Friday Thoughts: End of the Semester Exhaustion

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you are well and have a lovely, relaxing weekend planned. I can’t believe we are closing in on halfway through the year already. It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, but I think we can all agree whether we are languishing or dormant, it’s been a rough year so far. I know it has been for me. Between trying to figure out our fall reopening while finishing out the semester while determining all the details still to be decided on the new library building with colleagues and how we are going to transfer resources and people over without chaos ensuing and just surviving, I haven’t really had the energy or even a spare minute to write.

But we’re here now so I want to share a few thoughts and maybe some of this will resonate with you, too. I want to talk a bit about exhaustion, and community, and where to go from here.

First, OMG it is finally the end of the semester! I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to dance and give big high fives (with a “Boom!” when we high five because that’s what my daughter says whenever she gets a high five). It feels like a monumental achievement that we made it through. Questions were answered, classes were taught, books, laptops, and hotspots were picked up and delivered, and everyone managed with so much grace and kindness to our students that it was amazing.

But with giving it our all at work, as you know, means often a lot of stress behind the scenes that the public doesn’t see or know about or honestly sometimes doesn’t care about as long as they get the service or resource they want when they want it. And this can be very draining on everyone. So it is up to those who have the power to let their staff know they are appreciated and give everyone some time to rest and recharge, too.

We’re coming up on the break weeks between the end of the spring semester and beginning of summer session. I wish that our administration had decided to let everyone have actual time off (not using up their own vacation) for a few days to truly decompress. Just let everything go to voicemail and out-of-office messages. The website with all our resources would still be available, but everyone behind the scenes could get a well-deserved break.

But while that is wishful thinking at this point, I think it is worth remembering that we need to find ways to concretely help each other out so that we are not in this continuous cycle of stress, anxiety and walking the edge of burnout (if we haven’t already dived right into the deep end of exhaustion).

So what does this have to do with design or communication?

Could we all not try, but actually do better at being open about planning, deadlines, what is absolutely necessary and what is just fluff that we don’t need right now?

Could we all commit to not adding more “what ifs” and playing devil’s advocate when it isn’t going to help and is only going to hurt whatever conversation we’re having?

Could we all decide that if a meeting doesn’t have an agenda and doesn’t have any objectives or is only reporting out information that could be done in an email that we just delete that meeting off of everyone’s calendar?

Could we all take small steps to try to lighten our loads collectively so that we can also all have space to take a breath and have a lighter summer?

I wish for everyone that the answer to all those questions is yes! And that your library administration would support that and that we would make changes that are so obvious that would make our work lives easier and better and more joyful and help us continue to care for our students and public and all our communities.

But if it isn’t a yes or if it is only a meh or “that’s too much work” or “that’s how we’ve always done it” when you suggest these small ways to make it easier for everyone, then my hope for you is that you are not alone in trying to make things better at your library. That you have found community to help support each other, even if you aren’t in administration where the changes can be okayed. That you have people to process with when you are so sick and tired of the whole “leading from the bottom” idea that has exhausted you. Because we can’t fix exhaustion as individuals when it is a collective problem. We need community for that.

I feel fortunate that I’ve found community online to help me when I’m exhausted, to let me know that I’m not alone, that I’m not completely misreading the Zoom room or the lack of support or whatever comes up. It is only in community that we can manage to ensure that we aren’t still exhausted when fall comes with all the in-person/hybrid/online mixes of services and resources that we will have to manage with a smile on our faces for all the new and returning students while we are making it all up as we go along. Because that’s what library workers do.

So my hope is that you can breathe. You can rest. You can find joy in community. You can find bits of beauty in the chaos. And that perhaps, if any library administrator ever reads this, they will be moved to check in with how everyone is really doing, not just what the statistics say or the reports report. And maybe, just maybe be moved to help their people move from languishing and dormancy to thriving. It’s possible and we can do it together.

I do hope, dear readers, to be able to begin posting more regularly again about some library design work and communications work I’ve been doing. Hopefully summer will be a good time to rejuvenate this blog. That’s my hope for this space.

As always, thank you for giving me some of your precious time. I wish for you all the best with virtual hugs and lovely cups of tea. Until next time, allons-y!

Friday Design Tip: Committing to Better Communication

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope this first week of the new year has been kind to you. And I hope you have something fun and relaxing to look forward to this weekend, even if it is just flipping through a magazine for a few minutes or finding a few extra moments to close your eyes. Today, I want to take this space to talk about better communication and why I hope we all commit to being better in all facets of our lives, but mainly how it relates to our work in libraries.

