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!

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!