Friday Design Tip: Committing to Better Communication

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope this first week of the new year has been kind to you. And I hope you have something fun and relaxing to look forward to this weekend, even if it is just flipping through a magazine for a few minutes or finding a few extra moments to close your eyes. Today, I want to take this space to talk about better communication and why I hope we all commit to being better in all facets of our lives, but mainly how it relates to our work in libraries.

Communication is key. It is a trite, but still true, saying. And everything that involves more than one person involves some type of communication. In libraries, no matter how small or large, communication truly is key for us to accomplish our work, serve our communities, and ensure that we can continue to do what we do. This holds no matter whether we are doing all our communication remotely or in-person or some combination of the two.

This last year has shown us in so many ways, in so many arenas, how important clear, effective communication is to ensuring understanding, avoiding miscommunication, increasing community, decreasing loneliness and so much more. And as librarian graphic designers, we know that well-designed communications—in all their forms—have a much better chance of conveying their intended message to their intended audience than those without thought behind their design.

Good design matters whether we are talking about a blog post, a flyer, a handout, an agenda, or an email. And we can all improve our communications, if we commit to better communication this year.

So that’s what I’m hoping we’ll all commit to this year: being better communicators and encouraging our colleagues and our community members to be better communicators this year, too. We know the basics, we know how we like to be communicated with (and how we don’t), so let’s put this information into practice.

And yes, I know, that so much of modeling good communication comes from the top and that we each have only so much influence (and our spheres of influence are often much smaller than we’d like or want to admit), but we can still do something: we can improve our own communications.

We can commit to being clear, kind, and prompt. We can commit to not “reply-all” when it isn’t necessary. We can commit to creating accountability for ourselves and those we interact through our communications. We can commit to ensuring that we uphold our values in every communication, and apologize when we fail. We can commit to creating the best graphic designs we can when asked for our libraries and being clear on what we need as designers in terms of timelines, content, etc. so we can do our best work. We can commit to modeling how we want communication to look at our libraries and be explicit in what we mean by clear, kind, and prompt communication.

So let’s recommit to good communication (and be explicit in letting our colleagues know what we mean by good communication and ask what they need, then put this knowledge to action). Let it energize us as we move into this year as a way to move forward together and create the relationships we need to stay in community and work through all the hard stuff that is still on our collective plates. Let’s not put communication on the backburner as an afterthought, but put it where it has always needed to be: at the front and core of our work. We can do it together. I know we can.

I wish you a lovely, relaxing weekend, dear readers. If you need some design inspiration this weekend and love all things in print, check out Uppercase Magazine, a wonderful, quarterly print publication. Lovely to preview online, then support (if you can) through a subscription (it’s completely ad-free) to get inspiration away from the computer screen. The latest issue is all about stationery, which fills me with joy and makes me want to create all the handcrafted things and see what will land in my library designs. Until next time, allons-y, friends.

Saturday Design Tip: Get Your Digital Files in Order

Happy Saturday, dear readers! And happy Boxing Day to those who celebrate it, too! It’s the end of the year, a time when I always think about cleaning and organizing and visioning what I want to do and be in the new year. It’s such a hopeful time, I think (though, let’s be honest, I’m always thinking about what I can clean and organize. It’s just in my nature). So today, I want to share a thought about organizing for us library graphic designers: get your digital files in order!

Really, I know countless articles seem to have been written about getting your digital files in order, but that’s because it is important. When is the last time you’ve taken a few minutes to organize your files? I know I need to, so I’m taking some time this last week of the year to make sure my file names make sense (no file1 or version2), the files are in the correct folders, and the projects that I no longer need to reference weekly or even monthly are filed in my archives. (I highly believe in having a digital archives because there will be times when you need to reuse designs, like we discussed last week, and your files need to be accessible quickly for these times, too.)

There a countless different systems to use for organizing digital files, from offline to online, differing opinions on where and when to backup your files, what’s the best service to use, etc., but really, any system is only as good as what you commit to using consistently. And, I believe, any system should be simple. Also, if I had to give one piece of advice, as someone who not only creates a lot of files but has to go through other people’s files in my work as an archivist, it would be: create file names that make sense even after you are done with the project. Put a date in the file name (yes, I know file explorer will tell you the date, but it is just easier if it is in the name) and don’t make it difficult to read. Never call something Project 1 or Project 2, you’ll never remember it later. And commit to a folder system that makes sense to you.

