OMG! It’s 2020 and Design Time!

Happy Friday, dear readers! Can you believe we are almost finished with the first month of 2020?! I can’t. I can’t believe how fast time is flying by, how much I want to accomplish this year, and how often I already feel behind, which is just not a lovely place to be.

And, I know, I know, this blog has been on radio silence for a while.

I want that to change this year.

I’ll also let you in on a little secret as to part of why I’ve been silent on this blog for a while: It feels like no one cares about what I care about in libraries.

It’s not that design isn’t talked about all the time, especially design thinking. And that’s great, but my passion is about on-the-ground, every day creating great graphic design to communicate with our communities and with each other as part of the library ecosystem. And it often seems that very few people care about learning about graphic design, implementing even the smallest changes that can have such a big impact, and seeing it as part of what we do and how we show we care.

And that’s hard.

I’ve done research, written a book, spoken about it, written on this blog so much and it doesn’t seem to make a difference.  At times it feels like no one wants to stop and think about design, people just want to slap something in a template and move on without any desire to customize it for their particular context at all. And that makes me sad and frustrated and wondering why I keep doing this work.

But then I remember that it’s important. It’s important to show up and show that I care through what I create. That what I create reflects on my library and my colleagues and I always want that to be positive, professional, and welcoming. That it’s important even if it is a slog most of the time.

It’s a new year and if you ask anyone who knows me, I’m pretty stubborn (or tenacious, depending on how generous the person is who is describing my personality), so I’m back, again, to share with whoever cares the little design things we can do to make our libraries better for everyone.

And I remind myself, everything is new for someone. My daughter reminds me that constantly and also reminds me that clarity is key and kind to learning. That making a difference to one person is sometimes enough. That you never know who you will touch and who will remember years later.

So to that end, look for short design ideas and tips on Fridays. My commitment to those of us who still want to learn about design and apply it to our libraries.

This week, just wanted to show that even when you use a template, you can take the time to customize it, brand it, and make it work for your library.

flyer that says Popular Reading with images of books

The above sign was made with Adobe Spark, but customized by coloring the text to match the dark background on the middle image (along with changing the default font, font size, and alignment) and playing around with the scale of the images to create a striking sign for our Popular Reading Collection. The goal was to make it easy to locate our newly configured Popular Reading Collection, along with inviting readers in with inviting and intriguing images. Templates are fine, but they’re always better customized and it doesn’t take more than a few minutes.

I hope you feel refreshed and inspired this year. We have another 11 months to make great things and to do it in service of others. So let’s go forth, even if it seems like we are designing and shouting in a void. Because it isn’t a void if there is one other person who cares. I do and I hope you still do to.

Allons-y, friends!

Friday Design: Little Things Matter

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that the week has been kind, you’ve been able to create lovely things, and you have a wonderful weekend in front of you. This week has been busy (when is it not?) and I’m looking forward to seeing some family and taking some naps this weekend. But first, I want to share a piece of advice that I’m sure you’ve heard before: little things matter.

Little things matter, whether we are talking about design, work, friendship, or life. Saying hello, remembering to ask after a coworker’s family, sharing a treat, or taking care even with ephemeral things. Little things matter. For today’s design advice, I’m talking about the little things of matching colors.

We’re coming to the end of Banned Books Week and although we didn’t have time to put together a big display, I still wanted to have something up in the library by our Popular Reading Collection to remind students about the continued attempts to ban books from libraries. Luckily I had buttons already made, but need to make a couple of mini-posters to supplement the great information from ALA’s website.

I created and printed the simple, but eye-catching mini-poster below and was ready to install it when I noticed something wrong. Do you see it?

banned books week flyer showing color of text not matching rest of flyer

The text was a dark navy versus black. I quickly changed it to black so it would match and reprinted the mini-poster below.

banned books flyer with text matching color of icon on flyer

In this case, the little thing that mattered was ensuring I kept a consistent color scheme for the mini-poster. Would anyone have noticed the difference in color? Perhaps not consciously, but subconsciously they’d feel that something was not quite right. Making this change makes the mini-poster more polished and professional, which is what I hope we all want our libraries’ communications to be.

