Warning: Self-Promotion Because My Book is Now Available!

easy graphic design for librarians book coverHello, dear readers! Sorry for the shameless self-promotion, but I had to share the news that my book, Easy Graphic Design for Librarians: From Color to Kerning, is now available for purchase in the ALA Store! That’s right, no more pre-order, it’s available now and you can buy it for yourself or your library. Yay!!! 🙂

Psst…ALA even sent out a press release.  I feel so official now.

I’m obviously excited about this and hope that the book is useful to you and your colleagues who do graphic design work for your library. It was a lot of fun to write and illustrate and I hope you have fun applying some of the tips to your design work.

Definitely exciting news to start the new month and give me some extra energy to keep writing with the start of NaNoWriMo, too.

So, I’m not great at this self-promotion thing, but please buy my book if you think it would be useful for your work and tell your colleagues and friends if you think it they’d be interested. And let’s create some amazing designs for our libraries!

Also, Happy November! Remember to refresh your desktop wallpapers with some of the beautiful, funny, and sweet wallpapers available over at Smashing Magazine. They’re great for design inspiration, too!

Thanks for reading, thanks for listening, and thanks for letting me ramble a bit about my book. I’ll be back to regularly scheduled design notes and tips soon. Allons-y!

Friday Design Fun 5!

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you are having a lovely week and have a fun weekend planned. I can hardly believe we are almost to the end of another month. The holiday season will be upon us before we know it. I for one am not ready for that, but I am ready for sharing some design fun with you today. So let’s talk about designing timelines on a tight timeline (ha!) and other bits of design knowledge and fun.

This past weekend was alumni weekend at the university and since it coincided with the 60th anniversary of the founding of the university (and the library and archives had put together an exhibit celebrating our history), I was up in the library on Saturday giving tours and showcasing materials from the archives.

Since I can never pass up a chance to promote the library and archives, especially when it means I can design something for an event, I made a brochure to highlight the exhibit and share ways of learning more about the archives. As we were celebrating the university’s history, I thought a timeline would be a great thing to include in a brochure. With time being scarce–isn’t it always?–I knew I would have to design something simple that would still be visually appealing. So instead of creating a very complicated timeline, with lots of different parts, I created a very simple one with some years highlighted that corresponded to photographs we had digitized from our collections. The result is below:

timeline showing the 60 years of history of Cal State East Bay showing years and photographs of buildings built or dedicated in each year

Alternating years and photographs gives some visual motion to the timeline and not trying to cram every single highlight gives it breathing room. I used dates and photos that corresponded to the body text of the brochure so that it would be a coherent whole. And, although the photographs are of different sizes, I made sure to keep the same baseline (or “top line” for those photos on the bottom of the timeline) to give the timeline a more polished look.

I can happily say that a number of alumni came to the library’s open house and on the tours and liked the brochures. Because, really, who doesn’t love historical photos of their alma mater? And, with not a lot of time and a few key graphic design techniques, I was able to ensure that the archives put its best visual foot forward, too.

With the academic year in full swing, I’m on the lookout for things to keep me inspired as the increase in meetings and fires to put out everyday can zap my energy. So I was excited to see this good article from Smashing Magazine, Stop Designing for Only 85% of Users: Nailing Accessibility in Design. Good tips and great resources. Every design should be accessible. And since fall always makes me want to travel, I had to share this icon set of 60 travel icons.

Plus, simply because these are lovely: Amazing pop-up books, a funny take on graphic designers redesigning state borders from xkcd,  and mini chocolate chip cookie pumpkin cheesecakes from Joy the Baker. Yay for autumnal baking!

I hope you are finding time to create wonderful art and designs. I hope your weekend is full of relaxation, good friends, and good reads. I’ll be back with more news and notes soon. Allons-y!

