How We Made It - EPL

Updated: Mar 17

Building important community brands has been a cornerstone of our work.


Donovan's work to rebrand the Edmonton Public Library was celebrated all over Edmonton, across the country, in the US, and internationally. I distinctly remember how we got shortlisted - the Marketing Director at the time, Tina Thomas, had just been hired from Toronto; on her way through Edmonton International Airport, she happened to see our Language of Speed campaign for EIA in passing through, and told us later that she told her team, "I want whoever did that on the list." That whoever happened to be us. We felt fortunate to win the project because we felt it was such an important community brand.

EPL's new brand look lit up at night

EPL had been stagnant for more than 15 years and their audiences had flatlined, even regressed, to the point that Edmonton City Council was essentially asking, why is our library system even that important? Morale internally had also regressed and library staff were feeling inessential. In talking with Tina, Linda Cook and the other Executive at the time, they really wanted to change the perception of EPL as just books on shelves to be the top contender for attention, the go-to for information, and to raise participation across borrowing, library membership, and special programs. We agreed and set out using our branding methodology to achieve this. It was a wonderful project. I came up with the tagline you'll see to this day, Spread the Words, which was an international Getting Attention Tagline Winner, and the kinetic brand that we built from the new logo was recognized in many award shows, including the top award from the American Library Association, which Edmonton Public Library had never won. This alone really raised the profile of the library system, and gave the Executive a lot of bragging rights across North America. One of the things I love most about this brand we made is it is as fresh now as it was the day we launched. If you check out our case study on this project, you'll see that we did more than freshen the design, we gave them a brand that has and will stand the test of time; I see no reason it ever needs to be done again, which is one level of success for the client. The other thing I'm proud of is the work achieved the strategy: we raised all metrics to never-before-seen heights, including a 200% increase in membership card orders. Design to me is strategy, and I know I'm not alone in this as you can see that all around when you look at some of the world's most iconic and lasting brands. Right now, one of the things Donovan is working on is a new brand strategy and packaging design for a company in the beverage category, which I'm excited to show. Being able to shape the perceptions people have of organizations and products through branding, and motivating them with design, is something I don't think I will ever tire of. It's like solving the hardest puzzles, with a eureka moment at the end. I guess that makes me a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I wouldn't want to skydive, say, but I'll gladly jump out of an airplane for a client at 30,000 feet and build the new plane for them as we plummet to the deadline. In 20 years I'm proud to say that I've always been able to build that new airplane in mid air. To me, that's a real trip.


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