Graphic Design in the Library: Poster Headline Example

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has been filled with good work, good fun, and some good memories. Before we all ride out of the library and into the weekend, I wanted to share some thoughts about graphic design from my library’s latest exhibit. Specifically, I want to talk about collaboration and creation of the logo and titles for the posters. Although this may sound a bit tedious, looking behind the curtain of a final design at the process is really useful as you are learning (as we know from teaching information literacy, right?).  It may help if you are considering mounting some posters for your next exhibit and want a coherent look. So let’s dive into to some graphic design work.

First, you can check out the whole web exhibit here. I’m rather proud of this exhibit on the history of young adult (YA) literature, both for how it turned out visually and how the team worked collaboratively. For context, in my library there is an exhibit team that works together on exhibit conception and creation. We split the work amongst ourselves. For the posters, after the initial concept meeting, our team member who leads the design of the posters (Dick Apple) does some mock-ups and then the rounds of critique and revision begin.

Usually, the poster work falls mostly to Dick and me. I’m lucky that he is very open to collaboration and working in an iterative way, which is basically the only way that collaboration in graphic design can work. If you are working with someone who doesn’t have their heart in collaboration, try to get a new team member as soon as possible or your work (and your sanity) will suffer.

What I want to focus on is just the logo and the titles of the posters. You can see an example of one of the logo/title combinations below:

YA literature logo and title

While this logo and title combination is simple, it took rounds of discussion to get to this final version. How many rounds of email (which we use because our team works different hours and often in different locations)? I counted around 20 emails and about four major revisions and a host of minor tweaks. So how does this work?

After Dick did the initial mock-up of the logo (the YA, horizontal line, and the phrase “young adult literature”), he sent it out to us for review. I asked about font choice, font size (the original had the YA much larger than the phrase), and colors, as well as issues of alignment. We discussed each and after some rounds came up with the above. While not perfect (because very few things are in design), it works really well for our exhibit.


First, you can see we used two different fonts. The YA is in a serif font (Book Antiqua Bold). We chose this deliberately because the serif font family is older than san serif and has an “old timey” feel. This is good because our exhibit is a look at the history of the YA genre, so we need something that invokes history. The phrase, young adult literature, meanwhile is set in a san serif font (Myriad Pro Regular), which looks and feels more modern–great for linking the logo to the current YA literature we are talking about.

Second, after we fixed the font size issue so that it didn’t feel as top heavy, we worked on tracking and kerning. The top letters in YA had to be kerned so they looked right. The tracking was changed on the phrase so that it aligned with the horizontal line. This makes the spacing and placement look deliberate, which it is. Also, having the phrase in all caps makes this tracking and alignment easier. It also creates breathing room so that we have some quiet in the logo. This is useful since the posters, which you can see in their entirety via the first link, are very colorful due to the book covers used to illustrated each poster.

Next, we played with colors. We settled on these complementary colors after a number of different options. These colors work both with the rest of the graphics on the posters and make the logo pop against the dark grey of the background. We also lost an initial white box around the logo that only served to visual separate the logo from everything else on the poster and all special effects on the letters (e.g. drop shadows, outlines, etc.). Sometimes (often in my experience) simpler really is better and stronger for design.

Finally, we worked on the headlines. Unlike the logo, the headline titles are white. This links them to the text blocks, which are also white, and allows them to stand out and apart from the logo and dark background. They are set in the same typeface as the “young adult literature” in the logo, again for coherence. They were then hand-aligned to the slant of the “A” in YA. This allows the logo and title to work together, instead of appearing as separate elements on the poster. It also eliminates visual boxes around the logo and title that can be caused by just using a left alignment because that is what the software program defaults to.

So, that is the condensed, but basic steps we went through in creating the logo and headline titles for this exhibit. As you can see the results are quite nice–legible, readable, and eye-catching. The same logo is used on all the posters for visual branding and the headline titles are aligned the same.

I hope this helps you go under the hood of how a collaborative design process can work for creating exhibit posters in a library. It is work, but creative, fun work that I love. If you have any questions, or any designs you have for your library that you’d like to share, please leave a comment.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend full with reading, napping, and relaxing fun. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!