Designing for a Difference

Black Lives Matter graphic

Hello, dear readers. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling weary and angry and tired and most everything else that isn’t joyful now. I can’t believe we still have people who argue when we say, Black Lives Matter. Not only do we have to continue to deal with the pandemic, we are now seeing (again) the brutality of the police not only murdering George Floyd (and so many others) but also reigning down violence against peaceful protesters. For those who throw their hands up in the air and ask how this can be happening or blame those in the streets who are protesting, I feel like shaking them and saying how can you not see the structural, institutional racism that permeates everything in our society? How can you be shocked? How can you blame the protesters and not those in power who perpetuate the injustice that keeps them safely in power?

And how can we, who have relative privilege help combat these injustices and fight against white supremacy? And what, dear readers, you may be wondering does any of this have to do with design and libraries?

We have an obligation, as those who work in libraries, to ensure the safety (physical, emotional, and mental) of all our patrons. We have the obligation to call out injustice and we have the means to affect some change. Perhaps only on a small scale, perhaps only in our libraries, but together we can amplify others’ voices who know so much more (for example, Layla F. Saad and Ibram X. Kendi, to only name two) and we can contribute our share to making the world a more just and equitable place.

If you need some place to start, check out 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice. And, yes, I specifically picked this link because, as we know, the library profession is still overwhelmingly white. There is so much we can do to support our BIPOC siblings and fight against white supremacy and there are so many resources online to help (I trust librarians to be able to find them so I’m not listing a ton here.)

And, as librarian graphic designers, we can help by doing what we do best: designing. We can design posters, social media graphics, flyers, handouts, websites, whatever you can think of that bring awareness and hopefully change. We can give freely of our skills to organizations and groups that are fighting the good fight. And we can make sure to use our design skills to be part of the hard work of fighting injustice and not part of the problem by remaining silent.

The Black Lives Matter graphic at the beginning of this post is formatted for sharing. Feel free to remix it, add it to a handout, a flyer, whatever you are doing to raise awareness and solidarity. Find other artists who are creating amazing protest art that speaks to you and share it (with their permission, of course). Monyee Chau’s work speaks to me as a mixed race woman and I love the updating of the much older, “Yellow Peril Supports Black Power,” protest sign.

Remember that design and graphic design are about solving problems. We face huge problems now. So let’s use our skills, talents, hearts, and minds (and wallets, when we can) to help where we can.

Thank you, as always, for reading, dear readers. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y, friends!

 

Friday Design: Two-for-One Designs

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well. I hope that you have something lovely and relaxing to look forward to this weekend. This has been quite a week as we are finishing up the end of the spring semester and I feel like every meeting I’ve been in has spawned two other meetings and a bunch of new work that needs to be done by the end of the month. And, I don’t presume to speak for you, but I’m not sure I have the brain space for much more work.

But there is more work, and more designing to do, so I wanted to share one of my favorite hacks for speeding up my graphic design work for Instagram. Yes, as I’ve said before, much of my design work currently revolves around Instagram as it is the social media channel used by departments and student organizations at my university. It’s been a challenge and sometimes quite fun and it has been having an impact on visibility for the library with our students, which is great.

But I still have the same time constraints I had when all this started, so I’m always looking for ways to create great designs that can be used in multiple ways and I love getting 2-in-1 designs out of Instagram posts and accompanying stories.

As those of you who use Instagram know, the graphics for posts are square (an interesting design constraint) while the Instagram Stories are rectangular. Both are useful for pushing/marketing content for the library. And while you can simply use the built-in editing and designing tools in Instagram to convert one of your posts into a story, you get a lot more control using a standalone graphic design program.

I’ve been using Adobe Spark a lot and love the ability to convert the size of a design with one click, which is what I’ve been doing to create the posts and stories for my library’s Instagram feed. Below is an example of a post and story I did for this week, our final exams week.

Instagram Post:

example of Instagram post for library helping with papers and projects

Instagram Story:

example of Instagram story for library helping with papers and projects

Creating both in Adobe Spark allows for more control over the design and to keep the look and feel of the design the same for both.