Communication is key. It is a trite, but still true, saying. And everything that involves more than one person involves some type of communication. In libraries, no matter how small or large, communication truly is key for us to accomplish our work, serve our communities, and ensure that we can continue to do what we do. This holds no matter whether we are doing all our communication remotely or in-person or some combination of the two.

This last year has shown us in so many ways, in so many arenas, how important clear, effective communication is to ensuring understanding, avoiding miscommunication, increasing community, decreasing loneliness and so much more. And as librarian graphic designers, we know that well-designed communications—in all their forms—have a much better chance of conveying their intended message to their intended audience than those without thought behind their design.

Good design matters whether we are talking about a blog post, a flyer, a handout, an agenda, or an email. And we can all improve our communications, if we commit to better communication this year.

So that’s what I’m hoping we’ll all commit to this year: being better communicators and encouraging our colleagues and our community members to be better communicators this year, too. We know the basics, we know how we like to be communicated with (and how we don’t), so let’s put this information into practice.

And yes, I know, that so much of modeling good communication comes from the top and that we each have only so much influence (and our spheres of influence are often much smaller than we’d like or want to admit), but we can still do something: we can improve our own communications.

We can commit to being clear, kind, and prompt. We can commit to not “reply-all” when it isn’t necessary. We can commit to creating accountability for ourselves and those we interact through our communications. We can commit to ensuring that we uphold our values in every communication, and apologize when we fail. We can commit to creating the best graphic designs we can when asked for our libraries and being clear on what we need as designers in terms of timelines, content, etc. so we can do our best work. We can commit to modeling how we want communication to look at our libraries and be explicit in what we mean by clear, kind, and prompt communication.

So let’s recommit to good communication (and be explicit in letting our colleagues know what we mean by good communication and ask what they need, then put this knowledge to action). Let it energize us as we move into this year as a way to move forward together and create the relationships we need to stay in community and work through all the hard stuff that is still on our collective plates. Let’s not put communication on the backburner as an afterthought, but put it where it has always needed to be: at the front and core of our work. We can do it together. I know we can.

I wish you a lovely, relaxing weekend, dear readers. If you need some design inspiration this weekend and love all things in print, check out Uppercase Magazine, a wonderful, quarterly print publication. Lovely to preview online, then support (if you can) through a subscription (it’s completely ad-free) to get inspiration away from the computer screen. The latest issue is all about stationery, which fills me with joy and makes me want to create all the handcrafted things and see what will land in my library designs. Until next time, allons-y, friends.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, dear readers! Are you ready to tackle this new year? Excited for the possibilities? Brimming with new hope? Are you tired and a bit exhausted? Are you not quite sure what you want this year to be other than not a repeat of 2020?

All of the above?

Me, too! It’s been such a year and although we know that turning the page on a calendar will not magically make everything better, it is a fresh slate. A deep breath to realign what we are doing and what we want to do in the next 12 months.

While we don’t have control over everything (or really much of anything), we can focus on our own sphere of influence and make what we do have control over better. Not to show off on Instagram, not to “keep up with the Joneses”, not because it’s what we are “supposed to do.” Do it because you want to do it, because it brings you joy, because it makes your part of the world a bit kinder, a bit more welcoming, a bit more merciful, a bit more just.

That’s what I hope for us in this new year, 2021.

That we have time and space and ability to make changes we want in our lives and that we remember that our lives are linked to each other. That we find meaning in our work and in our projects. That we end this year with the same hope we began it with and that 2021 is a year when we can renew ourselves and our world to be better. And that, just maybe, we’ll create some great designs and communications for our libraries, too.

Happy new year, dear readers. May 2021 be kind and may we all be kind to each other. Enjoy this pause before everyone dives back into the busyness and whirlwind of work and life and everything. Be the breath and pause in the room because all we have is time and each other. I’ll be back soon with more. Until then, allons-y, friends.

Saturday Design Tip: Get Your Digital Files in Order

Happy Saturday, dear readers! And happy Boxing Day to those who celebrate it, too! It’s the end of the year, a time when I always think about cleaning and organizing and visioning what I want to do and be in the new year. It’s such a hopeful time, I think (though, let’s be honest, I’m always thinking about what I can clean and organize. It’s just in my nature). So today, I want to share a thought about organizing for us library graphic designers: get your digital files in order!

