Design Example: Revising a Library Newspaper Ad

Happy Friday, dear readers! I feel like we could use a week of Fridays about now, but since we only get one I hope yours is a great one. Before we head into the weekend, I wanted to share a redesign I’ve been working on as promised. So keep reading for an example of how I put some of the design stuff I’ve been sharing into practice for my work.

So, disclaimer time: even though I love graphic design and do research in it, I’m not responsible for the advertisements the library runs in our student paper nor am I on the library’s UX committee. I redesigned the following ad simply because I couldn’t help myself, though it would be great if we did run a redesigned ad the next quarter.

Now that the disclaimer is through, let’s look at the current ad, which is below:

current ad for extended hours in library

Now, there is nothing that is overly horrible about this ad. It is clear, has a lot of white space, doesn’t use any fonts that make your eyes want to twitch and, if you take the time to read it, gives you all the information you need about the library’s extended study hours.

So why redesign it?

Two main reasons: 1) because almost any design can be made better and 2) to make it easier to scan for information and therefore more likely to be used.

So how did I start the redesign?

With planning and brainstorming of course. The ad space runs in a 5 by 8 inch space, so I knew my space parameters, which always helps for planning. I also knew what information I needed to include from what is run in the ad and I knew what I didn’t want to keep. So below you can see a photo of my brainstorming page with what I wanted to keep.

scratch paper showing brainstorming, thumbnail sketch for new ad

You can see that I also drew a thumbnail, along with some notes, for a redesign idea (plus a note for another idea on how to redesign the ad, specifically around the tricky issue of the dates and times).

Notice I didn’t copy everything from the original ad. All the basic, necessary information is there, but not the questions and headers. I wanted to simply the ad so I could use bigger, bolder fonts to be eye catching.

One element that I wanted to expand from the original though was the dates and times of the extended hours. I wanted students to be able to tell, at a glance, when the library would be open for all the dates of the final weeks of the term. The original way, while taking up less space than what I envisioned, seemed to be more difficult to scan.

The photo, as noted above, is pixelated–not a lot, but enough to be annoying. But more importantly, it doesn’t really add anything to the ad. It just takes up a lot of space and is awkward with the other box of quasi-calendar hours. It had to go.

In place of the photo, I already knew I wanted to use some free icons from the Dashel Icon Set because of their relationship to the information in the ad and because of their simplicity. They reproduce wonderfully in newsprint (I’ve used them in another library ad I was able to design) and don’t create any visual boxes in the ad that make for awkward layout.

I decided on a centered alignment, even though this can be seen as formal, because I wanted to use a movie credit style layout for all the hours (I had 2 weeks worth to work with) and to keep a rather lot of information calm on the eyes.

Below you can see my first redesign with all the dates and hours displayed.

extended hours ad redesign version 1

I used just 2 San Serif fonts from the same family for this redesign, but due to the differing weights and use of all caps for the headlines, it still gives a lot of visual interest.

All elements are center aligned and the days of the weeks, dates, and times are easy to find at a glance.

The extra information about the “Spring out of Stress” events are still at the bottom of the ad, but look unified. Using the same alignment as the extended hours, it is easy to see when the events will happen and what will happen during the events. Everything looks like it goes together.

I added just three icons to this ad that work with what happens during extended hours–lots of coffee drinking, lots of note taking and writing, and lots of conversations. Using three keeps the eye moving as odd groupings help keep visual motion in the design.

The redesign presents the same information, but in a clearer, cleaner way that is easy to read. It isn’t complicated, because it doesn’t need to be. Also, because I don’t have all day to redesign ads, this layout was made to save time. All told, it probably took about an hour from concept to finished product to do.

I also did another redesign to take advantage of a calendar layout that we’re all familiar with.



This second redesigned ad simply puts the date and time information in calendar format. I think I might like it more than the first design because the information is even easier to take in at a glance.

extended hours ad redesign version 2

Other than changing up the date/time layout, I left most of the rest of the layout the same. I just moved the icons so they serve as visual interest and a bridge between the calendar and the “Spring out of Stress” event information. Again, I used three and just changed up one to see if I liked it better. I could easily swap it out for the conversation bubbles, but I saw so many sticky notes being used in those two weeks that I thought it would be an appropriate icon to use.

Because I was reusing the same basic layout as the first redesign option, this one took much less time to do.

And, the best part about creating a design for an ad that will be run every term is that you can just swap out the dates/times and you are good to go. You now have a template that doesn’t even look like a template!

So, I hope this example gave you some ideas for your next design or redesign project. There’s a lot to design and a lot more we could go into about why and how I chose different elements, but I wanted to give an overview today.

I hope you have a lovely weekend full of all good things. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!