What’s in an Icon?

The Evolution of NPCA’s Logo

The evolution of NPCA's logo

Above: The evolution of NPCA's logo

NPCA’s visual personality has evolved dramatically over the last few years, but our logo hasn’t changed significantly in half a century. It was long overdue for an update. After about a year and a half of research, focus-group testing, surveys, and outreach, NPCA finally unveiled a modernized logo yesterday.

Why change?
Our previous logo served us well for almost fifty years, but had come to look dated and traditional. My goal was to create something clear, clean, memorable, and, most importantly, readable across all media—from Twitter and Facebook to publications and event invitations.

Our intent was to make the change be an evolution, not a revolution. Hesitation to change is natural, but times change and so do logos. You might be surprised to see the earlier marks of some well-known brands.

Why now?
With the redesign of our website, an updated magazine design, and other updates to NPCA’s brand, now is the perfect opportunity. The launch of our brand-new blog and other digital renovations is the ideal time to make the switch.

Why keep the bears?
People suggested all kinds of icons to replace the bears in our logo–everything from bees to trees. I conducted thorough research of park symbols, talked to numerous long-time staff members, and sketched dozens of options. In the end, research showed it was clear the symbol of the bear was meant to stay, for a few good reasons:

  • The bears have been the symbol of NPCA for decades.
  • The bears represent our first park, Yellowstone.
  • In American Indian legends, the bear represents strength and greatness on Earth.
  • The bear is a common charge in heraldry, interpreted as symbolizing strength, cunning, and ferocity in protecting one’s kin.

Dissection of the old and the new
The bears did receive a facelift, however. I re-drew them so that they are clearer to see when small. Two bears, instead of three, more clearly communicate our mission of “protecting our national parks for future generations,” according to focus group testing and surveys. I encouraged us to move from an oval to a rounded-corner box to make the best use of space.

Annie's Dissection of the old NPCA logo

Annie’s Dissection of the old NPCA logo

Annie's Dissection of the new NPCA logo

It is an honor to design NPCA’s new logo, and it’s exciting to see it appear on T-shirts, postcards, reports, and, of course, our website. Thanks to everyone who has contributed feedback, creative insight, and support during this process.


About the Author

Art Director Annie Riker

Annie Riker is creative director for NPCA. She has considered herself an artist and designer ever since she was old enough to hold a paintbrush. In Annie’s spare time, you’ll find her outside—exploring, sketching, and taking pictures. See more of her work at annieriker.com.

  • http://yosemitesummit.org YosemiteKarl

    Love the new logo. Its clean sharp and doesn’t abandon its history. Too often in the desire to ‘update’ organizations don’t honor their past. You’ve managed to move forward while not changing who you are. It pays tribute to those who have contributed in the past while attracting those who will be the next generation of donors and volunteers. Well done!

  • Lorinda Roland

    The new logo is good…bold and clear text. At first from the NPCA email I feared you’d eliminated the Bears. While the smaller bear ? isn’t clear that it represents a baby bear – that doesn’t matter . It can represent other park wildlife –
    they are all important. The Bear image on top of text logo is very important – it is the animal image that most captures
    viewers attention to represent our love for our parks.

  • leslie Kerr

    New logo was soooo un-necessary. Your stated reasons smack of all hype used to introduce a new product or change in present product. Did you really receive an avalange of complaints on the old logo? I doubt it. There is just some apple-polishing yuppie in the office who convinced someone that a new, crisper, move into the future logo would…wow the masses? – because the ‘logo’ is “fresher”. Well, the fresher logo cost you money in design, printing, replacing all the paperwork with that OLD logo, more paper used, did we shred the old stuff? burn it? or are we using it for scrap paper? Is THIS where donations go? Or did Mr. New Logo Man take care of this from his own pocket? Please let me know about the jump in donations because the new logo is so inspiring.

  • marilyn

    I happened to get selected for one of the focus groups and am relieved that the bears survived. New logo looks sharp and is easily recognizable. good choice.

  • s. smith

    I agree with l. Kerr. Newer doesn’t mean better. If it isn’t broke, don’t try and fix it!

  • Lois

    I like it. The Bears tell instantly that it’s about the environment and the National Parks in large letters defines the purpose/focus. It sounds dumb, but it took years for me to connect the initials NPCA to our national parks. This logo will help when sorting through a stack of solicitations each day. Change is always trying, thanks for taking the time.

  • Dirk Faegre

    I am saddened by the new logo. It reminds me of the “New Coke”. Change, it seems, is always sold as a good idea. In the case of entity identification, it generally is not. You spent 50 years getting known and becoming identifiable and in a flash that was flushed. Besides …. the old drawing of the bears looked much more like real bears, esp. the adult one. You should have left well enough alone (and it was ‘well enough’), not messed with success and spent the time and money on more pressing issues. I for one, urge you to go back to the last iteration …. it was much, more appealing to the eye and not nearly so bland and stark.

    signed/ by one who easily remembers the “beginning” logo and has contributed mightily (at my available level) to The National Parks and Conservation Association, proudly.

  • Jen

    The new logo looks similar to the National Wildlife Federation’s — same color, too. The old logo was recognizable to anyone familiar with NCPA, and I don’t think it was too hard to read for newcomers.

  • Kenuck

    How about two turkeys?Or a woodpecker and a rabbit…a turtle and a rabbit…

  • Kenuck

    Wait….how about a boreal chickadee,two slugs and a snail darter?