So next time you are designing, take a moment to pause and review your work with a critical and caring eye to ensure you have the little things right. Oh, and always support the freedom to read.

I’ll be back with more news and notes. Until then, have a lovely week. Allons-y!

Friday Design: Clear is Kind in Design

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope the end of summer is treating you well and you are still enjoying long days and pleasant nights as my favorite gunslinger would say (high five if you get the reference and hugs even if you don’t). We’re in the midst of the chaos that seems to hit every year right before the academic year starts and every year it makes me wonder why we continue to do things that set ourselves up for this every year. This has especially come home to me this year as I just finished a re-read of Brene Brown’s, Dare to Lead.

If you haven’t read it, you should. Everyone should. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a leader, and maybe especially then. You can find out more about the book and her work on her Dare to Lead Hub.

So what does this have to do with design and libraries?

I was struck again by her discussion about boundaries and accountability and communication, especially this line, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” It’s true in leadership and teamwork and it’s true in design.

How often have you been given a handout where you can’t make heads nor tails of what’s most important, who to contact for more information, or even the point of it? How many times have you walked into a new building and been completely stumped as to where to go to find the elevator or restroom or even a directory? How many times have you just wanted to find the dang customer service phone number on a webpage and had to search through the whole website (or worse, have to go to a search engine to find it)?

Unclear design is unhelpful, frustrating, and useless. Graphic design, and design in general, is here to solve problems and make life better not worse. And it can help us communicate more clearly and bring us together if done well.

So what does this have to do with what I’ve been working on lately?

We have a really confusing library building. The hiring committee lost me in the building when I was interviewing, no joke, so you know it is confusing. And we don’t have great wayfinding and we had a self-guided tour, but it was orphaned (no one knew who was responsible for it and so no one wanted to step on someone else’s toes to do something about it). Unclear is unkind on so many levels.

So what changed?

A happenstance comment from me at a meeting to a colleague who had rewritten part of the copy and wanted to see it used. A check with our web designer to make sure she wasn’t working on it (duplicated effort is a waste). Then two days of furious editing and writing copy, copy & pasting, and revising library maps to create a mobile-friendly self-guided tour to hopefully help our confused students figure out the way around their library.

You can see the updated tour here: http://library.csueastbay.edu/library-tour. It’s simple, clear, and I hope will help our students (and everyone else) find their way around our building. Yes, it has more than just a tour because “clear is kind” and our library jargon is not nor is our wayfinding.

So as you finish up your last minute summer projects and prepare for the fall and meetings and new design projects, keep Dr. Brown’s words in mind: “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”

Here’s to a kind, well-designed, and wonderful end of the summer and start of fall.

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

 

Friday Design: Signage Matters

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you had a wonderful week and have a lovely weekend planned. For today’s design chat, I want to talk a bit about signage. Signage can be polarizing in a library (I know some people who seem to be anti all signage, but that’s a discussion for another day) and it can be done very poorly. But signage, good signage, has the potential to be useful and to show that the library cares. And don’t we all want that in our libraries?

I have a love-hate relationship with signage in my library. We have some great signage, we have some bad signage, and we have a confusing building that could definitely use some more wayfinding help. But what gets to me sometimes is not the really bad signage (that is a given), but the indifferent signage. I’d almost prefer something to be really bad than to feel indifferent.

Why?

Because at least really bad signage took some thought. Indifferent signage is just that, indifferent. Like no one could be bothered to put any effort into a sign at all. I’m sure that wasn’t the intent by anyone who created the signage, but it doesn’t showcase the caring that we want to convey in the library. So, of course, that means time for some guerrilla signage change.

This is the original sign that caught my eye, but not in a good way:

sign that reads priority use for disabled patrons

Signage can become part of the background, the visual furniture, that it takes conscience focusing for us to really see it. I noticed this because I’ve been on a spree getting all our flyers and brochures to be professionally displayed at our service desk and couldn’t handle this being left alone.

So I did a quick search for the Accessible Icon Project to download their logo and set some new copy in a font that works with the icon, printed it out, and installed a new sign:

new sign that reads priority use for patrons with disabilities

Thought, caring, signage that works. All in a day’s work for librarians who love design and love making our spaces accessible and inclusive to all.

