Design and Drawing

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has gone well and you have a lovely weekend planned. Before we run headlong into the weekend, I wanted to talk a bit about design and drawing today: how drawing can help with projects in the library and how it is a fun skill that we too often overlook once we leave behind our grade school days. So let’s talk drawing, design, and libraries!

Did you draw when you were a child? Do you still draw now? If not, when did you stop? And, more importantly, why did you stop?

I’d wager that everyone drew at least something as a child. Children love to pick up crayons and draw bold squiggles that spark imaginative stories. We love to dip our fingers in paint and swirl it on paper to see what we could create. There was a wonder about having a blank page of paper and a new box of markers that made us want to draw forever (or at least until it was snack time). But then we put away our crayons when we got older. We didn’t draw with abandon anymore. We moved on to computers and spreadsheets and “real” work and forgot our childlike wonder in creating just to create things (even if no one could figure out what they were without commentary from us).

But, since we’re talking about design in libraries, why should we care whether we still draw or not? Most of our finished designs for flyers, floorplans, and bookmarks are going to be made on the computer anyway, right?

Well, yes, but as the illustrator Von Glitschka would say, “Ideas are still best developed in analog form.” And if we can’t draw, if we can’t take the design idea that is in our head and convert it to marks on a paper, we’re going to have a hard time developing those great ideas into designs to help our libraries. So we need to get back to drawing, sketching, and doodling in order to become better librarian designers.

Everyone can draw, but somewhere along the line a lot of us got scared to draw, scared that we’d fail because someone (maybe even ourselves) told us we weren’t good enough or creative enough to draw. That drawing was a waste of time and we needed to get down to “real” work.

So, today, what I’m saying is that if you want to do the real work of designing great things for your library, you need to draw. You need to get back into the habit of drawing so you can move more easily from idea to design. Is it hard at first? Of course, but a lot of things that are worthwhile are hard at first. Is it fun? Oh, yes. So much that it almost can seem wrong, but it will help with your designing.

I’ve always loved to draw, but couldn’t seem to find the time (in reality, I just didn’t make enough time) in the first years I was working at my current job. But I slowly started drawing again and my designs got better and this year I’ve really committed to making time for drawing (it helps that it goes hand-in-hand with my research) and has been wonderful. I love it. I’m lucky that my university has a subscription to as it has a number of drawing challenges (taught by Von Glitschka, the illustrator I quoted above). They’ve been a great jump start to drawing every day.

So what to do if you don’t have a subscription? Challenge yourself to draw for five days straight. It doesn’t have to be anything big, just a new drawing every day. At the end of the five days, pick up your pencil and tackle a drawing project for your library. Maybe it’s signage that needs to be redesigned, maybe its a bookmark with your summer hours, or maybe its a handout for your next workshop. See how much easier it is to come up with ideas and solutions and how much more fun it is to create them. Drawing helps us unlock our creativity. And the great thing is, you never have to show any of your rough sketches to anyone. They are just for you.

I hope you’ll take up a drawing challenge and rediscover how wonderful drawing can be along with discovering how helpful it can be for brainstorming and refining your next library graphic design project.

Finally, if you need to perk up your desktop wallpaper, check out this lovely bunch this month from Smashing Magazine.

I hope you have a lovely weekend filled with laughter, creativity, and some relaxation. I’ll be back soon with more news and design notes. Allons-y!