Friday Design: Redesigning an Instruction Handout

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you are well and looking forward to a relaxing, rejuvenating weekend. Today I want to share with you a look at my process for redesigning an instruction handout. As schools are back in session, those of us who teach are probably thinking a lot about handouts so I thought it would be useful to go over some tips and inspiration for redesigning handouts. Also, because the entire Pinterest and Instagram perfect pics of creativity and creative processes don’t do anything but make me feel like I’m not good enough, I wanted to share some parts of what my process looks like when I’m walking the talk of graphic design in libraries.

As with any graphic design project, I start with thinking about what I need to accomplish with the project. In this case, the handout I’m redesigning is for a biology class I’m going into to talk with students about literature searching, source evaluation, and citations. That’s a lot to cover and I know that no one will remember everything we go over. So my handout redesign needs to be comprehensive enough that a student can use it as a reference source when they are working on their assignments later so they aren’t lost. A basic outline isn’t going to cut it.

So, after I’m clear on why I’m designing and who I’m designing for, I move onto brainstorming. And this is where it gets messy and oh-so-not-Instagram-like:

First, rough thumbnails, notes and sketches:

photo of list of pages and thumbnail sketches for redesigned instruction handout another page of thumbnail sketches from redesigned handout

Both of the above images show my messy first sketches and notes about what I want to keep from the old handouts, what I want to add, and how I’m thinking it will fit together on the page based on length of information, context, and layout. I am redesigning the handout so a lot of the information I already have in documents so I don’t need to go as deep as I otherwise would in writing out content at this stage.

Then I move into the digital work after I have my head on straight about why I’m creating this handout and what I want in the handout. For many handouts, I work in Word or Publisher, but I’m trying to get more proficient with InDesign so I decided this was the perfect project to experiment with the program. Overall, it was more fun than frustrating, which I think is a good sign.

image of first page of redesigned handout mockup with scribbled notes for changes

Even after I create the draft handout digitally, I have to print it out in order to revise and markup. I can’t do this on my screen as I miss too much. As you can see from the above image, I have my basic layout completed, but I still have a lot of little things I want to change, correct, and revise to make the final handout better. I’m always thinking about visual impact, conveying my message in the best possible way, and how the information will be received by the students.

final first page of redesigned handout

This is the final, first page of the redesigned handout. It will live in print and online in the students’ Blackboard site, if the professor chooses to post it there (it will also be posted to our library’s LibGuide for biology).

So that’s how I get from messy first drafts to final product. My sketches aren’t Instagram-perfect, but they work for me. And, in the end, I care more about getting my thoughts on paper and getting those thoughts translated into whatever design I’m creating than whether my sketchbooks (when I even manage to do drafts in a sketchbook) are ready to be shown online.

What I hope you’ll take away (in addition to maybe a few ideas for your own handouts), is that your sketches don’t have to be “art” or even understandable to anyone except you. The important thing is that you sketch and get your ideas down on paper so you can create the designs you need to create to solve problems in your library and in the world. Beautiful photos are great, but don’t let them get you down on how your sketchbook or datebook or journal isn’t as organized and perfect. Just create your work how it works for you. Your library and community will thank you.

I hope you have a lovely weekend full of all good things. Our local independent bookstore is having its grand opening this weekend and I couldn’t be more excited for Books on B! I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Friday Designs: Signs, Inspiration, and Randomness

Happy Friday, dear readers! We’ve made it to the end of another week. The fall quarter (our last as a quarter campus) has started and the weather has turned cool (although it looks like we’ll get another heatwave next week), so it’s time to get back into the academic swing of things. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun so I have a few things to get you through to the lovely first weekend of autumn.

First up, a landscape version of the All are Welcome Sign. In order to put these up in our elevators in the library, I had to reconfigure the signs to landscape orientation. In case your library has landscape-oriented sign holders, I thought I’d share this version (click on image to get the printable PDF), too. Please print, use, and share. We could all use some welcome about now.

image of poster reading, there is no space for hate in our library all are welcome we stand in solidarity with all who fight for equity, diversity, and inclusion

I thought most of us would appreciate Lifehacker’s article, the library doesn’t usually want your used books. We’ve all gotten those well-meaning, but not-so-useful donations. And, if you’re not doing a huge project making altered books, it is a great reminder to send would-be donors to other, more receptive places.

