DC PUBLIC LIBRARY

Icons Reimagined

In 2020, the DC Public Library system was experiencing a major event: after three years of transformative renovation work, the iconic Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in downtown Washington, DC would be unveiled and re-opened to the public. However, the overall DC Public Library system brand hadn’t been updated in decades. So DC Public Library decided the moment was right to refresh the system’s brand, to re-establish its role as a touchstone for a vibrant District – reflecting DC’s history, culture, spirit and values.

Strategy Creation Activation
Research Review Values, Voice & Messaging Brand Guide
Brand Workshop Logo & Visual Identity Collateral Design
Brand Positioning

Ask the Experts

The DC Public Library staff are both deeply thoughtful about the visitors they serve, and the role libraries play in the life of our nation’s capital. We invited several dozen Library staff to help co-create the brand with us through a half-day workshop. Together, we explored various audiences for the library system, their needs and how the system was meeting those needs. We discussed the cultural truths that distinguish DC and consequently its libraries. And we explored the staff’s individual and collective sense of purpose around their work.

Beyond Books

We quickly learned that the offerings at Washington, D.C.’s public libraries are as diverse and vibrant as the communities these libraries serve. From coworking space to storytime to concerts or simply safety and comfort, visitors use the libraries in myriad ways. The DC Public Library brand needed to both honor this diversity, and find a connective thread that would resonate across these audiences. Ultimately, that connection was a combination of ascendance and welcoming: DC Public Library is a place to explore the possibility of all you can be. And it is a place to just be. All are welcome.

Looking Up

The logo and visual identity system are built on a “rising trapezoids” symbol that is an abstract interpretation of the MLK Library’s newly renovated and soon to be iconic stairs. These stairs represent every libraries’ invitation for visitors to ascend upward in pursuit of their limitless potential. 


Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library opened in the Fall of 2020. Despite pandemic-smart restrictions, news of all that the MLK Library would offer gave city residents a welcomed moment of joy, and a chance to encounter the new brand messaging.