So what signage is hanging around your library that you don’t even see  any more? What needs to be changed? And what can you do about it?

Happy designing and have a lovely weekend. I’ll be back soon with more design news and notes. Allons-y!

 

Friday Design: Semi-Homemade Designs

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you had a lovely 4th of July holiday for those of you in the United States. I hope your Friday is quiet and relaxing, whether you are at work, at play, or at home. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about semi-homemade designs and how you can get custom work from templates (yes, *gasp* templates!).

I don’t know about you, but when the Food Network used to have more cooking shows than competition shows, I used to watch the show, Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee. (There appears to even be some episodes streaming if you want to check it out.) I always found Lee’s show to be an accessible and practical take on cooking. In a world that often seems to say you should either make everything from scratch or don’t even bother, it was nice to see a balanced approach and even an acknowledgement of how busy life is and how we are all doing the best we can. And, how even if you don’t have 6 hours to devote to cooking and baking a huge meal, you can (and should) celebrate with family and friends.

So what does this have to do with graphic design and libraries?

We, too, can embrace the semi-homemade philosophy in terms of our marketing and design work. With a cup of creativity and a dash of DIY, we can reuse and remake templates as starting off bases for our designs so they reflect our libraries’ unique characteristics and still leave time for us to get all of our work done.

As you, dear readers, know, I’m a huge proponent and fan of making designs from scratch. The blank canvas (or screen) is our friend and splashing our own images and graphics is amazing and rewarding. BUT, it’s also time-consuming and often overkill for what we need our designs to accomplish.

Totally original, from scratch design for branding your library? YES! Of course! 100%! Don’t use a template!

Remix a template and give it some of your own flare for event flyers, handouts, and other ephemera for your library that you need to churn out like an industrial kitchen? YES! Totally! With you in the design trenches of the library wherever thinks creating an awesome flyer takes 30 seconds and your promotion list of designs that needed to be done yesterday just keeps growing.

So, yeah. Take advantage of riffing off others’ work and customizing templates when you need to and make some semi-homemade stuff.

Want examples? I’ve got examples.

I’ve been back just over two months at my library after leave and I have so many design and promotional projects that it is almost too much. My saving grace? I’ve been using Adobe Spark like it’s graphic design’s new Instant Pot that can make almost any ephemeral graphic I need! Of course, like with all templates, I chaff at not being able to customize everything I want, but it’s totally good enough for things like event flyers:

save the date open house card

Customized with a different font and change up of colors (I appreciate the eye dropper tool that allows me to coordinate text and background colors with the images I’m using).

Also things like website banners for LibGuides that were needed yesterday:

library workshops banner

Am I still designing graphics that are completely custom and homemade? Of course. I just refreshed our library logo, but that is something that isn’t made to be ephemeral and should be custom as it is part of our branding:

University Libraries, Heart of the Campus logo

So as you work through your mountain of design work, remember that, like Sandra Lee, semi-homemade can be your friend. Just make sure you also customize parts of it so all your designs still standout and work with your library’s identity.  Whether you use Adobe Spark, Canva, or something else, always put your own designer’s touch to your work and have some fun. It is summer, after all.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, full of relaxation, creativity, and fun. I’ll be back soon with more design notes and news. Allons-y!

Friday Design: Library Swag

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a good week and have a lovely weekend planned. Today, let’s talk a bit about library swag. Whether you love or hate getting it, swag is ubiquitous at conferences, workshops, and events. Libraries have long created and provided swag as part of our outreach and promotional efforts and we’ve probably all seen good, bad, and downright ugly swag.

I love good swag. What do I mean by good? If swag is well-designed and useful to me, I love it. Clever and unique swag might draw me in, but if it isn’t well-designed and it has no use for me, I don’t find it great. So how do we create great swag that won’t end up cluttering someone’s dorm room or office and instead gets used and loved?

The way we do everything: with thoughtful design.

