Friday Design: Signage Matters

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

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

Why?

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

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

sign that reads priority use for disabled patrons

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

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

new sign that reads priority use for patrons with disabilities

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

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

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

 

Friday Design: Semi-Homemade Designs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want examples? I’ve got examples.

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

save the date open house card

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

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

library workshops banner

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

University Libraries, Heart of the Campus logo

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

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

Friday Design: Library Swag

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

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

The way we do everything: with thoughtful design.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

photograph of power bank with library's logo on it

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

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

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

Friday Design: Timely Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything.

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

How can you incorporate timely design into your library?

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

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

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

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

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

Back by Design

header image that says back by design

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

photo of baby hands

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

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

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

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

Allons-y!

Friday Design: Simple Handout Formatting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what are the takeaways?

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

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

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

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

Friday Design: No Project Too Small & Inspiration

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your July is going well, you are avoiding the worst of the heat (if you are some place where it is hot) and you are using the long days of summer to plan and rejuvenate. I have a few thoughts today on small projects and some links for inspiration, so let’s get into it.

This summer is quite short at my university because we are switching from quarters to semesters. Because of that, I have less time than usual for projects and design work. But that doesn’t mean I’m not creating and using the quiet time I have to plan out improvements in our visual communications. One thing that has come home to me this summer is that no project is too small and every project deserves thoughtful design.

I strive to treat each project as an important piece of communication and deserving of great design. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a button, a flyer, or a tally sheet. Everything needs to be well-designed so it is functional, engaging, and puts the library forward in the best possible light. Two things in particular have caught my attention this summer: buttons and tally sheets.

First, we are trying to do more with buttons and need to work on our designs there. I’m considering the best ways to work through committee on these, since they will have to go through committee. It is hard to balance differing levels of design understanding and differing opinions (as I’m sure you know). So fingers crossed it turns out well because we should always be presenting a professional face through our designs.

Second, I’m involved with orientation for our frosh and transfers this summer, mainly handing out brochures (thankfully beautifully designed by our web designer), along with answering questions while our new students wait for their student ID cards. (side note: it is great to have a captive audience) While they wait, I’m also asking them to let me know what their favorite genres to read are by adding tick marks to columns on a piece of paper. Nothing fancy, but it will help as I develop our popular reading collection.

You wouldn’t think design would make a lot of difference in this case–as long as it’s clear and there is enough room in the columns for all the marks, it should be fine. Right? Not exactly. While many students read each column’s heading (the genre) carefully before marking what they liked, some simply marked the first column without reading anything–even though there was no pressure to mark anything and everyone got offered candy whether or not they wanted to participate.

The result? An overabundance of tick marks in the first column. This isn’t helpful at all. So in the next orientation, I’m going to mix up the order of the columns and see what happens. On the plus side, it’s accidental design research and a reminder that no structural design decision, no matter how small, is inconsequential.

Now, let’s move onto some fun and inspiration for your weekend! 🙂

If you haven’t refreshed your desktop wallpapers for the month, check out the lovely, summery designs over at Smashing Magazine. And do yourself a favorite and make these delightful strawberry pie bars from Joy the Baker while there are still delicious, fresh strawberries at the store. And, if you are working on infographics for your library, check out this list of some of the most creative from last year to inspire your next project.

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

Friday Thoughts: Incorporating Creativity

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that you have a wonderful weekend planned and, if you are in the academic world, that your semester/quarter/term is over (or nearly over). It’s been a bit quiet around this blog lately, but I’m hoping and planning to write more over the summer. This last term has been a bit of a time (I still can’t believe it’s the beginning of June already) and while I’ve done some graphic design work and thought often about what I want to share in this space, reports, meetings (upon meetings upon meetings), and other fires came up that pushed this small space to the edge. So today, I wanted to reflect a bit about something that’s been on my mind for awhile as we wrap up this school year–incorporating creativity into my work.

It’s probably not a surprise (far from it, in fact) that I believe creativity is so important to work and life and librarianship. What got me down this particular musing about how I’ve incorporated and define more and more of my work as creative was a meeting a few weeks ago. Also, probably not a surprise for readers, I’m not a fan of meetings especially those without agendas or action items. In this meeting, one person tried to divide the group into the creatives and non-creatives. And this, dear readers, rankled me greatly and (again, no surprise), I said so.

I believe truly, completely, and without reservation that everyone is creative and a creative. To label some people as not creative is not just untrue but detrimental not only to the person but to the community as a whole. How many of us can remember a time when someone said we weren’t creative enough? A good enough artist? Musician? Thinker? Writer? Probably most of us and those comments, often said in such an offhand manner that the speaker doesn’t even remember, can stifle our creativity for years if not lifetimes.

And that’s just wrong.

And it’s not just me who says it’s wrong. And if you need some words from those more eloquent than I (and with research to back it up), I suggest you read the work of Brene Brown and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Their works are inspiring and help when you’re feeling down or when someone implies (or outright says) you’re not creative.

We need creativity in our work and in our libraries, desperately and always. So what does this have to do with my work? For that, I have to tell you a story.

My first written piece as a professional librarian (in a now-defunct online space) was about the importance of play in academic librarianship, about not taking ourselves too seriously and seeing where we could be creative in what we do. And I got a comment on it that said such frivolity was not welcome in academia in the library and basically that I should get serious.