I was thinking of what was inspiring me right now to try out new things in my designs and I have to say it is probably snapping more photos (both digital and instax analog) to see what I bits of photos I can use in other projects and what more I could share about graphic design that would be useful to librarian graphic designers. I think a lot about design and sharing so expect some more examples of designs and redesigns soon.

Also, because the weather has finally cooled down here and that means baking time, I had to share this Joy the Baker recipe for brown butter cookies and cream rice krispie treats. I am so excited to try this recipe soon!

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

Mid-Week Design Inspiration

Hello, dear readers! I was thinking that we all could use a little mid-week pickup and wanted to share some design inspiration and news as we barrel on towards the middle of September. I hope you and your loved ones are safe, you are able to use your time and skills to help where you can, and you have found ways for using your graphic design skills to help others.

In wonderful library news, my dean approved printing of two large welcome banners. I installed them at both our entrances and wanted to share. I’m rather happy with how they turned out.

Banner saying: this is your library, there is no space for hate, here all are welcome. We stand with all who fight for equity, inclusion, and diversity.

In case you missed it, lovely September desktop wallpapers. There is no time like the present to make your desktop look lovely for autumn. I currently have the cutest desktop of all year with cats and foxes–love having a dual-monitor set-up for this (and the productivity, of course).

Also, who doesn’t get inspired by books? (I mean, that’s kind of a silly question for those of us in libraries.) So I wanted to share this lovely (truly!) list of books on type and lettering from The Well-Appointed Desk.  More to add to my “to read” list.

I recently finished reading (and let’s be honest, drooling) over the beautiful work showcased in Infographic Designers’ Sketchbooks. If you haven’t viewed this book yet, I highly recommend it. It is a trove of inspiration for creating beautiful and effective infographics for so many different types of projects. Makes me want to sketch all day and redesign every report we put out for the library.

And finally, although I know we should all be good and eating healthy, sometimes you (okay, I mean “I”) just want a brownie. So I leave you with this amazing recipe from Joy the Baker for Thick S’more Brownies.

I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week. You find time and inspiration to use your design skills to welcome and support everyone at your library. And you even find time to have a brownie or two (I won’t tell if you offer to share with me, too!). I’ll be back soon with more design news and notes. Allons-y!

 

Friday Design: No Space for Hate in the Library Flyer

Happy Friday, dear readers! It has been a week, hasn’t it? I hope you and your family, friends, neighbors, and everyone you know are safe. I hope, if you can, you’ve been able to send support to those affected by Hurricane Harvey (link to list of places to donate) and any other causes that need it, as we know so many do now. So in these times, it can feel like talking about graphic design and libraries is trivial or that we can’t possibly do anything that can help. But of course, that’s not true. We can help in our communities, just as we can help those we may never meet. To that end, I want to share a flyer that I hope you post in your library and that will inspire you to create more messages of love to share with the world.

So I made this flyer.

there is no space for hate in our library all our welcome. we stand with all who fight for equity, diversity and inclusion

The book graphic is from freepik (with modification to the colors), thus the credit line below it, but the rest I wrote, typeset, and colorized. Feel free to download the flyer (PDF version) via this link.  It is scaled to print on letter-sized paper.

It’s important that everyone know our libraries are safe, welcoming spaces. We know this as librarians, but sometimes we have a difficult time articulating it loudly. So I hope this flyer helps a bit. I’m hoping that my library administration approves the funds for printing a standing banner version of this flyer that I made for placement in our entrance lobby areas (if not, I’m going to have to make friends down at the local print shop).

So, if you ever feel like you are struggling to connect your work to causes close to your heart and make a difference when it just all seems to be going wonky in the world, remember you can always help out. You never know what you say, do, or make that might start the spark that causes great amounts of positive change.

I hope you have a good weekend and feel inspired to make your designs do more, say more, be more. Together we truly can do good things. Allons-y!

