Design, Photography, and Libraries

I was talking with one of our interns about signage in the library today and it got me thinking about design in libraries. Now, I have no experience or expertise in designing library buildings, so I’m not going to go there. Instead, I want to talk about design and photography as it relates to library signage and marketing materials.

A lot have probably seen the signage posts on the blog, Tame the Web. These posts, more often than not, showcase bad, ugly, or unfriendly signage spotted around libraries. Obviously we could use some help with our signage and design in general.

I was inspired to think more about, and be more mindful of, designing beautiful and useful materials after reading this post by Seth Godin: getting better at seeing. The book mentioned in the post, Before & After: How to Design Cool Stuff, is a fabulous, accessible resource for anyone interested in designing better marketing materials. I think it should be required reading for anyone designing signage in the library (not to mention designing websites, flyers, videos, or other promotional materials).

There are so many resources available for studying and improving design skills that really, we have no excuse not to make better signs. Also, because so often our promotional materials (and sometimes signs) contain photographs, we really should improve our photography skills as well. (I know I definitely need to.)

If you must take photographs with your phone (and I mean, who doesn’t?), check out Lifehacker’s guides to best photography apps for your Android or best photography apps for your iPhone to improve the photographs you take.

For more professional looking photographs, you may want to check out another Lifehacker article on using an 18% gray card for better color balance in your photos. If you are shooting for a marketing campaign for your library, or going to create banners from your photographs, please, please, please shoot high resolution photographs. I’m always amazed when I see images in libraries that are obviously pixelated. (And, if you are going on a photography shooting trek, check out how a Tenba insert turns your messenger bag into a stealth camera bag. Now maybe I have an excuse to buy another Timbuk2 bag.)

All I’m saying is take some time to really see what your signs and marketing materials are saying about your library and see if there isn’t a way you can improve what’s being said. Libraries are fantastic resources, we all know this, but now we need to be communicating this fact through our design. Beautifully designed stuff is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also more user-friendly.

If you need some inspiration of your own, check out Beautiful Portals. It’s truly one of the most beautiful Tumblr feeds I’ve seen and a great inspiration to libraries which are often likened to portals of knowledge.

The Waki Librarian will be back with more on Blog Action Day. Until then, enjoy your day designing cool stuff.