Is the BTA Logo DOA?

By Mash Bonigala

The BTA, or Bicycle Transportation Alliance, is a nonprofit group established in 1990 with the intention of promoting biking and improving conditions for bicyclists in Oregon and southwestern Washington State. Because advocacy and rousing community support is a huge part of the BTA’s activities, the organization needs a logo design and a brand that is appealing to the community, especially near the headquarters in Portland.

The old logo design was not really up to the task. It featured a stylized bicycle wheel with both the acronym and the full organizational name. It is very direct, but lacking in style. It says nothing about the brand and does nothing to build a reputation. The colors and font seem randomly chosen. In addition, the spokes on the wheel are not perfectly even, the way they are in an actual bike wheel. This is just unprofessional, which again does not speak well of the nonprofit association.

It seems that almost any logo design would be an improvement over this one. This is certainly true, but… barely. The new logo is similar to the old in some ways; for example, it is a circle with the initials in the middle. However, the colors have been changed completely, to a gray that is reminiscent of an asphalt road and a cool, modern tangerine color. The initials are written in upper case letters that are subtly curved. The name of the organization is written in a similar but skinnier font, with each letter in a different size. Two lines cut across the top—what are they supposed to be, anyway?

A little research dug up the story behind this nonprofit logo design. Most surprisingly, it was indeed created by a professional, one with a rather impressive portfolio and apparently good design sense that was put to waste here. We guessed correctly that the gray is that of a roadway, but failed to see that the lines at the top of the circle represent a bike lane. The orange is meant to be reminiscent of the safety signs seen on roadways, but it is so muted that it has lost this meaning for most viewers.

The idea of this logo is good, but it fails in the execution. The letters overlap with the edges of the circle, but are spaced too far apart; simply moving them closer together would reduce this effect. There are four lines of type with our different sizes for no apparent reason. It just feels rough and unfinished—a good concept but certainly not a logo yet.

This was a missed opportunity for the BTA to create an appealing brand and reach out to an entirely new group of members and supporters. It is a shame to see that this unique message was lost in translation. The new logo seems even less relevant to bicycling, which is certainly a step backward. The fact that this logo design is the first step in a larger identity change makes us wonder what else is in store, and how bad it can possibly get.