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Igniting Hearts and Minds: Beacon Press Celebrates 160 Years of Publishing


Tomorrow, Beacon Press will publish Prison Baby, Deborah Jiang Stein's tumultuous memoir of adoption, drug addiction, self-discovery, and redemption. Its release will continue a tradition of thought-provoking independent publishing that stretches back more than a century and a half. Ten years ago, Beacon's director Helene Atwan called the occasion of our 150th anniversary “a milestone a mere handful of active houses can claim.” Now, to mark our 160th anniversary, we’re unveiling a new logo that we hope will visualize our abiding mission to publish the most groundbreaking works of our time.

Atwan and creative director Bob Kosturko, who designed the new logo, spoke to us recently about the process of reinventing the Press's visual identity:

Helene Atwan, Director

1902 Beacon Press logo
Original 1902 logo

My goal in asking for a redesign of our colophon and a new “tag line” for the press was to try to encapsulate what makes Beacon Press unique in the crowd of US publishing houses. What we hope to do is not merely to publish good books, to publish books people will want to read, but to publish books that will in some way inflame and incite people, whether by moving them deeply or by challenging their thinking.

The flame was part of the original Beacon Press logo when the American Unitarian Association decided to rename its forty-eight year old publishing arm in 1902, using the Boston symbol of a flaming Beacon on the Hill.

1933 Beacon Press logo
1933 logo

We’ve returned to the idea of the flame, “shedding light to warn of imminent dangers” but interpreted it this time as coming from the books, from the words on the page, and tied it to our mission to open minds and stir hearts and perhaps to stir readers to action.

The challenge for our creative director was to make the flames appear to grow from the books, without making it look like the book was on fire!  Burning books is about the opposite of what we want to suggest. What Bob Kosturko came up with, in my mind, is elegant and effective, and really captures the idea spelled out in our tag line of “igniting hearts and minds.”

Bob Kosturko, Creative Director

The biggest challenge for me in creating the new Beacon Press colophon was distilling Helene Atwan’s phrase “Igniting Hearts and Minds” into a single mark. The main challenge was avoiding anything that looked like a burning book! The previous iteration of the Beacon Press logo, designed by Sara Eisenman and Isaac Tobin in 2004, consisted of ten lines radiating outward from a central hub in spoke-like fashion. It could be viewed as both a minimalist representation of an open book, or rays of light:

2004 Beacon Press logo
2004 logo

“Igniting Hearts and Minds” called for a less static logo; one with more energy and movement. Using the radiating lines of the previous logo as a point of departure I drew a series of triangular shapes arranged like a fan, not unlike the pages of a book being turned. Then I drew a stylized flame—sort of a zigzag or an angular reverse “S.” To impart a sense of motion I employed classic animation techniques, rendering a series of transitional shapes that morphed from page to flame and back to page. The finished logo depicts a book that emanates fire, yet is not consumed by it.

2014 Beacon Press logo
2014 logo

Prison Baby will be the first book to carry the new logo, and we hope that, like the book itself and the many more books to follow suit, this new colophon will serve as a beacon, guiding our readers to the issues, ideas, and values that will truly ignite their hearts and minds.