Really, I know countless articles seem to have been written about getting your digital files in order, but that’s because it is important. When is the last time you’ve taken a few minutes to organize your files? I know I need to, so I’m taking some time this last week of the year to make sure my file names make sense (no file1 or version2), the files are in the correct folders, and the projects that I no longer need to reference weekly or even monthly are filed in my archives. (I highly believe in having a digital archives because there will be times when you need to reuse designs, like we discussed last week, and your files need to be accessible quickly for these times, too.)

There a countless different systems to use for organizing digital files, from offline to online, differing opinions on where and when to backup your files, what’s the best service to use, etc., but really, any system is only as good as what you commit to using consistently. And, I believe, any system should be simple. Also, if I had to give one piece of advice, as someone who not only creates a lot of files but has to go through other people’s files in my work as an archivist, it would be: create file names that make sense even after you are done with the project. Put a date in the file name (yes, I know file explorer will tell you the date, but it is just easier if it is in the name) and don’t make it difficult to read. Never call something Project 1 or Project 2, you’ll never remember it later. And commit to a folder system that makes sense to you.

If you need a bit of inspiration, I found Marie Kondo’s latest book, written with Scott Sonenshein, Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life (https://shop.konmari.com/collections/books/products/joy-at-work-organizing-your-professional-life) to be wonderful. I was worried that given this year has been a year of working at home that her latest book would not be useful, but I shouldn’t have worried. It was still relevant and inspirational and, although I don’t think I’ll be able to get my file numbers as lean as suggested in the book, it does provide inspiration for doing so. (In full disclosure, I loved Kondo’s first book and really do feel like her method was life-changing for getting our house in order before the chaos that is a baby came into it and will never not use her method for folding clothes again. And I love organizing, so it isn’t really surprising I found her latest book inspiring, too.)

So let’s start the new year with tidy digital files so we can spend more time designing and less time looking for misplaced icons and logos. I look forward to spending the next year creating lots of projects and new designs for my library and I hope you do, too.

Thanks for being here, reading, and creating to ensure our libraries are able to communicate beautifully and well with our communities. I hope the end of the year goes well for you and the start of 2021 brings hope and inspiration. Oh, and remember, it’s always easier to keep your digital files organized as you go rather than having to do a cleanup at the end of each year. 😉 Until next year, allons-y, friends!

Friday Design Tip: Reusing Designs

Happy Friday, dear readers! I know it’s been a bit quiet around her lately. It’s not that I haven’t been doing graphic design work for my library or even that I haven’t thought about blogging. It’s that I’ve been exhausted and there never seems to be enough hours in the day for everything. I’m sure many of you can understand and relate to that. 2020 has been a rough year in so many ways, but there is light at the end of the tunnel (and it isn’t an oncoming train!) and I wanted to share a bit before the end of the year (and hopefully will be able to blog more consistently in the new year).

Today, I wanted to remind us all (let’s be honest, remind myself, too), that reusing things is not just about saving the environment by reusing items instead of recycling or throwing them away, but for design work as well. If you’ve made something wonderful, why not reuse it again?

Well, you may be thinking to yourself, isn’t that cheating? Shouldn’t we always design from scratch?

My answer: No! Reusing your designs or parts of your designs is a smart, efficient way to be able to get all your work done, especially now when we’re all juggling a lot more than usual. I know, sometimes we can feel guilty about reusing something (or maybe that’s just me), but it really is a great way to be able to get your projects out the door, especially on short timelines.

Does anyone else seem to be getting last minute projects and hella short deadlines, too? Or is it just me? I don’t think it’s just me from my talks with friends. But short deadlines always make me nervous, especially when I have other projects I’m working on, which is why reusing designs saves my work so many times.

Example is this handout that I designed for a new student orientation. I was told about this a day before it was due, but luckily I had already created a handout for the summer student orientation. So I pulled up that InDesign file, updated the information for our services and resources, proofed it, exported it to a PDF, double-checked the links, and submitted it by the deadline.

Handout for Fall Orientation:

Fall handout detailing library resources and services

Handout from Summer Orientation:

summer orientation handout for library services and resources

There was no way I would have been able to do that if I had decided I needed to rework the entire thing from scratch. Also, there was no point since the design already worked, most of the information was the same, and I only needed to do some updating.

So give yourself the permission to reuse your designs—in whole or in part—and make those ridiculous deadlines without feeling like you want to throw your laptop through the window!

I hope that you have a lovely weekend planned, some time off to relax, and some time to recharge your creative juices. Thank you, dear readers, for being here and reading. I appreciate you. Until next time, allons-y friends!