So, what’s the takeaway?

Figure out how you can use your design in multiple ways, even if you aren’t creating a template out of it. It’s not lazy; it’s smart. We still need to create great designs for our libraries, but we also need to be kind to ourselves so we aren’t designing at all hours of the day and night.

I hope this provides some inspiration and that you are able to continue to use your skills to help your library create great designs. I wish you a relaxing and safe weekend. Keep being kind, keep helping others, and keep showing the world how great librarian graphic design can be.

I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y, friends!

Friday Design: Thank you ALLA!

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that today finds you and your family safe and healthy and looking forward to some small (or big) thing that is fun and relaxing this weekend. Today I want to take the time to say thank you,  publicly, to ALLA and remind us all of one of the best ways we can create better graphic design in libraries.

But what, you may be wondering is ALLA? ALLA is the Australian Law Librarians’ Association. I was honored and thrilled to present a webinar, Graphic Design 101 for Librarians, for the association this week. It was amazing to have so many people attend, especially during this uncertain and stressful time, and want to learn about graphic design and applying it to their work.

It was also almost miraculous that the Internet/wifi held strong through the entire presentation (I was worried as we’ve been having spotty connection issues at my house this last week). And the ALLA organizers did such a fantastic job that it was a pleasure. It can be really weird to deliver an entire presentation in a room all by yourself without the immediate feedback from an audience, but the feedback I’ve received after has been positive and I’m looking forward to the next time I’m able to do a similar webinar for my librarian colleagues.

This brings us to one of the best ways we can all create better graphic design in libraries: share our knowledge! Everything is new for someone, and this includes graphic design principles. If you have been studying and creating graphic design in your library, share your tips with colleagues. If you’ve found a great royalty-free site for images or icons or videos, let others know. If you’ve figured out a great way to streamline the design workflow, show your teammates.

Teaching through sharing is how we can ensure that more of our colleagues understand graphic design and can apply it to their work in libraries. This is how we will finally be able to say, someday, that we can think of more well-designed examples of graphic design in libraries than poor ones. And how we can get to more good than bad and ugly.

And, in the spirit of sharing, here’s a link to the handout I shared with ALLA. I hope it provides some inspiration and opportunities to further your graphic design work, too.

I wish you a wonderful day and rejuvenating weekend. May you stay safe, healthy, and find moments of peace and joy. Take care and I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y, friends!

Friday Design: Embracing Design Shortcuts

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you and your family are staying healthy and well. It has been a strange and hard time for everyone. Some days, I feel it is an accomplishment just to get through the day and let’s not even talk about people who are claiming to be more productive than ever.

I’m not one them. I have a toddler and very few hours in the day where I can focus solely on work. If you feel your life is like that, too, or your focus is simply not what it was (I feel you and give you a virtual hug), this post is for you on some design shortcuts I’ve been using to get the work done in a professional manner in the time I have now.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’m not a fan of out-of-the-box templates for designing. But I am a fan of templates you create for your library that can then serve to brand your services and resources. And that’s the big design shortcut of this entire, emergency remote working situation: creating templates for the library’s marketing needs.

My library already was providing a lot of online services and resources, as almost all libraries do, but with the campus closure we needed to up our online marketing and promotions fast as there was no way for students to come into the library to see are signs or pass our sandwich board advertising the next workshop in the library.

Thankfully we’d just started an Instagram account, which is a popular social media platform at my campus for the departments, clubs, organizations, and individual students, faculty, and staff to get their news. And that has meant that my design load has gone up as every online workshop, every online change needs to be communicated via our Instagram and every post needs a visual.

