Friday Design: Quiet and Typography

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that your week has gone well and that you have gotten done what you needed & wanted to before diving into the weekend. I’m amazed we are more than one week into March already and the spring quarter at my university will begin soon, which means a lot more teaching and a lot less time for design for me in the upcoming months. But I can’t complain. There’s always pockets of time for designing, even in the busiest of quarters. Today I want to share some examples and inspiration, mostly to do with type and how quiet inspires so much of what I design and do. I hope it will inspire you, too.

So first, the case for quiet or why you need less noise for work and your health. A short read that has a lot of links to other studies and reports and contains lots of good information. I’m not someone who needs to be sold on the value of quiet and silence, but maybe you know someone at your library who does. Share this with them. Your creativity and productivity will thank you.

I’ve always been one for working in silence. I can’t handle music playing when I write or even really when I’m drawing, binding books, or laying out a new project on the screen. If I try to listen to anything else, I become distracted and I’m not nearly as productive or creative as I am in silence.

photograph of Japanese tea garden pathAnd, while it is almost impossible to come by silence in an urban environment, we can get quiet and one of the best ways of achieving quiet and inspiration is to get outside for a walk. In my neighborhood, the Japanese tea garden is always one of the places I find inspiring and peaceful.

Getting outside and enjoying some fresh air & sunshine always inspires some new work, usually with a nature theme.

But perhaps you are more inspired when you are surrounded by books. If that’s the case, then The Well-Appointed Desk’s Fashionable Friday: Bibliophile Edition has you covered.

So many lovely things. But what does this have to do with typography? Quiet isn’t just about audio noise, but visual noise, too. Too much clutter visually makes it harder for us to pay attention to the signal as we have to parse through so much noise. Thinking about quiet in design can create more thoughtful, restful, and powerful graphic design for our libraries than simply throwing everything we can think of on the page.

This is brought home with two very different examples of marketing and typography that I’ve seen on my recent walks around campus and the city.

The first example is of what un-quiet typography looks like and is found all over the campus right now as we prepare for going to semesters, which is an entirely different design challenge.

vertical sign advertising advising for the change from quarters to semesters on campusThis person who designed this sign had such good intentions, but went astray when it came to the typography.

As noted in a previous post on setting type to run vertically, don’t set it so people read from bottom to top. This is unnatural. I have no idea why this keeps happening on signs around campus, but I really, really wish it would stop.

While the colors used are our official colors, the typeface isn’t. It’s not even close and the university just put out a new branding book with explicit typefaces that should be used. The largest text looks like it was set with Tekton Pro, or something similar. While very friendly, it is not in the brand book.

Also, there is nothing quiet or restful about this sign. I know it is made to grab attention, but where do you start reading? What’s most important? Why is it this shape? Why can’t I read the URL easily? There’s so many questions about how this was designed (and how it got approved when it is in conflict with the branding guidelines). But this does show what not to do with your library signs.

Bright, warm colors, like red, are great at capturing attention, but you need to make sure that your signs are always easy to read. So don’t set type reading the wrong direction and make sure whatever form your sign will take that it is appropriate for the venue and context.

Unlike the signs on campus, I saw this sign while waiting for the SF Center for the Book to open last weekend for a workshop.

San Francisco Center for the Book billboard saying, Teching people to make books by hand since 1996.It is the opposite of the other sign. It is eye-catching, in a good way, while still managing to be quiet and restful visually. The orange text stands out, is easy-to-read and bold. Nothing is aligned to center just because someone couldn’t think of anything else to do.

The images are clear, aligned beautiful and provide the context and historical connections between SF Center for the Book and their mission: teaching the art of the book through their many workshops, classes, and exhibits. This is great sign design. Strive for this in your library’s signs and visual communications.

Quiet doesn’t mean boring design. It means deliberate and thoughtful. It means taking your time to determine what is essential to convey rather than yelling everything you can think of to get attention. How can you use the concept of quiet in your next design project at your library?

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, full of time to create and to relax. I’ll be back next week with more news and notes. Allons-y!