Friday Design: Let's Be Loud

Happy Friday, dear readers! So wow, I don’t know about you, but I’m still processing this week. Let’s get something out of the way right away before diving into some design: Nazis are bad. Hate is bad. There is no room for either in our work as libraries, in our libraries, in our communities, and I believe that we can be louder in our calls and actions of love and welcome and solidarity. There’s definitely no room for hate or othering or an of the many “isms” in our work as librarian graphic designers either and our creative work can be a powerful form of resistance. So, with that, let’s get into what I mean about being loud and what it has to do with design.

Art is powerful. Words are powerful. As librarian graphic designers, we wield both on a daily basis. As librarians, our business is information, knowledge creation, and support for lifelong learning. Our business is in words. Which is great at this moment and every moment because we can be loud.

And I don’t mean just in the “let’s go against shushing stereotypes of librarians loud.” I mean loud in the graphical sense, too, with what we choose to create and post and share in our libraries and communities. We wield the epic power of brushes, paints, posterboard, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Publisher. We can create and adapt posters and banners and flyers and buttons that show publicly that we are about inclusion and diversity and love and reading and community and all the things that build us up as people together instead of tearing us down.

So as you are working on your next design, remember that design is never neutral just as typefaces are never neutral. We can use our graphic design work to make a difference, however small, and add our voice to the conversation.

So be loud in your designs. Be bold in your stance. Mark your library as a safe space. And show everyone how important librarian graphic designers are beyond marketing and promotion. Break out of your shell in your designs. We can do this, together.

I’m working on new banners and posters for my library to greet our students when they come back for the fall term. I want there to be no doubt where my library stands and I can do this through my designs. I’ll be sharing them, too, in upcoming posts for inspiration and for you to use, too.

If you’ve created graphics of welcome for your library, I’d love to see them. Please share and let’s be loud in our library designs together!

May you have a weekend full of good times, rest, and inspiration to continue your work and your art. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Friday Design: Typography Inspiration from Signs

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week is going well and you have a wonderful weekend planned. Can you believe we will be into August next week? How fast the time does fly! But that still leaves us at least a month of summertime to fill our inspiration tanks with so we can stay creative throughout the year. Today I want to share some inspiration for typography from store signs. One of the few things I like about smartphones (other than maps so I don’t get lost and Pokemon GO because it’s fun) is the camera. This isn’t because it in anyway replaces my DSLR for photography, but because it is great for quick shots of things that I might want to use later for design inspiration, as I’m sharing today.

I recently went on a trip to Ireland, which was fantastic, and one of the great things about traveling for me is seeing what the signs look like. (Yes, I am that kind of design geek.) I’m always interested and often inspired by what I see. Dublin is one of the great places to find signs that may inspire, especially in terms of typography. Below are some of the signs I saw that I thought were interesting and may inspire some new designs in my work.

photograph of beshoff sign

I was quite taken with this sign from Beshoff, which is a fish and chips restaurant. This is a good example of integrating text with graphics in a way that works. It is simple with just the right amount of quirky without taken away anything from the readability. It’s easy to reproduce in only two colors, a plus for any branding, and would look good at many different sizes. Plus, I’m a sucker when it comes to flourishes and the old-time look when done well. What might I use this inspiration for? Maybe a header for an exhibit on campus history or community history in the library, or maybe as a juxtaposition between old and new in terms of library resources and services.

Of course, Dublin is also full of awesome signs for pubs as seen below for Brannigan’s

photograph of Brannigan's sign

While I’d hate to read an entire paragraph in the same lettering style as Brannigan’s uses for its sign, as a pub sign it looks great. It’s different than what you might expect from a pub sign and the elongated letterforms gives it a bit of elegance. Mixing typography up so it isn’t the same cliched sans serif for everything, makes people stop and notice. Also, remember, with large display fonts, you can have some fun and use forms that would never work at smaller sizes or in larger bodies of text.

photograph of Il Fornaio sign

Il Fornaio’s sign is completely different from Brannigan’s. Instead of angular forms, here we have sweeping, rounded forms that invite people in, a good thing for an Italian restaurant. The use of a script-type font here brings a bit of romance to the sign while maintaining readability. It is a great contrast to many of the other more angular fonts used on modern signs. While I’m not as much of a fan of the smaller font used for the rest of the sign (I’d have gone with a simple sans serif for readability and contrast with the restaurant name), it still works and hopefully invites people to come in and enjoy a meal.

