Just in Time for Spring, the Lab Gets a New Logo

April 21, 2009


What is this bird flying over the top of this sentence? Why, it’s a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, recently arrived on our website and soon to become a familiar presence. To tell you a bit more about it, here’s Mary Guthrie, our director of marketing:

msg “This past week was big for us for a couple of reasons. There’s the new look to All About Birds, and if you look at the top of each of those pages you’ll notice the debut of our new logo, based on a colorful sapsucker. We chose this bird as a reminder of where we come from: the beautiful 220-acre Sapsucker Woods sanctuary that’s the home of the Lab of Ornithology, just outside Ithaca, New York. You’ll see even more of the sapsucker as we integrate it into our print and Web publications in the coming months.

“We’re still fond of our blue “everybird” logo – and many of you probably are, too. It has accompanied our name for nearly 40 years, acquired more than a few nicknames, and inspired plenty of discussion about what bird it most resembles (popular responses include Peregrine Falcon and Tree Swallow, among others).


“But the Lab is a whole different place now than we were when that logo was designed. Back then, our staff numbered only about two dozen. Our logo stood tall and used all capital letters to demonstrate we were serious about birds. Today, with more than 260 employees, programs that reach around the globe, and projects that include everyone from academic leaders to beginning citizen scientists, we felt it was time for an update.

“Today’s Lab is an academic institution – scientific research is our bread and butter. But we also have a long history of partnering with people who love birds and who help us learn more through citizen science. We are also a resource for hundreds of thousands of people who use our materials to help them enjoy birds.  We’re not just a “laboratory,” at least not in the typical sense of a room staffed by people in white coats who sequence DNA. We’ve got that kind of science, but we are also much more.  How do we communicate our serious research side and be seen as a welcoming collaborator at the same time?

“We asked that question of logo design expert Michael Bierut, of Pentagram Design. Bierut spent time with us, listened to many people who work here, in all types of jobs, and came back with a design inspired by the work of artist Charley Harper. Harper had a long association with the Lab, and many of his signed prints hang in our building. The look is simple, graphic, and modern. The word “Cornell” is in boldface to emphasize our connection to a great research university. Our two typefaces (Avenir and Mercury) have a modern, friendly look but one that is based in tradition. The colors are bright, and that bird is on a mission!


“Over the coming year we will phase out the everybird, and you’ll see more and more of the sapsucker. We’re moving forward with the hopefulness that we can inspire more people to participate in our programs and to think about conserving the birds we all love. Thanks for being a part of that.”


  • http://emurphey.com/jan jan m

    I like the strength and color of the new logo. To me it conveys vibrancy. The bird represents a place that is forward-looking, clear-thinking, and full of life and activity.

  • http://heather-heatherofthehills.blogspot.com/ Heather

    I’ll admit, I’ll miss the “everybird” logo, but mostly just because that’s what I’m used to. The new logo definitely gets your attention, and conveys a vibrancy that I think suits the Lab, and what it stands for, quite well. I’m very appreciative to the Lab for the way they reach out to involve all of us in citizen science projects, and I know that our input is valuable. You mentioned the Lab as a “welcoming collaborator”, and I think both words in that phrase are important… I always feel welcome whenever I send a photo or comment to the Lab, because I get a personal response in a timely manner. And the collaboration part is self-evident with all the citizen science projects. Congratulations on the new design, and keep up the good work!

  • David T. Johnston

    The new logo looks GREAT.Now how about some hats,t-shirts ,sweat shirts and jackets with the new logo.

  • Nancy Dickinson

    I was very excited to see the new logo on mail from the Lab recently. I love it!

  • Marge Coates

    Back when the “everybird” came up, many companies changed to vague, generic logos. I’m pleased to see a return to identifiable images. It’s great!

  • Jan B

    That logo would look so cool on a white cap. I would wear it playing tennis. You know, ‘fly like a bird, sting like a bee’

  • http://heather-heatherofthehills.blogspot.com/ Heather

    By the way, I’ve been using the old “everybird” logo on my blog, over in the sidebar, as a way to show my support for the Lab. Is there a small-ish version of the new Sapsucker logo available that I could use on my blog? Or can I just copy and resize the one found in this post?

  • Craig

    I’ve seen this illustration as part of a puzzle that celebrated migratory birds of NA. Nice choice!

  • Gustavo Capuccio

    Your new LOGO is great really,congratulations on the new design from Paysandu-Uruguay.Keep birding!

  • John Barron Jr.

    Very new age and modern. Gives the logo the sensation of movement.

