Check This Out: Dakota County Library Partners with 5IVE to Debut Bold Rebrand
Among the volumes of periodicals, digitized audio books, streaming movies, fix-it-clinics, hands-on knitting classes, author visits, and caregiver support meetings, the Dakota County Libraries have written the book on how to cultivate community, creativity and learning. Their professional team – dedicated to the diverse needs of their neighbors – keeps things humming along at nine area branches, serving well over 150,000 individuals in the last 24 months. Yet, in a sense, the Library was experiencing its own case of “don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover” syndrome.
Internally, the array of innovative services seemed relevant and robust, inclusive and imaginative. Externally, however, Library Executive Director Margaret Stone realized more had to be done to capture the attention of residents in a competitive marketplace. “Our team was doing great work, yet after initial research we realized even our regular users didn’t have a good grasp on our broad spectrum of services,” explained Margaret. “Initially I thought we needed a better marketing plan. But, as we dove deeper, we realized first we needed to rebrand, which led us to 5IVE.”
“People were asking for programs we already had in place. There was a clear need to raise awareness, elevate and update our image and brand our engagement channels.”
– Jennifer Reichert Simpson, Library Deputy Director
Today, Libraries Are Hubs For Democracy and Innovation
Despite the misconceptions, libraries continue to evolve and remain relevant. These neighborhood centers have kept pace with users’ contemporary needs in a digital and wi-fi infused world. In the past, Margaret explained, libraries wouldn’t have proactively advertised or promoted their services. But times are changing along with technology innovations and the demands of our increasingly diverse communities. “Today there are many places and opportunities to learn and engage with your community,” she said. “The Library isn’t necessarily top-of-mind, nor are people familiar with our portfolio of services. Nationally there is a shift as library directors realize we need to approach our relevancy through a businesslike lens to get the word out, just as we approach information, education and learning in so many different formats – beyond books.”
Another shift, Jennifer noted, is the library environment; most have shed their quiet, whisper-only walls. “Society has changed both how we work and how we learn,” she explained. “Libraries have the opportunity to serve as a perfect space for any of your needs. You can bring your laptop and have a conference call; students can grab a study room and work together. We offer online homework help, technology training or you can check out a book online. So, as lifestyles evolve, libraries have changed, too. They’re a valuable partner for people’s life, work and learning needs. At Dakota County Library, we realized that we needed to take bolder steps, share that message, change the perceptions and inform our communities of all we offer.”
The Library Experience – Rebranded
After a selection process was completed Margaret and Jennifer landed on 5IVE as their branding partner and agency of record. 5IVE’s process began with evaluating the objectives, audience and desired outcomes in order to craft a cohesive rebrand strategy. The agency team conducted focus groups and gathered feedback, dug into research, reviewed trends, led interviews, and analyzed county survey data. Together, with the Library’s team they identified the critical insights to help reshape the brand and guide the new design. As Boriana Strzok, 5IVE’s founder, described, “The challenge was not only to redesign the logo and move the brand into more contemporary space, but more importantly to inspire a paradigm shift in people’s minds reflective of the Library’s new status as a partner, beyond the traditional framework of books and reading. The Library system is a dynamic hub for community building and individual progress and the brand needed to convey that.”
5IVE is known for their collaborative process. Every design decision was informed by the research, audience, interviews and ongoing input from the client’s team. The agency’s in-depth knowledge of the field and previous experience with libraries allowed them to push the boundaries of the design from expected, to exploring new and unexpected ways to express conceptually the Library’s role, value and future. The team knew that a book is a symbol genetically imbedded in people’s mind when it comes to the visual representation of a library. Avoiding that was necessary in order to start new conversations and change the perception of the Dakota County Libraries as a whole.
Margaret recalled her first of several “ah-ha!” moments during the rebranding process.
“We were reviewing 5IVE’s three final ideas. One was cool, but it was comfortable. We could have sold it in and everybody would have been ‘happily-ever-after.’ On the opposite spectrum, there was a concept that was too far out there. Looking at the middle option, I realized I needed to push a little bit to enlist buy-in. And, 5IVE’s team was right there with me. I thought, ‘I need to choose this one that’s going to challenge not only the customers but also library staff, county staff – everybody, because that’s not what you’d expect from a library.’ We ended up with the design that pushed us.”