So I quickly designed the library workshop visuals and decided that they needed visual branding so that when you see one of our workshop posts, you’ll know it is a library workshop from the aesthetic. I kept it simple and clear so it was 1) easy to update and 2) easy to read. Here’s some examples to show you our posts for online library workshops

Instagram post for a drop-in citation workshop showing the use of a template

 

Instagram post for a technology workshop showing the use of a template

While these two visuals look similar, they are still distinct with different color palettes and icons used. But they have the same visual feel, so it is easy to tell they are posts for workshops from the library. I create a flat design, without photographs for the workshops and include the same date, time, Zoom information on each at the bottom. The icons reinforce the topic of the workshops and the typography is simple and clear.

Now that I have these templates, I can more easily and quickly update them for upcoming workshops (good since we have at least 4 a week). I’m also creating visual branding that we can continue for our workshop promotion into the future.

Since we are all short on time and attention, use some design shortcuts to make your graphic design work a little easier. You’ll be able to create the projects you need to for your library without wanting to pull out your hair.

Take care and stay safe. I’ll try to be back soon with more news and notes about how we can continue to do our design work during this pandemic. I wish you and your families all the best. Allons-y, my friends!

Friday Design: How Graphic Design Can Help with Pivots to Online-Only Library Services

Happy Friday, dear readers! Has it been quite the week where you are? It definitely has here. I hope that you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy, you are helping others when you can, and you are remembering to take a moment of quiet for yourself. Our daily lives have changed so rapidly over the last couple of weeks that it is hard to catch a breath.

We’re coming up to our second week of shelter-in-place orders and it has been rough at times. I’m continually thankful for what we have and trying to help out others who aren’t as fortunate. I’m also trying to remain calm after the week of running around (figuratively) with my colleague trying to get our online services and resources updated and changes communicated to all our users.

Today, as on most Fridays, I want to share a bit about graphic design. This time, I want to talk about how using your graphic design skills are so important now in a time of rapid change. I’ve been creating multiple graphics a day to share online as my library is still providing every service and resource we can online, including our weekly workshop series, research support, and chat reference services, along with tutoring and access to all our online materials. Even in times like these when it is important to communicate rapidly, we still need to take the time to ensure we follow good graphic design principles so our messages are clear and understandable.

Thanks to one of our Peer Research Guides, my library set up an Instagram account about a week before we moved to completely online classes and then shelter-in-place. (You can see our account at csueb_library.) It was fortuitous timing as Instagram is heavily used by multiple departments and student groups at the university and students use it to figure out what is happening on campus (or now, what’s happening online). It’s been a learning curve for me, but a great way for us to communicate with students.

To that end, I’ve been creating multiple graphics each day in Adobe Spark to post to Instagram. This isn’t the time to create complex, bespoke graphics. This is the time to create clean, easy-to-understand graphics that immediately tell our users what the library is doing to help them. Here are two I posted last week:

image of clock with overlay that reads, no late fees charged on library materials or laptops during campus closure This graphic uses the classic (and easy) trick of overlaying a semi-transparent ribbon in matching color over a relevant photo to make the text easily readable. This was an important message to get to our students as multiple students had come on chat worried about getting charged late fees when they couldn’t return their materials to our closed library.

graphic that says, the library is here to help with 24/7 chatEven before we went to online-only services and classes, many students were unaware of our chat service. This was improved some by our intrusive chat coded on more pages of the library’s website before the campus closure. However, it is even more important students know they can get chat help now that we are online only. This graphic is also very simple, uses a coordinated color scheme, and gets the message across quickly and clearly.

What can you take away from these examples?

  • Find the simplest, clearest way to state your message when posting online, especially to social media.
  • Focus on only one service or resource at a time in your graphic (you can always add more details in a caption/text).
  • Needing graphics fast does not mean you have to sacrifice your graphic design best practices; these are even more important to use to ensure clarity in your work.
  • Even if it is old news to you, it is new for someone else. This is the time to market your services and resources that can help your library users.

I hope these examples inspire you to keep doing the good graphic design work that you do in support of your library users. Remember, clarity and communication are key to graphic design. Keep up the good work and remember to look away from your screen to give your eyes a break every once in a while.

Take care, be kind, and keep on designing! I’ll be back soon with more news, notes, and inspiration as we make our way through this time together. Allons-y, friends!