  • Spaz

    I’ll be the lone voice of dissent here, I guess, but I really prefer the “everybird” logo. It’s sleek and fast looking, whereas the new one is a bit too chunky and squared off. I like the colors, but I think it just looks more like a bird feeder than a bird.

  • Mike

    Cool logo!

  • Jason

    As a graphic designer, I have to disagree with the logo and font change. The modern look of the “everybird” logo connotes strength and speed, modernity and power, seriousness and a sense of academic mission.

    While I’m a huge fan of Charlie Parker, and like the sapsucker, I don’t think the change is a positive one. Moreover, the change to this particular sans-serif seems corny to me… It’s hipster and sleek, and jumbled, and the kerning (the space between letters) is so tight that it borders on a muddled mess. I think the type in the logo should stay in the vein of many of Cornell’s other logos and typefaces, and retain a sense of mastery befitting the great work the lab does, as well as the Ivy League, land-grant mission of the larger university.

  • Ann Knudson

    I liked the old logo. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

    How much money got spent on this new logo, anyway? Top design firms don’t work for free. Seems like a waste to me.

  • http://www.birds.cornell.edu Mary Guthrie

    Thanks for all the comments on the new look. Many of you seem to see the same energy in it we do! We will be making some items with the logo on it in the near future. As we don’t sell items at retail, it’s likely you will be able to get them by joining the Lab as a member (http://www.birds.cornell.edu/NetCommunity/membership) or through the gift shop here on site, a Wild Birds Unlimited (http://www.sapsuckerwoods.com/). It’s really important to us that people know we are a part of Cornell University, but that our annual budget comes from members, gifts and grants. That’s another reason we wanted the look to be different from Cornell’s logo. By the way, a generous donor paid for Pentagram’s services, giving us the benefit of their expertise without diverting money from our normal activities. Thanks to all of you who took the time to let us know your thoughts.

  • Hepatica

    The new logo is just plain ugly.

    Kept trying to avoid it when googling you guys. It’s very clunky and there’s no graceful thick-to-thin transition in the bird. Design is more fitting for an old car of the 1930-40s. Plus logo looks too “computer generated”– just doesn’t “fly”.

    Plus bird logo is force-fed into the static machine-shop curves of the Bauhaus font type. Not even enough contrast between Bauhaus Regular (or Book) and Bauhaus Bold. Who today wants to live in a Bauhaus house?

    Know Pentagram — a great design firm — could have done a less amateurish job.

    From a designer who doesn’t presume to have done a better job, but who is noticing the descent of good design in this era of out-sourcing and recessionary budgets (see new Tropicana OJ boxes).

  • Hepatica

    OK, OK — font is Avenir (am not familiar with Mercury) and as a Graphic Designer I should have spotted that, but was so bummed to see that this logo will be everywhere that I jumped the gun without my “bins” :)

    Still feel the logo is too “retro” for what should you be mission. Sapsucker concept is great, just don’t like the execution.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/chickadeetrails/ Robinsegg

    Very nice! Goes well with the new site.

  • L.

    As a total layperson when it comes to graphic design, I really like the new logo– except for the kerning of the font. The lack of spacing between “The,” “Cornell,” and “Lab,” makes me itch. It doesn’t seem legible at all! But I love the Harper reference.

  • http://www.sabo.org/ Sheri Williamson

    As much as I love Charley Harper and understand the Lab’s desire for an updated logo to fit its expanded mission and programs, I reluctantly have to agree with Jason’s and Hepatica’s comments.

    Though the fonts definitely harmonize with Harper’s geometric rendering, to me they neither fit with the Lab’s history and stature nor achieve a modern-yet-timeless look. The long horizontal layout is also too much to take in at a glance. I empathize with the challenges of designing around such a long name, having created the logo and other identity graphics for the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory, but I hope that Pentagram provided a complete graphics package with more compact version(s) of the logo. (The thought of shoehorning the full version into tight spaces gives me a headache!)

    The new logo may not please everyone, but it’s light years beyond Audubon’s misbegotten (and quickly abandoned) blue flag!

  • http://www.birds.cornell.edu Diane Tessaglia-Hymes

    Sheri, Yes, Pentagram has provided a complete package which includes a stacked version as well as versions that will work on dark backgrounds.

  • Erik

    The new logo has the look of Northwest Indian art, which I like. However, I am disappointed. When I see it I think of a coloring book for children or a children’s television channel. In fact, I am not very fond of the artwork on this page. I really don’t understand why you would want to change from the original logo which is a very well executed design and I am sure had plenty of thought put into it. I am sure it was supposed to last the life of the organization. If it lasted forty years, why not forty more and beyond? It is your symbol and your tradition. It should be respected and left as is.