I’m serious about a lot of things, dear readers, and my work is one of them. But there is no need to sacrifice creativity or playfulness or (heaven help us) fun, in order to be serious about our work. On the contrary, being creative and having fun allows us to do better work and be as creative as we need to be.

Which brings us back to why I’m thinking about how much more I’ve incorporated creativity intentionally into my work in the last decade (yes, in July I’ll have been doing this librarian thing for a decade) and why I won’t let others label people as not creative.

I surround myself with visual inspiration in my office–postcards from trips, quotes from books and people I admire, photographs and buttons, origami from friends, and a dozen other little mementos that make me smile. And lots of these things show up in my work, in color schemes, and typography, and emotions for my designs, but also in what I want to bring to my teaching, to my writing, to my outreach, and to the dozens of other projects we do in the library that we may not think of as creative works, but truly are.

Incorporating creativity and being willing to try new things, ideas, ways of conceptualizing, are what have kept me engaged and serious about my work as a librarian. What have kept me from the cynicism and keep me coming back, even when some days it feels like I’m not making a difference, not having my expertise heard, not doing anything.

Creativity is what you make of it. It’s what you define it to be. Whether it’s creating a new flyer, engaging someone with a report they’ll actually read, or finding a way to reach a student where and when they need it. And it’s important, it’s vital, no matter what anyone else says.

You are creative. I am creative. We are creative.

And the library, the world, our community needs what we have to make and to offer.

Here’s to many more days and ways of incorporating that which inspires us, guides us, and moves us into our work and our lives.

I wish you, always, a wonderful, joyful, and relaxing weekend, dear readers. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back soon (with luck and determination) with some more news and notes. Allons-y!

Friday Design Fun: Chosen Collaborations

Happy Friday, dear readers! I apologize for the relative blog silence over the last few weeks. I hope you’ve had a good spring, thus far, and today I want to talk a bit about collaboration and design, how important it is and how wonderful it can be (if done well) or horrible (if done poorly). So let’s talk about collaboration.

I don’t know about you, but I hated group work when I was in school. No matter how good my teachers’ intentions, there was so little individual accountability in the groups that I often (okay, more like 95% of the time) ended up doing most of the work. Others knew I would do the work because I cared about my grade and took advantage of it and even when tasks were assigned, people often didn’t follow through. It left a bad taste in my mouth that has, unfortunately, been reinforced by more than a few committees I’ve been on since becoming a librarian. So you wouldn’t be surprised that sometimes I have issues with so much emphasis being placed on collaboration and group work, without equal discussion about accountability and equity within the group.

All that aside, I love collaboration when I have agency over who I’m collaborating with and for what tasks. I especially find it useful in graphic design work to have someone to bounce ideas off of and to critically go over designs to improve them before they are ready for final printing or launching online. While I’m not a fan of design by committee, I’m a fan of collaboration in design work. The same principles for making design collaborations work are the same for making any collaboration work, in my experience:

  1. Clear communication is key, as is individual accountability. Work out responsibilities and deadlines in the first meeting and check in often.
  2. Brainstorm together, then individually work on designs to bring back and compare and critique. Best thinking work still gets done individually and everyone needs time to have ideas percolate and come together.
  3. Be open and kind with critiques and work together on the edits. Also, give credit to the editors in any process. Too often only the designer gets credit and the editor gets ignored. Editing is hard, important work, too.
  4. Always praise and thank your collaborators publicly when your work together is complete. Everyone likes to be appreciated and it will help the next time you need collaborators.

At my work, I love collaborating with our fabulous web designer, Brooke, who is also a great graphic designer. We’re both deadline oriented (and hit our deadlines) and we’ve worked out good communication so we can get a lot done in a reasonable amount of time. Collaborating also gives us a chance to learn from each other and I think strengthen our own individual design work.

So, even if you’ve been burned in the past by group and committee work, give collaboration in your design work a chance. If you can pick your collaborators and maintain clear communication, you never know what amazing things you can accomplish together (and make your library’s visual communications more beautiful and useful in the process!).

And, if you haven’t changed up your desktop wallpaper yet, check out the lovely ones over at Smashing Magazine.

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

Friday Design: March News and Notes

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a good week and are looking forward to a lovely weekend. It’s been quiet around here as I’ve had a couple of particularly busy and fatiguing weeks, but I wanted to post some updates and design news so you know I’ve not forgotten about this site (and hopefully you haven’t either).

First, if you are in the East Bay today and have a free hour from 2:30 to 3:30 pm, stop on by the Cal State East Bay Library on our Hayward Campus and you can hear me talk about libraries and graphic design (and answer questions, of course). It should be fun and it would be great to not talk to myself in an empty room!

Second, if you need some inspiration for your designs, or just want to learn something fun, I recommend checking out Daily Infographic.  Even if you’re not creating infographics for your library, it’s a great site to get ideas about layout, writing clean, precise copy, and just learning some new information (and who doesn’t like that?). It’s good to branch out to find new sources of inspiration for our work, whether we are in the middle of designing a brochure or just in the brainstorming stages. I’m looking forward to sharing our new library exhibit with you next week (our web designer has outdone herself with the banners!).

Third, and final, if you haven’t seen The Temple of Knowledge video from StoryCorps, I highly recommend giving it a view. It’s a lovely reminder about the greatness of libraries.

I hope you have a lovely, relaxing, restorative weekend. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!