, and Advisory members shared them with their committees. Some loved them, others didn't, but nothing had any kind of real support. Back to the drawing board.

One more time! I contacted a faculty member who teaches design and asked if he had a class that might work on the project. He invited me to come to his class and talk to his design students about who we were, what we did, and what we wanted. For me, this was an exciting exercise to talk to a group of students who knew nothing about instruction librarians and try to get them to understand what we did, what our goals were, and how we wanted to be portrayed or symbolized.

Two weeks later, I was invited back and the students presented their projects. They were beautiful and exciting. So much thought and concentration went into each one, and they were all wonderful representations of our mission. I knew the problem would now be how to decide on which one.

Should I limit what I shared with the Section to a handful, pre-selecting the ones the design professor had identified as the strong designs? That would have been the reasonable way to go, but they were all so wonderful, I wanted to share them all, and I did! First with Exec (everyone felt the same way; just the sheer fun of looking at them all was a treat) and then with Advisory. A cut-and-paste collage was made for chairs to share with their committees to provide feedback. I was delighted with the enthusiasm but worried that we could never come to a conclusion.

But I was wrong! In the end, when we looked over the responses from the committees and the individual members of the committees, we found an overwhelming agreement. One design stood out clearly from the others as a favorite of most of the committees and most of the individuals. We had a winner!

I was to return the designs to the students on February 19th, the day after I got back from ALA. As it turned out, I could only deliver them during class session, so I ended up telling the students about the enormous enthusiasm generated by all of their designs. They were all waiting on pins and needles to hear the results, so I announced the winner.

Jamie Prokell, a 22-year-old junior in the graphic design program at Penn State, was elated that we'd chosen his design. He told me later that he might not have shown his excitement at the time because he'd been up for two nights working on a major project, but that inside he was dancing up and down. He was especially pleased because he had put a lot of time and energy into his design, thinking about what I'd said and what we, as a group, stand for. I saw his sketches, pages of them, as he worked to come up with just the right idea, just the right shapes.

"I wanted to keep the mark ambiguous," said Jamie. "The hand-rendered letters were used to show the personal interaction, keeping it away from just computers. The 's' created by the shape of the negative space is representative of a pathway of knowledge. I gave it no beginning or end because I didn't want it to look limited." The proof that it isn't limited is that people see many things in the design. Several have identified the "i" as a figure of a person, and one committee member saw a person sitting at a computer. "So you can get out of it what you'd like. It becomes personal for each person," Jamie said.

Jamie also mentioned that this is his first design to be chosen for use, and that he now considers February 19th to be his lucky day and the real beginning of his graphic design career. He has worked his logo design into the banner for the IS Newsletter and the IS Web site, and he will also work with the Section on the brochure design funded by the current IS Initiative Grant. We wish Jamie well in his career and are delighted to be the recipient of his creative energies!

I hope you can all join us in San Francisco for our 20th-anniversary celebration dinner and our spectacular program!

--Loanne Snavely, Chair, Instruction Section

Snavely, Loanne, "Message from the IS Chair: A Visual Symbol for the Instruction Section." Instruction Section Newsletter, 14(1), Spring 1997.


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