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More Than Books

Uncovering the past with The Newberry.

Jul 20, 2022 – by Will Miller

A full case study is on the horizon. Until then, a few thoughts in progress…

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(A) Typographic and design printed matter from The Newberry archives tour with Paul Gehl.

Over a decade ago, I had my first experience at The Newberry, the well-known independent research library founded in Chicago in 1887.

I took a guided tour deep in the archives with Paul Gehl, curator of the History of Printing collection. Equipped with an iPhone 3 to document the magic, we held centuries-old books, discussed binding techniques and marveled at detailed fore-edge designs. It was absolutely dreamy. The depth of resources and inspiration I’ve found there since has always felt extraordinary.

As a recent transplant, my visit fell easily in line with my growing love for Chicago as a city. Each corner and landmark was a surprising collection of stories ready to be discovered and applied to my next print design project.

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(B) A sample of older Newberry logos from c. 1890s — 2010s.

When The Newberry team approached the studio last Spring to refresh and expand on their visual identity, the excitement was palpable.

We began where we often do: setting a strong foundation for the reset with a brand strategy. We got feedback from their existing fan base and we came together to identify exactly who else might be interested in what they have to offer.

Moving on into the visual side of things, we delivered functional brand guidelines for their in-house design team alongside an updated approach to established visual design elements. The goal was to care for, rather than upend or reinvent, internal design successes.

We aimed to uplift, organize and support their commitment to a community that knows them well. Much of the identity work was about honoring the past, organizing existing elements, and planning for a future where collections need to become more accessible outside of a physical building.

The goal was to care for, rather than upend or reinvent, internal design successes.

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“I am certain that another firm would not apply the brand with the creativity and insight that you have brought to this project.”

— Andrea Villasenor, Senior Graphic Designer at The Newberry
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More to Come

We started our work during a key moment in the Newberry’s history: the pandemic was forcing them to take a critical look at their website. Since so many people could no longer visit the stacks in person, they realized they needed to make it easier to navigate. The information hub and portal to 1.6 million books, 600,000 maps, and 5 million manuscript pages continues to be a complex, challenging, and incredibly rewarding journey. Keep an eye out for the studio’s full case study.

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As a studio of makers, thinkers and collectors, we’re incredibly excited to see our work expand their public perception and reinforce their mission.