The final brand redesign positions Dakota County Library as a modern community hub for engagement, endless possibilities, resources and information. 5IVE’s approach was to take the letter L and transform it into two arrows coming together, creating a space for connection and creativity – a stepping stone for the community and individual needs of each and every patron. The new color palette was sourced by the focus groups participants who answered strategically designed questions asking them to describe what colors best represent the Library today – a surprising majority listed sunny, bright blue sky, warm yellows, friendly, fresh and optimistic. The bold logo is a sharp departure from the traditional, tired look of book-centered visuals and a leap forward toward a future defined by community, technology, diverse services and seamless online and offline experiences. Ultimately, the rebrand reflects a sunny and optimistic personal space that breaks through the noise of outdated norms to serve as a reminder of the Library’s leadership and community impact.
Combining the vast number of Library offerings and future forward mission with the core human characteristics of curiosity, growth and connectivity, 5IVE’s team composed the tagline: Explore the Possibilities. “As we prepared to launch our new brand, 5IVE’s overall recommendation was to lead with the Library services; the news wasn’t that we’re necessarily rebranding,” Jennifer explained. “Rather, that our new look reflects our mission and diverse services. The goal was to let people re-discover the value we bring to their lives and the direct benefits we offer.”
A Mark of Flexibility & Diversity
Taking into consideration a very broad set of audiences, ultimately the branding refresh served a dual purpose. “Of course, we wanted our customers to look at what we do differently, but we also wanted our staff to feel proud and excited about their role in that.” explained Margaret. “The rebranding was important because it also allowed us to re-energize our team and recognize internally the value we bring to our Dakota County communities.”
There were many complexities that needed to be considered in the design in order to establish flexibility and longevity behind the new brand identity. The logo needed to live along the Dakota County logo and be easily applied to various digital and traditional formats. Using a simple san serif font and all caps democratized the name from the previous version. Each word was equal to the rest aiming to create a sense of belonging rather than institutional hierarchy. 5IVE’s approach was to focus the attention on the logo mark as the main visual element – designed to pass the test of time and become synonymous with the Library in the minds of residents across the county. The cultural diversity of the current county demographics and cross-channel application dictated the need for simplicity, equity, representation and inclusivity behind the new logo mark design allowing each resident to discover their own meaning and interpretation regardless of their socio-economic, racial, gender, age or cultural background.
Comment Cards for the Win
While just months into the logo launch, the new branding has sparked interest. Followers are chiming in on social media, employees have placed the logo in their email signature, and other regional library systems are taking note. “As people experience the new branding – applied to signage or imprinted on a tote bag – they’re openly sharing their excitement,” Jennifer noted. “In fact, we just sent out comment cards with our updated logo, and the response was so positive. People love them!”
Just like in any other endeavor in life, finding the right partners is key. Dakota County Library and 5IVE’s partnership was a success on many fronts, led by shared values and respect. When asked about the key to a collaborative effort, both Margaret and Jennifer agreed the level of mutually established trust and 5IVE’s industry knowledge and responsiveness to the Library’s unique needs set them up for the win. “Our goal is to work with clients that seek to build strong communities and elevate the positive aspects of humanity,” Boriana explained, when asked about the rebranding project. “Dakota County Library was the perfect client to embrace our own beliefs, test our own creative boundaries and put our mission and talents to work. Inviting our clients to be part of the process in the form of direct dialog where both sides bring equal value to the final outcome makes projects like this so rewarding. For us, every project always starts with respect for the relationship we are entering and intentionality behind the partnership’s role as a conduit for creativity.”
5IVE’s innovative approach has led the two organizations to partner on the next phase of the rebranding process in 2019 – an awareness campaign that aims to make sure that everybody in Dakota County knows about this cool, accessible, and always available asset they can use in every aspect of their lives called the Dakota County Library.