Art + Design

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.

1960s

 

Chronicle Books logo, 1961

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.

 

 

Chronicle Books logo, 1969

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.”

 

1970s

Chronicle Books logo, 1970

Another mystery iteration, but thicker, bolder, and less detailed than the former.

Chronicle Books logo, 1972

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.

 

1980s

Chronicle Books logo, 1973

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.

 

Chronicle Books logo, 1986

In a bit of an inside joke, this font was called Jensen Bold after then president Jack Jensen.

 

1990s

 

 

Chronicle Books logo, 1992

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.

 

Chronicle Books Children's logo

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.

Present Day

 

 

Chronicle Books logo

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.

– – –

For more fun tidbits from our fifty years of publishing, check out these posts and follow along with #ChronicleBooksTurns50 on social media.

Jenna Homen

Community Manager at Chronicle Books. When she's logged off, she can be found cooking, camping, or in a museum. You can follow her on Twitter at @jn_na.
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5 Comments

  • DANA Shields July 19, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Hi Jenna,
    It’s been 25 years… so I’d love to finally get credit for being the DESIGNER for the Chronicle Books corporate identity, kid’s logo, and the kid’s striped spines brand look. I worked for Tom Suiter, the founder and Chief Creative Officer at CKS, in the early 1990’s. He was the Creative Director on the Chronicle Books Identity project. I was the designer. There were less than 10 people in our San Francisco office at that time. Jill Savini and I were the 2 designers assigned to the project. She and I each came up with concepts for the Chronicle logo. Jill came up with the “hat” concept and I came up with the “reading glasses” concept. It was a super fun project! Tom Suiter, Michael Carabetta, and I had a blast working on all of the brand identity applications.

    Later on, Michael Carabetta asked us to design a kid’s logo and branding system. A few years later, he also asked us to create a logo and book designs for a new line of books called “Bella Cosa”. It was so much fun to work with Michael, and the project director for Bella Cosa at Chronicle – Sushma Patel – on Bella Cosa series. (In fact, 10 years after working with Sushma via phone and fax – we finally met in person and became dear friends. We even went through pregnancy together and our sons are now friends. Small world!)

    I few years after I stopped working for Tom Suiter/CKS Partners, Michael asked me to design the “Giftworks” division logo. I drew a “gift box” with a bow on top in the same illustration style as I had drawn the “glasses” logos.

    Truly, working on the THREE different Chronicle Books brand identities were my favorite projects over the course of my 25 year career as a corporate identity designer! AND, except for the Giftworks logo, they still exist! I’m so proud! And so lucky! Both Tom Suiter and Michael Carabetta were always FANTASTIC to work with.
    Dana Shields

    Reply

    • Jenna Homen July 19, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      Wow, thanks so much for all your work, Dana! I will update this post ASAP. Love hearing stories from back in the day, so thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

      Reply

  • DANA Shields July 19, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Thank YOU! Nice to be in touch. 😉
    dana

    Reply

  • Tom Suiter July 20, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Some of my best memories are the days when we worked on Chronicle Books. What’s not to love about working with Michael Carabetta and his team, playing in a rich sandbox, and getting compensated with books! It’s so rare to see a company stick with the same logo for 20+ years. It speaks to the solid design leadership of Chronicle Books. I thank you for the opportunity to work with you “back in the day”. Best, Tom

    Reply

    • Jenna Homen July 20, 2017 at 9:49 am

      Great to hear from you, Tom! Thanks for sharing such kind words about your experience working with Chronicle Books.

      Reply

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