The Dublin Trading Co. sign

This sign simply screams Dublin. Nothing subtle here. From the name of the store to the inclusion of the iconic arches and lamps from the Ha’Penny Bridge to the emerald green, this sign lets you know you are in Dublin. And, I’m happy about that. Too much of the same type of design everywhere is boring. Context is important. Plus, the letterforms of this sign work well with the curved lines of the graphics. Nothing is too angular, even with the slab serifs. It’s easy to read, fun, and invites us to see what The Dublin Trading Co. has to offer. That’s a successful sign in my book.

So next time you’re walking around, remember to look up and see what inspiration you can draw from signage in your area. You never know what might influence and inspire your next library design or help you solve a design problem that looked intractable. Inspiration really is all around us, if we remember to look.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of delight, relaxation, and things (and people) that make you happy. I’ll be back with more soon. Allons-y!

Friday Design: Low-Hanging Fruit of Alignment

Happy Friday, dear readers! Well, it’s been a summer. I was planning on being back with some posts a lot sooner, but was felled by a summer fever. But I’m back and wanted to share a design tip about alignment today. It’s going to be part of a series, maybe, on the low-hanging fruit in graphic design that can help you create better looking designs quickly. I believe it is John McWade of Before & After who talks a lot about low-hanging fruit in graphic design as a good place to start in cleaning up designs and I tend to agree. So consider this Friday’s Design your quick checklist for alignment on your next project.

So what are we talking about with alignment and why are we talking about it?

Alignment refers to how items on the page (text, graphics, borders, etc.) are positioned in relationship to one another and to the page in general. There are three basic overall alignments: center, right, and left. Everyone’s seen centered alignments; they are used almost as defaults on a lot of flyers and posters and are, of course used heavily in wedding invitations. Right alignment means the text block or image are aligned to a guide on the right side of the page creating a straight right side and ragged left. Left alignment is the opposite and how we read texts in English.

Got it? Great.

Alignment, and consistent alignment, is important for creating visual hierarchy and ensuring that it is easy for your reader to get the information they need from your flyer, newsletter, bookmark, website, etc. There are valid reasons for using each of the alignments described above, but we’re not going to get into that today. Instead, we’re just going for the super low-hanging fruit of consistent alignment.

Consistent alignment means that if you have a guideline (aka guide), you use the same one to align all your different components of your design. For example, if you are using center alignment, it means you pick one guideline to center everything on and you don’t change it. This is especially important (and looks especially egregious, if not followed) on small promotional items such as mini-flyers or handouts for library programs, for example.

So let’s move on to the low-hanging fruit of consistent alignment. If you every create a flyer or notice, don’t do what is shown in the example below. This example shows the start of a flyer for a computer workshop. What can you see that’s wrong with the alignment?

image of a desktop with caption for computer workshop that is not in alignment with the image or with the other text block

So what’s wrong with the above alignment? There is no alignment! Well, actually, there is alignment, just not among the various pieces of the design. So the text blocks themselves have left alignment. Notice how the left side of each text block is totally straight. However, the three components (computer graphic, date/time information, and workshop details) are not aligned with each other. It looks like the graphic and date/time text block might be going for centered alignment, but didn’t quite make it. And the bottom text block is just hanging out by itself.

So what should you do? Stick with a consistent alignment as shown below in the next example:

example of correctly aligning image with two text blocks, everything has left-alignment

All three components are now on the same guideline so they are all left-aligned and aligned with each other giving a consistent and easy to read start to the flyer or handout or web announcement for this workshop.

Why use left alignment here instead of centered alignment? Left aligned components are more active than centered, which is a better choice for a computer workshop. But we’ll get more into that another time.

