The Story of IOBA’s New Logo


A logo is, in many ways, like a person’s face. It is a graphic representation of an organization, easily recognized and often generating an emotional reaction in the viewer. Ideally, the logo will bring to mind the character and personality of the organization it represents.

With IOBA well into its second decade, it seemed a good time to take a look at our logo and make sure it truly represented who we were and how we wanted to be perceived.

The first question, of course, was did we even need a new logo? Because they are such powerful representations of their organizations, logos should not be changed lightly. The IOBA Public Relations committee began with a survey of the membership to determine the general usage practices and perceptions about our logo.

We discovered that 57% of respondents displayed our logo on their website, and of those who did not, the overwhelming majority simply hadn’t gotten around to it or didn’t know where to get an image. But there were a small percentage that simply didn’t like it.

We also asked where else booksellers would consider using our logo, and found that there were many “paper” applications such as bookmarks, flyers, invoices and business cards that members would consider placing the logo on. This anticipated usage impacted design considerations as we got farther into the process.

Finally, we asked survey respondents to rank their preference of the following four options:

1) Keep the cat and IOBA letter logo as it is

2) Remove the cat and use just the IOBA letters as logo

3) Have two logo formats available for use (cat and letters combo, and letters only)

4) Design a new logo.

The first choice selections of respondents broke 51% for some sort of change against 49% for no change. With such a close margin, we might have decided to abandon the search for a new logo except for one thing.

Simple web searches revealed that the cat image that played such a big part in our first logo was not unique to IOBA. For example:

A library: http://www.zazzle.com/cat_on_books_regular_business_card-240033988873469392

A bookplate: http://www.kaboodle.com/reviews/set-of-12-cat-on-books-bookplates

A refrigerator magnet: http://www.zazzle.com/cat_on_books_magnet-147718845098314787

Given that our logo used three books while some of the other images had five, it appears that we used a modification of an existing image for our first logo. There was some indication that the cat image may have been designed in the 50’s or 60’s and may have belonged to the Antioch Book Company, however neither the Board nor the members of the IOBA Discuss list could completely confirm that.

With the copyright status in doubt, the Board decided that a possibly fruitless effort to acquire the rights to the image did not justify the difficulty and expense, and even if the rights to the image were acquired, its cat image would still not be unique to IOBA. Wanting IOBA to have unquestionable ownership of its own logo, the Board instructed the Public Relations committee to pursue a redesign.

We therefore moved ahead with designing a new logo image to present to the board.

We had both physical and philosophical considerations.

As to physical characteristics, we were looking for a clean design that would be attractive on both screen and paper. It had to look as good in black and white as it did in color, and it needed to “reverse” (be able to be displayed as white on a dark background) so that members could use it on a variety of website background colors.

It also needed to be clean and uncomplicated so it would look good even when reproduced on smaller laser or inkjet printers. We stayed away from embellishments like drop shadows and hairline design elements due to the difficulty of accurately reproducing them in the variety of circumstances we projected the members would use.

Finally, it had to “scale.” Many members in our survey indicated that they would consider using it on business cards and bookmarks, so the logo needed to be clear and legible even in a small size.

Philosophically, we wanted the logo to represent all parts of our organization and mission.

We decided early on to include a globe to represent the “international” nature of IOBA, but the globe itself went through several iterations. We considered and rejected longitude and latitude lines because they just became blurry at smaller sizes. Our first attempt tried to capture both Europe and the American continents, but we found that the Atlantic Ocean took up so much of the image that it was no longer easily recognizable as a globe, so we compromised on the current view, which includes North and South America, a bit of Africa, and a hint of Europe.

We also decided relatively early in the process that we should attempt to retain the Castellar font for the IOBA portion of the logo. We liked the idea of a tie-in to our first logo design. In the end, the board opted for the color green for the same reason.

Several suggestions on the survey indicated that members felt it was important to spell out “Independent Online Booksellers Association.” That choice represented challenges in legibility at smaller sizes, but using a serif font and keeping the name in lower case helped readability when the image was shrunk.

In all, we reviewed, discussed, and tweaked over 40 versions and variants of the new logo before making our final recommendations to the board. And in September, 2011, just nine months from when we sent out the first survey, the board approved the new logo.

IOBA members who wish to download the logo can get a copy in the members section of the IOBA website. Follow the link for IOBA logos. HTML text is provided for embedding the logo on member websites.

We’d  also like to thank the PR committee members who worked on this project: Karin Bergsagel (ex-officio), Cathy Graham (chair), Sharon Heimann, Joe Orlando, Alice Voith, Chris Volk, and Justin Woolley.

The Standard: The Journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association

Check out the Independent Online Booksellers Association Website

1 comment for “The Story of IOBA’s New Logo

  1. August 29, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    I’ve just gotten around to reading Alice Voith’s account of our new IOBA logo in the latest issue of “The Standard.” Our thanks go to all the folks who worked on the project and came up with a simple, distinctive design. Thanks!

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