Swag doesn’t have to cost a fortune to be well-designed and useful. Take the humble button. Button making supplies aren’t super-expensive and the presses can be reused for years with care so you just have to keep buying pin backs and covers as consumables. You can find lots of design inspiration online and buttons are fast to design because the canvas is so small. Think pithy, clever, and concise on buttons. This is a photo of some I created for our summer orientation events. You can get your library marketing in on the rim of the button (I added our library’s URL).

photograph of well-designed buttons that say, Read, Eat, Sleep, Repeat

Buttons are almost universally popular with our students. You can also use button-making as a library event as other libraries have done.

Small swag like buttons also encourage interaction at outreach events. They are small and if you have multiple designs, people like to read/look at them all before choosing. It’s a great time to have a short conversation, answer a question about the library, or plug an upcoming library event.

 

But swag, like grades, seems to be getting inflated over the years and departments often compete to have the coolest, most popular swag at events. From pop sockets to water bottles, T-shirts to sunglasses, the amount your library can spend on swag is truly astronomical.

If you are looking to up your swag game and have the budget for more expensive swag, make sure it’s something your target population wants (asking is always the way to do this) and make sure you can brand it with your library’s logo. It’s important for this type of swag to be useful and to provide a promotional push for your library. For example, we purchased power banks for an upcoming library event to use as prizes as you can see in the photo below.

photograph of power bank with library's logo on it

You can’t miss our branding on these power banks! Larger canvases are great for going large with your library’s logo and create striking promotional messages.

So I hope these two examples have given you some inspiration for swag in your library. Remember, you can always do right by creating simple, bold designs for your swag. Stand out with great design on a useful product and you’ve got a winning combination for your next piece of library swag.

See you back here with more design news and notes soon. Allons-y!

Friday Design: Timely Design

Hello, dear readers. I hope your week has been going well. We’ve had a bit of hot, hot weather so I’m hoping the next week give us a reprieve. But the design show must go on! Today I wanted to talk a bit about timely design and why it matters.

I was in my local Target the other day and saw this end-cap display:

photo showing timely, well-placed display that libraries can copy

I had to take a photo because this is what I’m talking about when I’m talking about timely design. It’s summer and who doesn’t want a tasty frozen treat during a heatwave? Everything you need is here, including gluten-free cones and an ice cream scoop! It’s perfect and was set up right by the frozen dessert aisle.

Timely, convenient, organized, well-marked. Great design, great promotion, and I bet it moved a lot of waffle cones, toppings, and ice cream, which was the entire point.

So what does this have to do with libraries and design?

Everything.

How often do you and your colleagues thing about timely design? About placing collections, service points, and signage right where people need them? Where it is convenient rather than where we’ve always had it?

How can you incorporate timely design into your library?

You can start small. Why not place some guidebooks and summer reads by a fabulously designed poster promoting free museum passes via the library’s Discover & Go program? People can find out more around the museums they go to and get a book to read on the bus or train or in the museum’s garden when they need a break.

Libraries do great book displays for various events such as Banned Books Week, Blind Date with a Book, heritage months, and more. These are timely, but how can you make them more compelling and timely? Use your creativity and your graphic design skills to showcase other linked resources that people might not know about. Banned Books and promotion of legal help via the lawyer in the library program. Test Prep book collection right by the reference desk with a huge arrow pointing towards the friendly-looking librarians for more help.

We often think long-term in the library and that is as it should be for the work we do with preservation of access to knowledge, sustainability of our funding, and building of relationships. But we also need to think about what we can do that is more ephemeral, but no less important, to get timely information, services, and resources in front of our patrons in ways that are appealing, well-designed, and fun. The two ways of doing and thinking can happily coexist and support each other.

So remember the importance of timely design and synergies the next time you have to design a new display, decide where to hang promotional materials, or move a collection.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get an ice cream cone. Allons-y!

Back by Design

header image that says back by design

Happy Friday! Can you believe it is almost June? I know it’s been quiet on this blog for awhile, but I won’t apologize since it’s due to the wonderful little person with the adorable hands below:

photo of baby hands

But now I’m back, as the title of this post says, and ready to get back into the work of design and libraries. So what does that mean for this blog?

