Can ‘accessibility’ go too far?

The New York Public Library recently redesigned their logo.
In their words, this was in an attempt to make a “new logo that is user-friendly, accessible, dynamic and relevant.”

The Library of Congress recently did the same. In both of these cases, the new logos are radically simple. There are practical reasons to go with a simple design. In the LoC case, you can tell they have thought a lot about how and where the logo would appear.

NYPL Before and After Logos

Image courtesy of the Brand New website: http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives/an_iconic_lion_for_an_iconic_institution.php

courtesy of Brand New: http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives/the_librabry_of_congress_gets_its_wings.php

courtesy of Brand New: http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives/the_librabry_of_congress_gets_its_wings.php

Yet there is something unsettling to me about both of these. Somehow these both seem dumbed-down. Does the new (eerily Disney-like) NYPL lion really seem more user-friendly and accessible? It seems to me that its cartoon-ish nature just makes it seem out of place, that it looses its connection with the lions outside its doors that originally inspired the logo. It just doesn’t represent the very complex, awe-inspiring place that does everything from provide services to recent immigrants, to host a reunion of the Velvet Underground and sends out strange Tweets with quotes from Roger Moore’s biography. In that way it isn’t user friendly, it is misleading.

Both of these cases seem also to¬† move away from a geographically-based icon to an object-oriented one. And I think that is a dangerous move for libraries these days. If information is getting more and more ubiquitous, don’t we need to remind people that libraries are in fact important as spaces as well (even if the spaces the libraries are creating might be virtual)?

It’s possible that I am reacting to a general dislike that I felt immediately for these new identities, but I just can’t shake the feeling that they both point to a trend. I am a huge fan of usability and accessibility, but I think these are both examples of something else entirely…something I can’t quite put my finger on. Am I over-reacting?

One thought on “Can ‘accessibility’ go too far?

  1. Yes, I think you are….

    The new NYPL lion does look a bit Lion Kingish but the old one looked like a Chihuahua on screen.

    The Congress library logo is quite clever, if maybe the wrong colour (color…). The capitalisation of of is disturbing however, as if ‘of’ has the emphasis over library and, as should be, Congress.

    Also, your point on a move away from a geographically-based icon to an object-oriented one seems muddled to me. Isn’t that what they want? How is it dangerous to clarify exactly what they are about? Or do you prefer the building to what they are for?

    Tim