Friday Design: Women’s History Month Book Display Sign

Happy Friday, dear readers! It’s been quite a week, hasn’t it? I hope you are keeping healthy and safe. Remember to keep washing those hands and not touching your face (easier said than done, right?). My university has suspended in-person classes this week, but the library is still open so work goes on. It is a weird state to be in, but I find working on my graphic design work allows me to find a state of flow and step back from the constant news cycle for a minute, which is so important. So today I want to share with you the sign I created for our Women’s History Month Book Display that is curated by two of my colleagues.

letter-sized poster for library book display, Our Bodies: Women's History Awareness Month

This sign (or mini-poster) was created entirely in Adobe Spark, which has become my go-to for creating graphics when I don’t have a lot of time [aka only 20 minutes or so to create something before running off to another meeting]. I never like using the templates or layouts without customizing them, but I do appreciate having the stock photo searching integrated in and have figured out how to fuss around with the copy much faster than before.

But what about this sign did I really want to talk about?

Well, I could talk about using justifying type and matching colors and the importance of layout and odd numbers to move the eye. Or the importance of readability and having all the elements of a design enhance the central message. But I’ve talked about that before (and I’ll talk more about that again). Today, though, I want to talk about something else.

I want to talk about the importance of representation. I’ve thought about this a lot in the last few weeks for a number of reasons, not least of which is that my university is incredibly diverse and I want everyone to feel at home and see themselves in the library. So for this sign it was important to me to showcase diverse women intentionally and not as an afterthought.

And it was a bit difficult to find photos that didn’t recreate stereotypes about women generally and women of color specifically. But it wasn’t as hard as I feared, which shows some movement in the right direction. But we can all do better and be more intentional about representation in our libraries in all that we do. And a big part of that is in our designs, which we have substantial control over.

Representation is important. It’s something we have to be mindful of and intentional about. And that’s part of the overall ethos of design, too. We should be mindful and intentional about what we design and the effects our designs can have on others.

I never saw myself represented as a mixed race person in the library when I was growing up and I don’t want that for others who are growing up now. If I can do my small part to change that, by wielding my graphic design skills, then I will count that in the column of good for the library and for my small portion of the world.

I hope you, too, find ways to wield your graphic design talents and skills to represent everyone in your community through your work.

Stay healthy, stay safe, help others, and I hope you have a relaxing weekend. I’ll be back again soon with more news and notes about designs. Thanks for reading. Allons-y, friends!

 

Friday Design: Infographic Handout

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope this first week of March has been kind to you, that you are staying healthy and not panicking, and finding time to create things that inspire you. Today I want to share an infographic handout I recently created and some takeaways that may help you with your next infographic project.

I am lucky to be co-teaching an information literacy class this semester with colleagues and our focus is on science communication. The class has been a blast so far, the students are engaged and the discussions have been great. Their final project is to create an infographic. Since modeling can be a very useful teaching tool, I thought why not create an infographic explaining what the students need to do to create their final project? Below is the resulting infographic.

Infographic providing directions on how to create an infographic for a final research project

So what are the takeaways for us as librarian graphic designers?

Have fun! It is easy to forget this, but so important to remember when designing. Our designs are important and often on serious topics, but when we can we should have fun and our designs can reflect this. The point of this infographic was to share the directions, timeline, and basic grading information to our students as well as model how an infographic can look and work. It needs to be friendly and clear so we don’t intimidate students who have never created infographics before and aren’t familiar with the form.

Consistency and Clear Hierarchy are Key: Consistency and information hierarchy are key in communicating clearly, which is the goal of this infographic. By clearly noting the starting point, using arrows (notice the arrow icons are reused throughout the graphic), and using simple directions, the reader can follow along easily and understand what they need to do to complete their infographic. While we often think of information hierarchy with using headings and titles/subtitles, we can also create it in a path-like structure as seen here as long as we have clear wayfinding points (the arrows) and discrete blocks of information.

