Established in 1949, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) is a nonprofit organization that “works to save America’s historic places to enrich our future.” Their main focus is on protecting historical landmarks and buildings and since 1988 their yearly list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places has been a great tool to attract media attention to their cause. NTHP has 300 employees and 300,000 members and supporters. This June, NTHP introduced a new logo to coincide with their 2012 America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. No design credit given.
The old logo was… designed by me. It was done while I was at Pentagram in 2007. Our brief at the time was to design a logo that took attention away from the words “National Trust” because that was the least important part of their name, as their real mission was “Historic Preservation.” We were also told that the illustration used (the woodcut/engraving of the “Main Street” buildings) was too hard to reproduce. Our solution was a wordmark that built up in weight — all Gotham, baby! (Including two custom weights) — to their focus and we got rid of the icon altogether. The latter was the most contentious part, no one was really happy that we took away the buildings but the logo answered what they had asked us to do. I do realize I never dwell this much on an old logo, but since I’m able to shed some light on the behind-the-scenes I figured it would be welcome commentary.
Seeing the new logo it’s clear that they missed their old-old logo, something that instantly reminded people of the cute, aspirational imagery of historic buildings that you may find on an everyday/anywhere main street of America. I liked the old building drawing, because it was nicely done and exuded nostalgia. This new one, drawn as if someone were laying down on the street looking up is far too cartoonish to be taken seriously; the buildings too crude and oddly rendered. The cloud and bird are nice touches, indeed giving that sense of American freedom and optimism. The one nice thing I’ll say about the icon is that it works really great as a pin, as shown below. The typography is fairly decent, but it goes back to the lock-up of the old-old logo, something that we were told to avoid at the time. Overall, regardless of seeing a logo I designed bite the dust, the redesign does not feel as authoritative as it should for an organization with such an ambitious and difficult focus.