The library has gone by a couple of different names over the years – a long time ago it was called the Media Center (at least that’s what a painted over sign says that directs you to the library) and most recently (before I got here) it was rebranded as the iStudio. When I came, I realized the kids and community didn’t know what an iStudio was and I wanted to make sure that it was crystal clear. Thus, it became known simply as the library when I came on board.
I want to challenge the idea of what a library is in 2022. Yes, it is about books, but a modern school library is about so much more than books. Technology, makerspaces, gaming, tutoring, tech help, reader’s advisory, teaching, research, collaboration, knowledge, sharing, etc. make up just a few parts of the ever-growing and changing space that is Westerville South’s library.
The library is undergoing a pre-scheduled renovation this summer, so I thought it was the perfect time to brand the library with a meaningful logo to put on posters, bookmarks, stickers, t-shirts, business cards, and more!
But how to rebrand when the whole marketing business is expensive? Talk to your art department! South is lucky to have a digital arts class, so I approached the teacher about having students design a logo for the library last year. (Note: You do not need to have a digital arts class. You can talk to any art teacher and they will know the students who have expertise in the area. Or, if you don’t want a student to design it, see if an art teacher will.)
Our digital arts teacher is a second-career teacher, with a past professional life as a digital artist. So she is giving students real-world experience by having me be their client. As their client, they asked me what design elements I like and what I don’t like. I must say it was easier to tell them what I don’t like! Along the way, the digital art teacher guided them through questions they could ask me. She also brought up a couple of logo styles that were popular during 2021 and the students asked me to identify what I liked or disliked about each style to help guide them in their rebranding. To be treated as a client and give students the experience was definitely a change of pace, but I enjoyed having my thoughts listened to.
During the 2020-2021 school year, we came up with a logo that combined the Westerville South logo, a gear (to represent making), and a brain (to represent knowledge). We totally went for it and I thought it was great! Then, I made a crucial mistake: I did not get other students’ feedback. And, as we know, the library is not our space — it is the student, staff, and community’s space (see my blog post here about that). When I showed students the logo this spring, they expressed a lot of confusion about it. They definitely didn’t see the meaning behind it that the students designing it and I did. So I met with the digital arts teacher again and we discussed the student feedback and decided to start from scratch.
I was nervous about how the class that designed the logo would feel when I stood before them and told them I would like them to start all over. I expected many to be upset but to my surprise, most of them didn’t like the former logo and were excited to begin again.
This time around, I corrected my mistake and asked students what words they thought of when they thought about our library. They said: a safe space, collaboration, books, technology, fun, knowledge, studying. So when I met with the digital arts class, I gave them all those words to help them in their creation of a logo.
As I was talking with the digital arts students, the teacher kept referring to the library as The Library. And I loved it! The word ‘the’ makes it sound more important than just the word ‘library.’ And the library, as we know, is the heart of the school. Thus, the new title was born – The Library. I asked students to integrate that into their designs. I also asked them to drop the Westerville South logo because it was muddying things up too much and everyone knows we are a part of WSHS. If I am using the logo on letterhead to the community, I also always sign my name with “Westerville South High School” underneath so then there is no mistaking where we are from.
We went to the beginning of the process and started the first stage of the re-rebranding: the drawing phase. Students created rough drawings of their first ideas for a logo. Then, I told them what I liked about their logos and what I didn’t like. Mostly, many of them did not have completely fleshed out ideas and I feel as though they were rushed (they did have a 5 day turnaround time from when we first met). There were color palettes that I liked that were full of bright, bold colors which remind me of a Pride flag (and seeing how that was mentioned by many students as part of the safe space in here, I think it is fitting). They all had different elements of what The Library can be – gears, books, guitars, notebooks, pencils, light bulbs, trees, etc.
The next step was for the students to edit their logos based on my feedback and start the review and commentary process again. After that, I picked a logo. By me, I mean my students and me. I showed them the top three that I liked and had them vote on which one they think represents the library the best. I asked the students who were in the library for two weeks straight (so I got a different crowd each time) which of the final three designs they liked best.
In the fall of 2022, the digital arts students will also help me market the new logo and will develop the logo to go on:
- A big banner to hang in the library
- Various sizes of graphics for social media (we use Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok)
- And more!
One of the things that I have learned throughout this process is that each item that you want a logo for has a slightly different design element and size to it. So the students have to design the logo for each of the aforementioned items.
If I could do it again, in the end, I would have let the entire student body vote, but with the time crunch we were under (the design we picked was designed by a senior who was graduating within two weeks of the final design being picked), it wasn’t possible. And I really want to open the new space in the fall with the new logo and rebranding.
I promise once the library is reopened, I will share with you all the new logo and how we are using it at South.
The library renovation created a lot of work for me in terms of packing over 8,000 books and a storage room full of items from past decades (I unearthed 22 tape players!), and it will entail a lot of work at the start of the year to get the library ready for students. But I am so excited to have this opportunity to really make the library better than it was before, which starts with some good old-fashioned rebranding.