  • http://www.birds.cornell.edu dlt1th

    Thank you to everyone who has shared comments on this blog about the Lab’s new logo. As design director at the Lab, I especially appreciate your interest and feedback!

    Like many of you, I am fond of the old logo–so much so that I interviewed Peter Parnall (the artist who created our everybird) for an article in BirdScope (http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Publications/Birdscope/Winter2005/peter_parnall.html). It is hard to put aside things that have served us well for many years, but the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has changed dramatically since that time–especially in reaching people of all ages and backgrounds through our growing programs and outreach efforts.

    I have been using the new logo for about a month now and have enjoying working with it. It is dramatic and colorful, and our new color palette includes a warm red, yellow, orange, and gray, a spring green, and an azure blue. As a designer, I find it enjoyable to be able to use these colors to develop the Lab’s look. If you are someone who initially had a strong negative reaction to the new logo, let me ask that you give it some time and write back in a month or so about what you think of it. Let it sit with you for a bit before you make your final decision. Especially if you have had a long association with the Lab (like me), it may be difficult to immediately associate us with a new visual identity.

    Jason wrote how the everybird connoted seriousness and a sense of academic mission, while Erik mentioned that the new logo made him think of childrens’ coloring books. These two comments taken together are the essence of why we changed our logo. Our new logo is meant to appeal to a wider audience, to reach out and let people know that we ARE serious and academic (the “Cornell” in our name promotes that aspect), but also that birds are a joy. We do work that is exciting and fun, and we’d like to involve people who have a wide range of ages and educational backgrounds. We think that our new logo projects authority and solid academics, yet also conveys excitement and fun.


  • Canaduck

    I liked the old logo…but I like the new logo too. I think they’re both classy and appropriate!

  • Rutherford

    The new logo does look like something out of a children’s coloring book, and attaching the Cornell name onto (*even* if Cornell is in bold font) it is not going to give it any gravitas, if anything, it will probably achieve the opposite. I’ve been pondering what this cute sponge-painted-looking squirrel I’ve been staring at in the bottom of this page is supposed to convey to me. I’m not quite sure what it is, but it definitely meshes well with the new puerile site format. Great job!!!

  • http://www.birds.cornell.edu Diane Tessaglia-Hymes

    Hi Rutherford,

    It occurred to me that some clarification about this Round Robin site might be helpful. When our web team designed Round Robin, they purposefully created a site that was different from our current and future site designs. The Lab has an amazing web team–I’ve seen the creativity and functionality they’ve put into All About Birds, and I am very confident that the new Lab site will be excellent, too.

  • Angela

    I like it, but rather than “inspired by” Harper’s work, it appears more like plagiarism to me. The image was hardly altered at all from Harper’s image of a yellow-bellied sapsucker in this work.


    When I saw it, I thought it must have been done by Harper, so I was surprised to read that it was done by a design firm. Would the designer have felt comfortable using this design if Charley were still alive? Doubtful.

  • http://www.birds.cornell.edu Diane Tessaglia-Hymes

    Hi Angela,

    You are right that Charley Harper’s sapsucker was the inspiration for the Cornell Lab’s logo. Brett Harper, executor of Charley Harper’s estate, was in close consultation with us during development of the new logo and has stated that he “enthusiastically greets it as an extension of his father’s legacy and has granted permission for its use in perpetuity.”

    Charley Harper had a close association with the Lab. His art graces the walls of the Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity where our staff work, and the piece he created for the Lab, “We Think the World of Birds,” has a special place of honor in our visitors’ center. Pentagram designer Michael Bierut felt that Harper’s sapsucker captured the joy of birds, and this element of joy is something we wanted to express through our logo. We did make some modifications to the sapsucker for its use in a new context as a logo, but it was important to us to follow the style and spirit of Harper’s original work.

    I have been a fan of Charley Harper art for many years, and am very pleased that Brett supports the use of his father’s art in our logo. I hope you feel more comfortable knowing that Harper’s family supports us on this.

  • http://new-logo.co.uk Matty

    I liked the old logo but I think the new logo is a good move. I think the new logo has a very positive feel to it and is more up to date with the style of design that is popular at the moment.

  • Linda

    Love it!

  • http://www.logoinn.com/ Bryan- Logo Design


    Such a great blog and your work is so nice.

  • Accipiter

    Very, very disappointed in the new logo. The new logo and type is too corporate – it doesn’t make me think of Cornell at all, but rather a corporation. I think the previous logo, with its serif font, was very elegant and professional. This is a very sad step backwards, aesthetically.