Your takeaway to remember is that in most projects keeping consistent alignment throughout the design is important for both creating useful information hierarchy and for creating a beautiful end product.

Simple, right? Totally. And that’s why it’s an important, low-hanging fruit in graphic design that you should remember and double-check for before hitting publish or print on your next project. And that’s Friday’s Design Tip.

Bonus tip: for some design inspiration, get outside and take a walk unplugged from all your devices. Summer is a wonderful time to get inspired outside, just remember your sunblock and bug spray! Enjoy and maybe you’ll find some fresh ideas breathing life into your designs soon, too.

Have a wonderful day and weekend. I hope you have plans (small or great) for a lovely weekend. I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. Allons-y!

Not Teaching Cynicism

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had another lovely week. It is hard to believe we are almost halfway through May. While I am looking forward to the summer, I’m not sure that I’m ready for so much of the year to be over. My list of things I want to do this year is long and it would be nice to have a pause button so I could make some more progress (and have time to nap!). Be that as it may, today I want to share something that is a bit different than my usual design inspiration (though there is some of that as well at the end), but something important and at the fore of my mind this term–not teaching cynicism.

So as many know, while I love graphic design and apply what I know to helping my library visually communicate whenever I have the chance, I wasn’t hired by my library as a graphic design librarian. I was hired, like my colleagues, as a liaison librarian who has responsibilities for teaching our required, freshmen, information literacy class (among many other duties). Because of this, I spend a lot of time thinking, creating, facilitating, helping, and reflecting on the teaching and learning of information literacy. This year, more than most, has been a struggle to model and teach skepticism versus cynicism. But it is more important than ever for my students and myself.

As I’ve been teaching now for almost nine years, I’ve of course changed a lot of how I teach as is natural. And two things that I focus on much more now than when I was so very new to teaching are: reflection and evaluation. Reflection comes easily for my students and, in contradiction to some colleagues who thought it would be otherwise, students are very–sometimes surprisingly–honest in their reflections. Their reflections on their learning, which I have them complete weekly, help them to review what they’ve learned and how they can apply it and help me figure out what needs review, refinement, and revision in our time together.

Reflection is too often overlooked, in our hurry-hurry world, but it helps in teaching & learning and graphic design. And it keeps me from falling into being cynical about the world. And cynicism helps neither teaching nor learning.

Another counter to cynicism is remaining skeptical and knowing how to evaluate claims, sources, and well, really anything. Evaluation of sources has been one of the most difficult concepts for my students over the years. It is a new way of thinking and interacting with information for them, but it is an empowering way of interacting with information. I challenge them to question and critique, but also to stay away from the pit of cynicism. This is hard because every day the news brings something that hits home for us: rising tuition, questions of employment, concerns about housing, whether their voice matters, and everything else that keeps a lot of us up at night or in the early hours of the morning wondering what happened to kindness and empathy and caring.

So we talk about how hard it is to stay positive and willing to engage with school and life. We read research on what we can do that has a positive impact on our lives as students and as engaged humans. And we support each other when it is difficult because I have to model skepticism for them if I expect them to live it, too. And that balance of skepticism and do something in the face of cynicism is a hard thing for any of us to do, but it’s important.

What does any of this have to do with graphic design? I don’t know about you, but trying to communicate from a place of cynicism doesn’t work for me. There is no joy there, no creativity, no ability to connect and communicate visually. So I walk back from that edge and continue creating and teaching because for me that is the only way through. By caring, I can create. And by creating, I can connect. And by connecting, I can overcome cynicism and remain skeptical, but engaged. I and my students can’t ignore the problems and challenges in the world, but we can come together and ensure we don’t add to the cynicism that does nothing to change it.

Whether at the reference desk, in the classroom, or in your designs, I ask you choose skepticism over cynicism. And I hope you find inspiration to connect and create because we all need you to.

Now, as promised, the design inspiration. New-ish month means new May Inspiration and May Desktop Wallpapers from Smashing Magazine. Hope they inspire some new work for you, too.

I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Allons-y!