The book on the Toronto Public Library’s new visual identity

Toronto Public Library (TPL) has introduced the first major update to its visual identity in nearly 20 years, abandoning the all-caps “LIBRARY” and Nathan Phillips-esque arches of its previous logo in favour of a lower-case “tpl” separated by a colon and the institution’s full name.

Linda Hazzan, the TPL’s director of communications, programming and customer engagement, says the library’s visual identity “hasn’t kept pace” with recent steps to modernize the world’s biggest and busiest library system, which was used by more than 70% of Torontonians in 2015. The previous logo had been in place since shortly after Toronto amalgamated in 2002.

“We need a more flexible, modern and compelling visual identity system that can help us make our spaces, services and staff more visible, more welcoming, more personalized and more engaging—things our consultations told us would make our customers’ library experience better,” says Hazzan.

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The new visual identity, created by Toronto-based Trajectory in association with OCAD‘s Inclusive Design Research Centre, DesignFutures Lab, is the result of a year-long public and engagement process.

“Our multi-pronged, immersive, and experiential design process was structured to be future-focused and anticipate emerging customer service opportunities,” says Trajectory in an online case study about the rebrand.

Hazzan recently walked The Message through some of the design elements and why they were used:

The logo

Screen shot 2019-09-13 at 11.44.00 AMWhile the logo remains firmly rooted in the written word, the intention is to make the library’s visual identity “more accessible, flexible and adaptable,” she says.

The typography is designed to be “accessible and welcoming,” and a move away what she describes as the “stiff, institutional feeling” of TPL’s previous identity.

Blue is the colour

The logo includes what Hazzan describes as a “welcoming and cheerful new spin” on the “Toronto blue” that has characterized the logo.

It is supported by a complementary palette of supporting colours intended to reflect “the energy and vibrancy of our city, our people, and our library.”

What’s in an acronym?

Hazzan says that incorporating “TPL” into the logo creates more flexibility and ease-of-use online. “This has been extremely well-received by our digital users,” she says.

However, the organization also felt it was important to include the full name, since “Toronto,” “Public” and “Library” are “critical to who we are, what we do and why we matter to Toronto and its residents.”

The colon: Is key

Hazzan says that the colon separating “TPL” from its full name is the centrepiece of the new identity system. Known internally as the “activator,” it is intended to be a “promise, a connector [and], an advocate,” says Hazzan.

The circles within the colon are also intended to represent “containers” for images and ideas, says Hazzan.


While the logo has drawn criticism from some people in design circles, Hazzan says that was expected for a public institution. “It’s not surprising that any time you introduce change, especially to a brand that people are very invested in, people will respond with a variety of opinions,” says Hazzan, who says TPL welcomes the input.

“We’re listening to all of them, and happy our new look is engaging our city in a conversation about the library—about who we are, what we do, and how people understand what we have to offer.”

Chris Powell