I chose icons that shared characteristics (simple outlines, no changes in line width) to maintain consistency.  I also used the same two fonts throughout the infographic to maintain consistency and ease of reading. These fonts share characteristics with the icons that allow them to work well together.

The footer is set off from the main infographic with a darker shade of blue and contains credit information for the information and icons. Footers are a great way to communicate necessary information without drawing attention away from the main infographic. You can see this in many infographics, including those from Daily Infographic (I like checking out the infographics for inspiration).

I hope these quick tips are useful for creating your next infographic. There are so many free and low cost tools available now to create infographics that can be fun to use. Remember, too, that you can always create your own from scratch, too, using an application like Microsoft Publisher, InDesign, or Scribus. Have fun!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of relaxation and inspiration! I’ll be back soon with more graphic design news and notes from the library. Allons-y, friends!

Friday Design: Fun Busy Bag Sign

Happy Friday, dear readers! I find it hard to believe we are at the end of another month. The year is truly flying by. Today I want to take a few minutes to talk about signage, specifically for one of the new pilots at my library: busy bags!

For those who aren’t familiar with busy bags, they are small bags filled with toys, games, and books for children to keep them busy while their caretakers are working, attending meetings, etc. In the library, busy bags can allow students to study while the children they are caring for are happy playing with educational (and quiet) toys and looking through books. It’s part of a series of pilots we are doing to make the library more usable for all our students.

And, because busy bags are for children and they are fun, designing a sign explaining what they are and who they are for is fun, too!

Below is the letter-sized sign I created to explain our busy bags to users of our library.

A few things to note that you can use when designing similar signage.

Consistent use of fonts and color schemes : We used the same fonts and color scheme/photo across all our materials for the busy bags. The same title font, Snap ITC, with a rainbow gradient overlay was used for all titles/headings on the sign, checkout sheet, feedback forms, and busy bag tags. The body copy font, Ink Free, was also used consistently on all our busy bag materials.

The color scheme comes from the rainbow colored pencils photo that was used as a background for many of our materials. It is a royalty-free stock photo and was the inspiration for the rainbow gradient overlay for the title/headings.

Both the fonts and colors are fun and friendly and bright: all things we associate with children. This was the time for a bit of whimsy, which is a fun change from a lot of the more serious designs I do for reports and such. 🙂

Branding: All our signage has our library logo on it so users know it is from the library and is a way for us to maintain consistency in our branding.

Consistent alignment and fun tone: Because this sign has more text than most signs, it is left aligned to make it easy to read. We also made the directions as simple and friendly as possible to invite people to use our busy bags.

Remember, everything in a design should support the message. Our message here is: you are welcome, the children you are providing care for are welcome, and please use our busy bags!

All this comes together for a fun and friendly sign! And people have been using the busy bags, which is the most important part. 🙂

Hopefully this gives you some inspiration for the next time you need to design a sign that provides directions while promoting a service or resource. Remember to have fun, remember your audience, and remember that the best signs make things easier to use and hopefully have people coming back to use our services and resources again.

I hope you have a lovely weekend filled with joy and fun. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes about design. Allons-y, friends!

 

Friday Design: Blind Date with a Book

Happy Friday, dear readers, and Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you have a lovely day and get some chocolate, if you like it, and have something fun planned for the weekend. Today, fittingly, I want to talk about a Valentine’s Day tradition at my library and many others, Blind Date with a Book.

Blind Date with a Book is a fun event where we wrap books and place book blurbs in hearts on their covers so people can check out a “blind date” and give a book a chance before judging by its cover. This is the third year we’ve been doing the event and it seems to get more popular every year. We’re already almost out of books!

So what does this have to do with design?

As with any book display, you need to have a sign to let people know what’s up. (I like to call them mini-posters because that just sounds more fun for designing.) While some people may remember the event from last year, for many people it is their first time seeing the display so clarity in how to participate in Blind Date with a Book is essential.