If you need a bit of inspiration, I found Marie Kondo’s latest book, written with Scott Sonenshein, Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life (https://shop.konmari.com/collections/books/products/joy-at-work-organizing-your-professional-life) to be wonderful. I was worried that given this year has been a year of working at home that her latest book would not be useful, but I shouldn’t have worried. It was still relevant and inspirational and, although I don’t think I’ll be able to get my file numbers as lean as suggested in the book, it does provide inspiration for doing so. (In full disclosure, I loved Kondo’s first book and really do feel like her method was life-changing for getting our house in order before the chaos that is a baby came into it and will never not use her method for folding clothes again. And I love organizing, so it isn’t really surprising I found her latest book inspiring, too.)

So let’s start the new year with tidy digital files so we can spend more time designing and less time looking for misplaced icons and logos. I look forward to spending the next year creating lots of projects and new designs for my library and I hope you do, too.

Thanks for being here, reading, and creating to ensure our libraries are able to communicate beautifully and well with our communities. I hope the end of the year goes well for you and the start of 2021 brings hope and inspiration. Oh, and remember, it’s always easier to keep your digital files organized as you go rather than having to do a cleanup at the end of each year. 😉 Until next year, allons-y, friends!

Friday Design Tip: Reusing Designs

Happy Friday, dear readers! I know it’s been a bit quiet around her lately. It’s not that I haven’t been doing graphic design work for my library or even that I haven’t thought about blogging. It’s that I’ve been exhausted and there never seems to be enough hours in the day for everything. I’m sure many of you can understand and relate to that. 2020 has been a rough year in so many ways, but there is light at the end of the tunnel (and it isn’t an oncoming train!) and I wanted to share a bit before the end of the year (and hopefully will be able to blog more consistently in the new year).

Today, I wanted to remind us all (let’s be honest, remind myself, too), that reusing things is not just about saving the environment by reusing items instead of recycling or throwing them away, but for design work as well. If you’ve made something wonderful, why not reuse it again?

Well, you may be thinking to yourself, isn’t that cheating? Shouldn’t we always design from scratch?

My answer: No! Reusing your designs or parts of your designs is a smart, efficient way to be able to get all your work done, especially now when we’re all juggling a lot more than usual. I know, sometimes we can feel guilty about reusing something (or maybe that’s just me), but it really is a great way to be able to get your projects out the door, especially on short timelines.

Does anyone else seem to be getting last minute projects and hella short deadlines, too? Or is it just me? I don’t think it’s just me from my talks with friends. But short deadlines always make me nervous, especially when I have other projects I’m working on, which is why reusing designs saves my work so many times.

Example is this handout that I designed for a new student orientation. I was told about this a day before it was due, but luckily I had already created a handout for the summer student orientation. So I pulled up that InDesign file, updated the information for our services and resources, proofed it, exported it to a PDF, double-checked the links, and submitted it by the deadline.

Handout for Fall Orientation:

Fall handout detailing library resources and services

Handout from Summer Orientation:

summer orientation handout for library services and resources

There was no way I would have been able to do that if I had decided I needed to rework the entire thing from scratch. Also, there was no point since the design already worked, most of the information was the same, and I only needed to do some updating.

So give yourself the permission to reuse your designs—in whole or in part—and make those ridiculous deadlines without feeling like you want to throw your laptop through the window!

I hope that you have a lovely weekend planned, some time off to relax, and some time to recharge your creative juices. Thank you, dear readers, for being here and reading. I appreciate you. Until next time, allons-y friends!

Friday Design Post: Good Enough is Good Enough

banner that says, good enough is good enough

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope the week has been kind to you and you’ve been kind to yourself. It’s been another long week, in a long year, and I hope that you’ve found some moments of joy during it all. Today, I want to talk about something that has gotten me through a lot of my work this year: when good enough is good enough.

We all know that perfect is unattainable and can keep us from doing anything. At the same time, having too low a bar for what is good enough, doesn’t help us produce good work either. But sometimes, good enough really is good enough.

What do I mean by this?

To get anything done during this time, I’ve embraced good enough as one of my mantras.

I don’t have time to design everything from scratch, so I’ve had to adapt templates and streamline my design process. And that’s good enough for Instagram posts and other ephemeral marketing needs.

It’s okay that I don’t have time or space to take as long to find the “perfect” font. One that ticks most of the boxes and supports the design theme, is just fine. It’s good enough.

It’s okay to simply design good enough and not try for groundbreaking right now.

And there are some advantages to this, too, that I didn’t foresee in the beginning, even though I long for the days of again having enough time to do more wholly original graphic design work. I have created templates for our workshops, that I’ve written about previously, which brand our workshops and make it easier for me to update the graphics for the many workshops we have each term. Good enough has created a branded look that is simple, collegiate, and recognizable.

Good enough allows me to create the space to take on the graphic design work that comes up with very short deadlines. We all know that projects come up at the last minute and it is good to be able to help out with these requests when we can. I’ve been able to create banners for online displays and handouts for instructional sessions by freeing time and design headspace by embracing good enough.