Well, I’m going to be posting more often (and hopefully will remember to share some more stuff via Twitter, too). I’m working on a lot of events, promotions, and communications for my library so I’ll have plenty to share graphic design and communication wise here.

So get ready for thoughts, advice, and commentary on a wide range of design trends, projects, and things. Oh, and probably some sharing of articles, books, and such that I’m finding inspiring as I ramp back up into all things in the library world again.

So, thanks for being patient while this blog was on hiatus for a bit and welcome back to more news, notes, and library thoughts. It’ll soon feel like we’ve never left the conversation.

Allons-y!

Friday Design: Simple Handout Formatting

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has been gentle to you and you have a relaxing weekend ahead. I can hardly believe we are now three weeks into the semester and a week into September. The time really does fly. Today I wanted to share a quick project I was working on that will hopefully provide some inspiration for the next time you need to create a handout.

As I’ve said before, no project is too small for great design and it doesn’t take really any longer to create a great handout than a poorly designed handout, especially when you keep it simple. I was updating a handout I used in a previous term for a colleague and thought I’d share that today with you. Below is the first page of the handout:

image of the first page of a two column handout for evaluating sources

The handout is simple and clear with lots of resources that students can use after the workshop on evaluating information sources. The clarity comes from the consistent, two-column design that separates the title of the source from the URL and short description. This is easily set-up with two guidelines and a couple of textboxes in a program like Publisher or InDesign.

Notice that the left column is right aligned and the right column’s text is left aligned. This set-up is seen often in movie credits and allows for the information to interact with each other in a way that connects the titles with the additional information without being visually overwhelming.

One typeface, in multiple sizes and weights, is used throughout. This also lends to the simplicity of the design, plus it saves time from having to match typefaces. Keep the sizes and weights consistent for titles and body text to again make the handout clear.

Two icons from the same set are used to give some visual interest and these are also aligned to the guidelines, keeping the page’s structure consistent.

In all, a quick, clean, easy-to-reproduce handout for a workshop whose structure can be reused with minimal changes for a variety of handouts.

So, what are the takeaways?

  1. Keep things simple: 1 font, graphics from the same source, easy to align structure/guidelines
  2. Make the information the star of the handout: resources are key here and should be easy to find on the page
  3. Good design is possible with any canvas: handouts are often used, but overlooked canvases for great design. Make your handouts stand out in a good way to show that you care.

Hope that Friday design tip is useful for your next handout project.

Now, a bit of fun, in case you’ve missed the Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell essay in pictures on why we need libraries, you should go read it now. Really, it is wonderful.

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

Random Friday Fun

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you are well and this month has been a good one. It’s been a while since I’ve posted, for which I apologize. It has been quite the summer (more meetings than I care to recall and we started on the semester system which meant the quiet of summer was too short) and it is shaping up to be quite the fall, too. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t find inspiration for our work and our designs even in the midst of everything.

So today, I wanted to share a few things that have come across my desk (literally and figuratively) that might be fun and inspiring to you, too.

First, I’ve been taking some time to sort, discard, and clean up my office in those spare moments that are too short to dig into a new design project, but long enough to get something accomplished. You know how it is. And I have to say, what a difference it makes. Papers seem to multiple in filing cabinets and on desks, so it is great to get pared down again. I always think the beginning of a school year is a great time to do a bit of refresh, so if you are tied to an academic calendar, too, give it a try. It might just free up some space, literally and mentally.

Second, if you are in the Bay Area, I have to recommend going to SF Center for the Book for a class, to see an exhibit, or maybe even go to the upcoming Roadworks to re-energize your creativity. I’ve taken a number of classes at the center and always come away with new ideas to incorporate into my design work, even though I’ve yet to be called on to bind a book or use my letterpress to create something for the library. I do have some signatures that need binding at home, though, so maybe this weekend would be a good time to do it…

Third and finally, because it is Friday and we could all use a good laugh, a somewhat oldie, but definitely a goodie video, “New Spice: Study Like a Scholar, Scholar”.

I hope you have a wonderful day and rejuvenating weekend. I’ll be back with more news and notes soon (hopefully). Allons-y!