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  • So there's this thing called the law of unintended consequences.

  • I thought it was just like a saying,

  • but it actually exists, I guess.

  • There's, like, academic papers about it.

  • And I'm a designer.

  • I don't like unintended consequences.

  • People hire me because they have consequences that they really intend,

  • and what they intend is for me to help them achieve those consequences.

  • So I live in fear of unintended consequences.

  • And so this is a story about consequences intended and unintended.

  • I got called by an organization called Robin Hood

  • to do a favor for them.

  • Robin Hood is based in New York, a wonderful philanthropic organization

  • that does what it says in the name.

  • They take from rich people, give it to poor people.

  • In this case, what they wanted to benefit was the New York City school system,

  • a huge enterprise that educates more than a million students at a time,

  • and in buildings that are like this one,

  • old buildings, big buildings,

  • drafty buildings, sometimes buildings that are in disrepair,

  • certainly buildings that could use a renovation.

  • Robin Hood had this ambition to improve these buildings in some way,

  • but what they realized was

  • to fix the buildings would be too expensive and impractical.

  • So instead they tried to figure out what one room they could go into

  • in each of these buildings, in as many buildings that they could,

  • and fix that one room

  • so that they could improve the lives of the children inside

  • as they were studying.

  • And what they came up with was the school library,

  • and they came up with this idea called the Library Initiative.

  • All the students have to pass through the library.

  • That's where the books are.

  • That's where the heart and soul of the school is.

  • So let's fix these libraries.

  • So they did this wonderful thing where they brought in

  • first 10, then 20, then more architects,

  • each one of whom was assigned a library to rethink what a library was.

  • They trained special librarians.

  • So they started this mighty enterprise

  • to reform public schools by improving these libraries.

  • Then they called me up and they said, "Could you make a little contribution?"

  • I said, "Sure, what do you want me to do?"

  • And they said, "Well, we want you to be the graphic designer

  • in charge of the whole thing."

  • And so I thought, I know what that means. That means I get to design a logo.

  • I know how to design that. I design logos.

  • That's what people come to me for.

  • So OK, let's design a logo for this thing.

  • Easy to do, actually, compared with architecture

  • and being a librarian.

  • Just do a logo, make a contribution, and then you're out,

  • and you feel really good about yourself.

  • And I'm a great guy and I like to feel good about myself when I do these favors.

  • So I thought, let's overdeliver.

  • I'm going to give you three logos, all based on this one idea.

  • So you have three options, pick any of the three.

  • They're all great, I said.

  • So the basic idea was these would be new school libraries

  • for New York schools,

  • and so the idea is that it's a new thing, a new idea that needs a new name.

  • What I wanted to do was dispel the idea that these were musty old libraries,

  • the kind of places that everyone is bored with,

  • you know, not your grandparents' library.

  • Don't worry about that at all.

  • This is going to this new, exciting thing,

  • not a boring library.

  • So option number one:

  • so instead of thinking of it as a library,

  • think of it as a place where it is like: do talk, do make loud noises.

  • Right? So no shushing, it's like a shush-free zone.

  • We're going to call it the Reading Room.

  • That was option number one. OK, option number two.

  • Option number two was, wait for it,

  • OWL.

  • I'll meet you at OWL.

  • I'm getting my book from the OWL. Meet you after school down at OWL.

  • I like that, right? Now, what does OWL stand for?

  • Well, it could be One World Library,

  • or it could be Open. Wonder. Learn.

  • Or it could be -- and I figure librarians could figure out other things it could be

  • because they know about words.

  • So other things, right?

  • And then look at this. It's like the eye of the owl.

  • This is irresistible in my opinion.

  • But there's even another idea.

  • Option number three.

  • Option number three was based actually on language.

  • It's the idea that "read" is the past tense of "read,"

  • and they're both spelled the same way.

  • So why don't we call this place The Red Zone?

  • I'll meet you at the Red Zone.

  • Are you Red? Get Red.

  • I'm well Red.

  • (Laughter)

  • I really loved this idea,

  • and I somehow was not focused on the idea

  • that librarians as a class are sort of interested in spelling and I don't know.

  • (Laughter)

  • But sometimes cleverness is more important than spelling,

  • and I thought this would be one of those instances.

  • So usually when I make these presentations

  • I say there's just one question and the question should be,

  • "How can I thank you, Mike?"

  • But in this case, the question was more like,

  • "Um, are you kidding?"

  • Because, they said,

  • the premise of all this work

  • was that kids were bored with old libraries, musty old libraries.

  • They were tired of them.

  • And instead, they said, these kids have never really seen a library.

  • The school libraries in these schools

  • are really so dilapidated, if they're there at all,

  • that they haven't bored anyone.

  • They haven't even been there to bore anyone at all.

  • So the idea was, just forget about giving it a new name.

  • Just call it, one last try, a library.

  • Right? OK.

  • So I thought, OK, give it a little oomph?

  • Exclamation point?

  • Then -- this is because I'm clever --

  • move that into the "i,"

  • make it red,

  • and there you have it, the Library Initiative.

  • So I thought, mission accomplished, there's your logo.