So, while I’m not a fan of ever using good enough as an excuse to do sloppy graphic design work, it is a good mantra to be kind to ourselves and acknowledge that this is a difficult time and while we still need to be creative and create, we don’t always have to make something that is wholly original and will last for the ages.

That’s all I have for today. I hope you have a rejuvenating weekend, find something to refill your creative passions, and come back as refreshed as possible to your next bit of library design work. Allons-y, friends!

Friday Design Tip: Using Adobe Spark Video for Library Promo Videos

Happy Friday! I don’t know about you, but it has been a week here in a year that has been quite a year. We’ve had more ash falling from the sky, more fires, and darkened days, which makes it hard to focus on work even when the work is important. I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, not because I haven’t been doing or thinking about sharing library design tips, but because I’ve been overwhelmed with everything. But, in the midst of all of this, we must continue to do the work that allows our communities to access the information and help they need. To that end, I’d like to share something a bit different: using your graphic design skills in a video format.

You’ve probably heard about videos garnering more engagement than still photos/images and, while I’d never suggest giving up doing 2D graphic work, sometimes it’s good to expand our skill sets and try new things. Creating videos is one way to stretch our graphic design skills.

Adobe Spark, which I love using for Instagram posts (which seem to be all the design work time I have lately), also has features to allow you to create simple videos. While there aren’t as many options and controls as you have with video editing tools such as Premiere Pro, it is just fine for creating short promo videos and highlighting parts of your collection.
I created the video below to use in our Library Orientations during the summer and start of our fall semester. I combined stock photos with simple information about our services and resources, chose a base theme, and added music from the selection pre-loaded into Adobe Spark.

And, I’m happy to report that the learning curve for creating a video on Adobe Spark is much lower than learning to use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator or InDesign. But the results are still polished and eye-catching for your users.

Remember to use your graphic design skills from 2D designing (like rule of thirds, contrast, matching fonts with theme and graphics, etc.) when creating a video, too, and you’ll have new promo videos for your library in (almost) no time.

It’s fun to learn a new skill and find new ways to promote your library’s services and resources. At least, I found it to be energizing during these tough times and gave me some more inspiration for creating library designs when I felt my creative well running dry.

I hope you have a relaxing and rejuvenating weekend. Stay safe, help your neighbors, and be kind. Allons-y, friends!

 

Friday Design: Creating Webpage Banners with a Consistent Theme

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope the week has treated you well and that you remain healthy and have a relaxing weekend to look forward to. Today I want to share a design tip that will help you keep a consistent theme while saving you time. And we could all use a little more efficiency in our design work, couldn’t we? I know I can as I look towards the starting of the next academic term and juggling everything life seems to be throwing at us now (in addition to our graphic design work!).

Over this summer, we revised and cleaned up our online Exhibits LibGuide. There used to be many (many) disparate guides to past exhibits, but thanks to one of my colleague’s careful and patient work, they are all now collocated. This makes it much easier for viewers to find all our past exhibits and makes the backend work much easier, too.

Once this was done, while the organization of our exhibit pages on the LibGuide were functional, we didn’t have an coherent visual theme to link together our top landing pages for the guide itself, as well as past and current exhibits. This wouldn’t do for a guide that was all about exhibits where we expect good visuals. So I created three banners for these pages, which sounds like a lot of work, but once I created the first one, I used it as a basis to tie together the theme with the other two.

Here’s the first banner for the homepage of the LibGuide:

Online Banner for exhibit LibGuide that says Library Exhibits

I chose images, type, and colors that worked together to create a coherent theme. The theme was to express exhibits and the diversity of our campus community that inspires us. I sampled colors in the photographs for the font colors and the background color. With this done, I decided to use the same layout for the other two banners, but change out one image in each.

This is the past exhibit banner:

Online Banner that says Past Exhibits

And this is the current exhibits banner:

Online banner that says Current Exhibits

Notice how they maintain the overall theme through the same use of color palette, fonts, and layout, but have unique images used, too. This makes the banners more visually interesting, yet maintains coherency across the landing pages.

This design “trick” enables us to both maintain a consistent theme and inject some fun, visual interest into the banners. It also allowed me to create three banners in only a little more time than it would take me to create one because I wasn’t trying to reinvent theme and layout for each of them.

I hope this design example is helpful and useful for when you are considering how to design or revamp banners or implement design themes on your LibGuides, webpages, or other multiple page documents.

I hope you have a lovely, restful, and safe weekend. I’ll be back again with more design thoughts to save you time and hopefully provide new insights for your library graphic design work.

Allons-y, dear friends!

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: 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!