To bee or not to…Hey, there is a bee!

Patrick Zinn, Director of Marketing, University Libraries at Texas A&M tells the story behind the creation of the new FOLIO logo.

FOLIO future of libraries is open

I wanted to take some time to give everyone in our community some insight into the birth of the new icon and logo for FOLIO. I am going to give you some of the facts and share some perspectives into the birth of the Bee. We know that not everyone loves the bee but ask all to be patient as the talented marketing team rolls out these new identity pieces for FOLIO. We are sure that you will come to love what we do in the next year as we use these new assets to spread the love for FOLIO.

I know most of you know what a brand is but want to remind you that the heart of a brand is what people think and feel about your company or product and we won’t know that until FOLIO becomes a product in libraries across the world. In the meantime, FOLIO’s marketing and outreach team still needs tools to be able to develop brand awareness and when we looked at the tools currently at our disposal  — a simple website, a logo created by typing the product name in the most common font, and honeycombs on the website and PowerPoints. When we took inventory of the tools, we realized that they no longer represented where FOLIO was in its evolution and that we needed to step up our tools to match.

During our discussions, the marketing team was excited to celebrate the growth of FOLIO we were seeing as we worked with the Product Council or attended meetings, and realized FOLIO was a real entity out in the library world. So, we thought it was time to create the 2.0 version of our tools, to better represent all of this growth. The EBSCO design team stepped in to start work on the website, and having formerly been a creative director in my past corporate life, I volunteered to take a stab at the logo, which would include a more thoughtful presentation of the name and perhaps an icon that we could use at meetings and other opportunities to present FOLIO. We decided to only do a tweak in the direction of these elements, and not do a full rebrand complete with all of the heavy lifting that comes with such an endeavor, I volunteered my services because I thought it would be a fun project that would give me an opportunity that doesn’t come my way now that I head a marketing team in a library.

To get started, the FOLIO marketing team had a meeting and we named all of the brand attributes that we thought would be important to try to express in our reboot of the logo. We talked about wanting to express community, transparency, building blocks and groups working together.

I wanted to make sure that the marketing team had some choices, so I did some brainstorming and came up with three directions. I then conferred with the two graphic designers who work with me at the TAMU Libraries to make sure I hadn’t lost my mind. The first direction was to create some sort of icon that either represented a folio or to do something abstract. This would be the completely fresh choice. The next two versions were born out of the fact that honeycombs had been used on the original website and in our presentations. So the second version had icons made out of pieces of honeycomb, such as three pieces next to the word FOLIO to represent the three original partners. The third direction was to use a bee. When I made that decision, I wish I had known that I would be creating the most contentious logo icon I would ever create in my career.

To address the text, I knew I immediately wanted to do the FOLIO name in lowercase to make it friendlier, less corporate, and even more intentional. I worked with more than twenty fonts until I tweaked them all and came up with my top three choices to present. Now it was time to work on the icon. For each font, I did three icons, times three fonts, which meant I presented nine icons to the rest of the marketing team. Any of these icons could be paired with a favorite font for the name.

It was playful, the puns were non-ending, but more importantly, we thought it was a good tool to discuss the community, that highlights the collaborative spirit of the project

Immediately there were the bee-keepers and a few people gravitated towards one of the honeycomb ideas or one of the abstract ideas. After thinking about the bee carefully and reworking it based on feedback, the marketing team really came to love the bee icon. It was playful, the puns were non-ending, but more importantly, we thought it was a good tool to discuss the community, that highlights the collaborative spirit of the project  – and we could see it creating buzz on tote bags or other swag handed out at conferences and meet-ups.

The marketing team was mostly happy but still a bit unsure how the bee would fly with the community. We began to share the bee with a slightly bigger circle and that is where we learned you either really loved the bee or you just didn’t think it worked. My experience has been that when you present a creative concept without any choices, people generally react poorly to the design so we talked about at least sharing two icons with the community to see if we could get some positive buzz about our bee. But we knew we had to present two icon choices that we would love no matter what was chosen. To that end, we only loved the bee, so we chose (perhaps foolishly going against time-tested experience) to present two versions of the bee. Mea culpa.

Again, we saw that people either loved the bee or really hated the bee. And believe me, I have sat at dinners and had people tell me how much they hate the bee. So if you think you need to tell me how much you hate the bee too, please don’t stress, I have been told! In a funny way, I find the passion of the positive and negative reactions good. At least the bee is something striking and not boring so that no one cares. I have worked on so many logos in my day that I know there is an evolution to every logo, even beloved ones. Logos start out feeling strange, oddly specific, eventually become familiar and finally are accepted, if only because they no longer seem peculiar.

So if you are not a bee fan, “bee” patient, one day FOLIO will be a mature brand and will most likely have a real logo that really touches on the DNA of the brand. In the meantime, “bee” happy and have some fun and know that your marketing team is excited to continue spreading the good word about FOLIO and is excited to have new tools that we love and we are sure that all of our new materials will cause a buzz. Stay tuned for a complex, rich, beautiful website, and some cool tools to be ready soon. Bee happy!