  • So what's interesting about this logo, an unintended consequence,

  • was that it turned out that they didn't really even need my design

  • because you could type it any font, you could write it by hand,

  • and when they started sending emails around,

  • they just would use Shift and 1,

  • they'd get their own logo just right out of the thing.

  • And I thought, well, that's fine.

  • Feel free to use that logo.

  • And then I embarked on the real rollout of this thing --

  • working with every one of the architects

  • to put this logo on the front door of their own library. Right?

  • So here's the big rollout.

  • Basically I'd work with different architects.

  • First Robin Hood was my client. Now these architects were my client.

  • I'd say, "Here's your logo. Put it on the door."

  • "Here's your logo. Put it on both doors."

  • "Here's your logo. Put it off to the side."

  • "Here's your logo repeated all over to the top."

  • So everything was going swimmingly.

  • I just was saying, "Here's your logo. Here's your logo."

  • Then I got a call from one of the architects,

  • a guy named Richard Lewis, and he says, "I've got a problem.

  • You're the graphics guy. Can you solve it?"

  • And I said, OK, sure."

  • And he said, "The problem is that there's a space

  • between the shelf and the ceiling."

  • So that sounds like an architectural issue to me,

  • not a graphic design issue, so I'm, "Go on."

  • And Richard says, "Well, the top shelf has to be low enough

  • for the kid to reach it,

  • but I'm in a big old building, and the ceilings are really high,

  • so actually I've got all this space up there

  • and I need something like a mural."

  • And I'm like, "Whoa, you know, I'm a logo designer.

  • I'm not Diego Rivera or something.

  • I'm not a muralist."

  • And so he said, "But can't you think of anything?"

  • So I said, "OK, what if we just took pictures of the kids in the school

  • and just put them around the top of the thing,

  • and maybe that could work."

  • And my wife is a photographer,

  • and I said, "Dorothy, there's no budget,

  • can you come to this school in east New York, take these pictures?"

  • And she did,

  • and if you go in Richard's library,

  • which is one of the first that opened,

  • it has this glorious frieze of, like, the heroes of the school,

  • oversized, looking down

  • into the little dollhouse of the real library, right?

  • And the kids were great, hand-selected by the principals

  • and the librarian.

  • It just kind of created this heroic atmosphere in this library,

  • this very dignified setting below and the joy of the children above.

  • So naturally all the other librarians in the other schools see this

  • and they said, well, we want murals too.

  • And I'm like, OK.

  • So then I think, well, it can't be the same mural every time,

  • so Dorothy did another one, and then she did another one,

  • but then we needed more help,

  • so I called an illustrator I knew named Lynn Pauley,

  • and Lynn did these beautiful paintings of the kids.

  • Then I called a guy named Charles Wilkin at a place called Automatic Design.

  • He did these amazing collages.

  • We had Rafael Esquer

  • do these great silhouettes.

  • He would work with the kids, asking for words,

  • and then based on those prompts,

  • come up with this little, delirious kind of constellation

  • of silhouettes of things that are in books.

  • Peter Arkle interviewed the kids

  • and had them talk about their favorite books

  • and he put their testimony as a frieze up there.

  • Stefan Sagmeister worked with Yuko Shimizu

  • and they did this amazing manga-style statement,

  • "Everyone who is honest is interesting,"

  • that goes all the way around.

  • Christoph Niemann, brilliant illustrator,

  • did a whole series of things

  • where he embedded books into the faces and characters

  • and images and places that you find in the books.

  • And then even Maira Kalman

  • did this amazing cryptic installation of objects and words

  • that kind of go all around and will fascinate students

  • for as long as it's up there.

  • So this was really satisfying,

  • and basically my role here was reading a series of dimensions to these artists,

  • and I would say,

  • "Three feet by 15 feet, whatever you want.

  • Let me know if you have any problem with that."

  • And they would go and install these. It just was the greatest thing.

  • But the greatest thing, actually, was --

  • Every once in a while,

  • I'd get, like, an invitation in the mail made of construction paper,

  • and it would say, "You are invited to the opening of our new library."

  • So you'd go to the library, say, you'd go to PS10,

  • and you'd go inside.

  • There'd be balloons, there'd be a student ambassador,

  • there'd be speeches that were read,

  • poetry that was written specifically for the opening,

  • dignitaries would present people with certificates,

  • and the whole thing was just a delirious, fun party.

  • So I loved going to these things.

  • I would stand there dressed like this, obviously not belonging,

  • and someone would say, "What are you doing here, mister?"

  • And I'd say, "Well, I'm part of the team that designed this place."

  • And they'd said, "You do these shelves?"

  • And I said, "No." "You took the pictures up above."

  • "No."

  • "Well, what did you do?"

  • "You know when you came in? The sign over the door?"

  • "The sign that says library?"

  • (Laughter)

  • "Yeah, I did that!"

  • And then they'd sort of go, "OK. Nice work if you can get it."

  • So it was so satisfying going to these little openings

  • despite the fact that I was kind of largely ignored or humiliated,

  • but it was actually fun going to the openings,

  • so I decided that I wanted to get the people in my office

  • who had worked on these projects, get the illustrators and photographers,

  • and I said, why don't we rent