The Evolution of the Chronicle Books Logo
In the spirit of our 50th anniversary year, we’ve been looking back at what makes Chronicle Books, well, Chronicle Books. And one thing that is definitively Chronicle is our eye-catching spectacles logo.
But we didn’t always have this logo—no, our spine icon has gone through a litany of changes over the past five decades. Here’s a look back at the evolution of the Chronicle Books logo.
To understand the history of Chronicle Books and therefore the logo, we first recommend you read this blog post. If you are crunched for time, you should know that we first started as a division of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. To spur some new subscriptions, the Chronicle decided to publish a book called Hills of San Francisco by the inimitable Herb Caen; they later decided to sell it as a standalone book.
The result is this logo, a relic from when we weren’t an independent publishing company yet. We love this mash-up of gothic and western fonts enclosed in imperfect, hand-drawn shapes.
Not much is known about this iteration of the logo—it was likely done by a designer for the San Francisco Chronicle. It’s a notable departure from the newspaper’s branding, and the only logo that says “A Chronicle Book” versus “Chronicle Books.”
Another mystery iteration, but thicker, bolder, and less detailed than the former.
Perhaps we were feeling nostalgic in 1972—this logo is a dupe of the San Francisco Chronicle logo. Like the others, not much is known.
After a number of books had been released about the San Francisco Bay Area, our book topics started to branch out to travel, architecture, wildlife, wine country, and the like. Being on the eastern side of the Pacific Rim, trips to Japan influenced and informed new themes of transpacific culture, food, design, and fashion in the 1980s.
Thus, it makes sense that this futuristic logo is quite the departure from previous—the stacked books double as a “C” and a “B”, and the clunky type is very sci-fi inspired.
In a bit of an inside joke, this font was called Jensen Bold after then president Jack Jensen.
Creative director Michael Carabetta was brought on board in 1991, and Jensen enlisted him with the task of a new logo and tagline. Carabetta then reached out to former colleage Tom Suiter, founder and Chief Creative Officer at CKS. His team of designers, Dana Shields and Jill Savini, came up with a few ideas; Savini’s was a hat, while Shields’ was the hand drawn spectacles you see today.
Along with the logo, the design team pitched a We See Things Differently tagline, and we continue to use the slightly shortened See Things Differently tagline today. Our “Chronicle blue” color came to fruition at this time, too.
After our children’s book division launched in 1988, we decided to have a separate logo for just kids. Our new logo underwent some slight adjustments to imbue a childlike curiosity; Shields and the team at CKS drew Chronicle Books in a youthful scrawl, and the spectacles were dotted with eager eyes.
The drop shadow was—dare I say it—dropped from use on our books (it caused color issues when printed on white), but remains on our in-house materials like business cards and stationery. While the glasses have been tidied up a tiny bit over the years, our spectacles have largely remained the same since the 1990s. After trying out numerous trends, we have finally found our home.
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For more fun tidbits from our fifty years of publishing, check out these posts and follow along with #ChronicleBooksTurns50 on social media.
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