We had to update our instructions this year because we’re putting the review slip in the books and the mini-poster below is the result.

flyer for Blind Date with a Book event

Simple, on-theme, and clear, this design will draw people’s eyes and also make it easy for them to figure out what all the wrapped books are about. I created it using both Adobe Spark and Photoshop, but you could could use whatever design program you like best including Publisher and Gimp.

Because this event only runs for 2 weeks, putting hours of effort into the mini-poster is not possible. Instead I found a stock photo that I liked and decided to use a color ribbon over it so the text is easy to read. It’s a graphic design trick that’s used often because it works so well for so many design needs. I pulled the pink color from the stock photo, changed the opacity so the photo could still be seen and laid the type over in a center alignment as there isn’t a lot of text and many romantic things (think wedding invitations, engagement announcements, etc.) often use center alignment.

I used the same pink color for the solid block of color at the top where I have the title. I used the font, Timberline, for the title because it looks handwritten and romantic and has the brush-lettering feeling that is having a moment right now. I used Gabriola for the instruction text as it has some rhythm to the flow of the letters and is also slightly romantic.

A finishing touch of adding drop shadows to the color ribbon overlay and the photo gave a bit of subtle depth before it was off to print.

This mini-sign’s layout can be adapted for other projects and the colored ribbon is a great design trick to remember when you want to overlay text on top of an image.

I hope this example helps and provides some inspiration for your next design project.

Have a lovely weekend and I’ll be back soon with another design example and tips. Allons-y, friends!

Friday Design: Simple Workshop Flyer

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope the week has treated you well and you have something wonderful to look forward to this weekend. I am looking forward to a nap and perhaps some time to practice my calligraphy. But before we get to the weekend, it is time for a bit of Friday Design. Today, I want to share a simple-to-design workshop flyer that you can easily adapt.

At my library, we run a research workshop series every term. And we are always looking for new ways to promote and market our workshop series. Luckily, we have a student assistant with amazing lettering skills who hand-letters a sandwich board sign for us each week (more on that in another post). But we also need ways of advertising that make it easy for instructors to share the information with their students and for us to print and post around the library and share at service desks.

To that end, I created the simple flyer you see below and am going to walk you through some key points that you can use to quickly create and easily convey information to your library users.

simple workshop flyer, design elements discussed in blog post text

First things, first: it’s in black and white. Being mindful of your budget is always important and being able to print in black and white is super helpful to keep costs low and administrators happy. If you can print in color, great. But if not, you can still create a great flyer that is eye-catching.

The key to arranging a lot of information (an entire semester’s worth of workshops) onto one letter-sized flyer is alignment. The alignment used here is simple and consistent and I’ve shown this design trick before. All the information is aligned as you see credits in movies. The information on the left side (Months and Dates) is right aligned, while the information on the right side (workshop names) is left aligned against a center guideline with a small amount of padding to separate the information and make it legible. Notice that the title of the workshop series is even aligned to this guideline. Remember, consistency is key for alignment looking professional and eye-catching.

Time, place, and more information, including a link to our events calendar, are all aligned in the same way. This consistency makes it easy for library users to find the information they need about our workshops.

I used three icons on the bottom to illustrate concepts from our workshops and found these icons on one of my favorite icon sites, https://www.flaticon.com/. There is a great selection to use and many can be used, with attribution, for free.

Finally, I added our library logo to the bottom right corner of the page. This brands the flyer and let’s users know it is from our library. Having the logo in the bottom right corner also makes it the last thing most users see when they read the flyer as our eyes naturally end in this corner (just think of reading from left to right and top to bottom in English).

From start to finish, the flyer took about 30 minutes to create. This type of flyer can be easily made in Microsoft Publisher or Adobe InDesign. And the basic format of hanging the information off a central guideline like movie credits can be repurposed for many different designs. It’s great for informational brochures, bookmarks, and handouts, too.

I hope this flyer has sparked some inspiration for you to go and create some simple and useful flyers for your library. Let me know what you’ve created; I’d love to see it.

Hope you have a lovely weekend, full of inspiration, relaxation, and joy. I’ll be back soon with more design tips. Allons-y, friends!