Friday Design Tip: You Don’t Always Have to be Literal

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that you have found something that has brought you joy this week and found time for some rest even in the middle of everything. We went to an outdoor nursery and pottery shop and bought some lovely, large pots for our garden. It was a nice break from the routine that we are in of cramming together work and play and childrearing and everything in the house. It reminded me that there is beauty in so many small things. Today, I have one thought to share that may help with your design work: we don’t need to be literal.

What I mean by that is not that we shouldn’t strive for clarity in our graphic design work. Our work should be clear in its message and ensure that our readers are able to get all the important information they need easily. What I mean instead is that we don’t have to be literal in how we interpret themes for every piece of work we do. We can interpret them more broadly and creatively while still maintaining clarity and enhancing our theme.

I thought of this when designing the LibGuide banner for our online resource guide for Accessibility Awareness Month. While I could have pulled from some of the universal icons for disability/accessibility or found photos to try to represent a range of ideas discussed in the resources the library is highlighting, I instead decided for something different. This worked, in part, because the banner doesn’t have to do the heavy lifting of conveying the information on this page. It simply needs to grab attention and draw readers in so they browse through the many resources available to them.
Because of this, I decided to create the banner you can see below using an image of lightbulbs against a blue sky with clouds.

banner with a photograph of lightbulbs against a blue sky with text that says accessibility awareness month

I chose this image because it is striking and lightbulbs are often used as a visual metaphor for gaining insight and knowledge, which is one goal for our resource guide. A blue sky is often used as a metaphor for calmness, peace, and also dreaming and planning big. So together, they created an inspirational visual for the banner. The text is simple and the font chosen because it is reminiscent of the filaments in the bulbs, tying together the theme.

So the next time you are designing something for your library’s marketing, resource guides, or handouts, think about if you can interpret the design theme slightly less literally and whether that would serve the overall purpose of your design. You may be happily surprised by what you create.

I hope this gives you a bit of inspiration to think outside the design box and that you have a wonderful, restful weekend to recharge and relax. I’ll be back soon with more library design tips and thoughts. Allons-y, friends!

Friday Design Post: Good Enough is Good Enough

banner that says, good enough is good enough

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope the week has been kind to you and you’ve been kind to yourself. It’s been another long week, in a long year, and I hope that you’ve found some moments of joy during it all. Today, I want to talk about something that has gotten me through a lot of my work this year: when good enough is good enough.

We all know that perfect is unattainable and can keep us from doing anything. At the same time, having too low a bar for what is good enough, doesn’t help us produce good work either. But sometimes, good enough really is good enough.

What do I mean by this?

To get anything done during this time, I’ve embraced good enough as one of my mantras.

I don’t have time to design everything from scratch, so I’ve had to adapt templates and streamline my design process. And that’s good enough for Instagram posts and other ephemeral marketing needs.

It’s okay that I don’t have time or space to take as long to find the “perfect” font. One that ticks most of the boxes and supports the design theme, is just fine. It’s good enough.

It’s okay to simply design good enough and not try for groundbreaking right now.

And there are some advantages to this, too, that I didn’t foresee in the beginning, even though I long for the days of again having enough time to do more wholly original graphic design work. I have created templates for our workshops, that I’ve written about previously, which brand our workshops and make it easier for me to update the graphics for the many workshops we have each term. Good enough has created a branded look that is simple, collegiate, and recognizable.

Good enough allows me to create the space to take on the graphic design work that comes up with very short deadlines. We all know that projects come up at the last minute and it is good to be able to help out with these requests when we can. I’ve been able to create banners for online displays and handouts for instructional sessions by freeing time and design headspace by embracing good enough.

So, while I’m not a fan of ever using good enough as an excuse to do sloppy graphic design work, it is a good mantra to be kind to ourselves and acknowledge that this is a difficult time and while we still need to be creative and create, we don’t always have to make something that is wholly original and will last for the ages.

That’s all I have for today. I hope you have a rejuvenating weekend, find something to refill your creative passions, and come back as refreshed as possible to your next bit of library design work. Allons-y, friends!

Friday Design Tip: Using Adobe Spark Video for Library Promo Videos

Happy Friday! I don’t know about you, but it has been a week here in a year that has been quite a year. We’ve had more ash falling from the sky, more fires, and darkened days, which makes it hard to focus on work even when the work is important. I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, not because I haven’t been doing or thinking about sharing library design tips, but because I’ve been overwhelmed with everything. But, in the midst of all of this, we must continue to do the work that allows our communities to access the information and help they need. To that end, I’d like to share something a bit different: using your graphic design skills in a video format.

