Established in 1967, the National Park Foundation is the official charity of the National Park Service, the agency of the United States federal government that has managed the country’s national parks since 1916 when it was formed and today employs over 20,000 people at 401 parks. The National Park Foundation raises private funds, makes strategic grants, forms partnerships, and increases public awareness. Last week, to announce the centennial celebration of the National Park Service in 2016 — which will involve “a broad public engagement campaign to reintroduce the national parks and the work of the National Park Service to a new generation of Americans” — a new logo was introduced for the National Park Foundation, designed by New York, NY-based Grey. Confusingly, though, they also introduced a new logo for the National Park Service that does NOT replace the current National Park Service logo.
Marking the first phase of the campaign, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation unveiled two new additions to the National Park Service brand family (see below). Building off of the National Park Service’s iconic arrowhead, the new graphic identities highlight the partnership between the National Park Service and its Congressionally-chartered nonprofit partner, the National Park Foundation. The arrowhead will continue to serve as the official seal of the National Park Service.
Let’s start with the straightforward change: The National Park Foundation’s old ranger hat-slash-scenic landscape logo is replaced with a new logo featuring an arrowhead, a symbol that has been part of the National Park Service’s identity since the 1950s. The old logo had a naive charm to it but, as far as good design, it didn’t quite inspire much. The new logo is simple and striking — more like the U.S. Army logo with its single star icon. The typography is contemporary and attractive so no qualms there. The problem of this exercise is the introduction of a sibling logo for the National Park Service.
The relationship between the new National Park Foundation logo and the existing arrowhead logo for the National Park Foundation is evidently clear in the screen capture of the former’s website (shown above) and both entities have made it abundantly clear that the existing arrowhead logo will not go away… so why introduce a new logo for the National Park Service anyway? Why create unnecessary confusion? If at some point, in 2015 or ’16, when this centennial campaign gets underway, they start using both new logos, will they always have to include the third and current arrowhead logo? It just seems like a strange strategy and a complicated way to promote this two clearly related entities. For now, it seems like change for change’s sake — except there is no change!
Thanks to Len Small for the tip.