Friday Design: Sign Inspiration and Library Exhibits

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had another lovely week and are excited about the weekend. We are almost to the end of October and I can hardly believe it. So much to do at the end of the year–work to wrap up, cookies to bake, cards to write, NaNoWriMo to win. It seems like there is hardly time to stop and consider anything in the rush at the end of the year. I find it both exhilarating and slightly terrifying. So, this post is part inspiration, part a bit of visual fun to help you find a moment to slow down and look at pretty things, and part call to making better posters for your next library exhibit. Sound good? Okay, let’s get into it.

I spent last week in Washington, D.C. with my mother. We saw more museums and monuments than I thought was possible, walked further than my feet told me was recommended, and generally had a wonderful time even though it was way too hot for the middle of October. Of course, in between looking at all the amazing art, inventions, and such, I spent time taking photos of signs and exhibit designs that inspired me. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas to bring back to the library and luckily it didn’t bother my mother–too much–that I kept taking close-ups of exhibit captions and posters.

It isn’t surprising that the various Smithsonian museums have amazing exhibits and great signage. They have the professionals and experts to put together exhibitions and the support that most libraries can only dream of. But that doesn’t mean we can’t copy some of their best ideas and get inspiration for our own exhibits. My library creates two main exhibits each year and has begun to step up its game in terms of design. I’m part of the exhibit team, so I may be a little–a lot–biased and invested in the outcome of the exhibit designs, especially the posters where I have the most input and sway. So I focused mostly on the exhibit posters, captions, and signage as I walked around the museums. Below is just one example that I love, not just because it is for the exhibit about birds.

photograph of bird poster

This is the poster that greats you as you enter the exhibit and see the first cases of specimens. It is just wonderful. I love the silhouette of the birds, the breaking of the border at the bottom by the egret’s feet, the combination of text, and the overall color scheme used. It is at once a beautiful poster and a great orientation to the exhibit.  I especially love how the headline was colored using sampling from the image. It ties in great. The fact that the type leans towards Art Nouveau is just icing on the cake as far as I’m concerned.

birds of the District of Columbia caption close-up

This is a close-up of the headline and caption at the bottom of the poster to show more detail and the great composition of this type. Great use of color to tie the text together and relate back to the main image. The variation of font size clearly denotes the information hierarchy at a glance allowing readers to quickly get information without any confusion.

This poster makes me even more committed to upping our exhibit poster game at my library. It’s so beautiful and eye-catching. Now if I just had a large collection of bird specimens to exhibit at the library…

Outside of the museums, one of our favorite places to walk through was the sculpture garden on The Mall. This sign obviously called to me.

photograph of Metropolitain sign in sculpture garden

So is my point that you have to design in the Art Nouveau style for your next project? Of course not. But consider carefully how you are tying together your type, copy, color, and images to support your message. And, if you can, try to push yourself to take some risks in your designs to create the very best posters and signage for your next exhibit that you can.

I hope you have a wonderful, inspiring weekend full of great reads and fun. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!