You’ve probably heard about videos garnering more engagement than still photos/images and, while I’d never suggest giving up doing 2D graphic work, sometimes it’s good to expand our skill sets and try new things. Creating videos is one way to stretch our graphic design skills.

Adobe Spark, which I love using for Instagram posts (which seem to be all the design work time I have lately), also has features to allow you to create simple videos. While there aren’t as many options and controls as you have with video editing tools such as Premiere Pro, it is just fine for creating short promo videos and highlighting parts of your collection.
I created the video below to use in our Library Orientations during the summer and start of our fall semester. I combined stock photos with simple information about our services and resources, chose a base theme, and added music from the selection pre-loaded into Adobe Spark.

And, I’m happy to report that the learning curve for creating a video on Adobe Spark is much lower than learning to use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator or InDesign. But the results are still polished and eye-catching for your users.

Remember to use your graphic design skills from 2D designing (like rule of thirds, contrast, matching fonts with theme and graphics, etc.) when creating a video, too, and you’ll have new promo videos for your library in (almost) no time.

It’s fun to learn a new skill and find new ways to promote your library’s services and resources. At least, I found it to be energizing during these tough times and gave me some more inspiration for creating library designs when I felt my creative well running dry.

I hope you have a relaxing and rejuvenating weekend. Stay safe, help your neighbors, and be kind. Allons-y, friends!

 

Friday Design: Creating Webpage Banners with a Consistent Theme

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope the week has treated you well and that you remain healthy and have a relaxing weekend to look forward to. Today I want to share a design tip that will help you keep a consistent theme while saving you time. And we could all use a little more efficiency in our design work, couldn’t we? I know I can as I look towards the starting of the next academic term and juggling everything life seems to be throwing at us now (in addition to our graphic design work!).

Over this summer, we revised and cleaned up our online Exhibits LibGuide. There used to be many (many) disparate guides to past exhibits, but thanks to one of my colleague’s careful and patient work, they are all now collocated. This makes it much easier for viewers to find all our past exhibits and makes the backend work much easier, too.

Once this was done, while the organization of our exhibit pages on the LibGuide were functional, we didn’t have an coherent visual theme to link together our top landing pages for the guide itself, as well as past and current exhibits. This wouldn’t do for a guide that was all about exhibits where we expect good visuals. So I created three banners for these pages, which sounds like a lot of work, but once I created the first one, I used it as a basis to tie together the theme with the other two.

Here’s the first banner for the homepage of the LibGuide:

Online Banner for exhibit LibGuide that says Library Exhibits

I chose images, type, and colors that worked together to create a coherent theme. The theme was to express exhibits and the diversity of our campus community that inspires us. I sampled colors in the photographs for the font colors and the background color. With this done, I decided to use the same layout for the other two banners, but change out one image in each.

This is the past exhibit banner:

Online Banner that says Past Exhibits

And this is the current exhibits banner:

Online banner that says Current Exhibits

Notice how they maintain the overall theme through the same use of color palette, fonts, and layout, but have unique images used, too. This makes the banners more visually interesting, yet maintains coherency across the landing pages.

This design “trick” enables us to both maintain a consistent theme and inject some fun, visual interest into the banners. It also allowed me to create three banners in only a little more time than it would take me to create one because I wasn’t trying to reinvent theme and layout for each of them.

I hope this design example is helpful and useful for when you are considering how to design or revamp banners or implement design themes on your LibGuides, webpages, or other multiple page documents.

I hope you have a lovely, restful, and safe weekend. I’ll be back again with more design thoughts to save you time and hopefully provide new insights for your library graphic design work.

Allons-y, dear friends!

ALA Store 50% Book Sale

Hello, dear readers! I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy. It is hard to believe that it is almost the end of July. Time is squishy and flying by. More design news and notes soon, but I had to do a quick post to let you know…

ALA Store is having a 50% off sale on 75 titles! This is a great sale and my book, Easy Graphic Design for Librarians, is part of this sale! It’s only $27 until August 15.

So if you’ve wanted to buy a book on graphic design for librarians or wanted to buy a copy for a friend or colleague, now is the time (psst…it makes a great stocking stuffer, if you are thinking ahead and as long as you don’t mind it not actually fitting in a stocking).

There’s a lot of great titles on many subjects as part of this sale, so take a look and you might find your next library-related read.

Take care, be safe, and stay kind. I’ll be back with more design news and notes soon. Allons-y, friends!