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!

Friday Design: Women’s History Month Book Display Sign

Happy Friday, dear readers! It’s been quite a week, hasn’t it? I hope you are keeping healthy and safe. Remember to keep washing those hands and not touching your face (easier said than done, right?). My university has suspended in-person classes this week, but the library is still open so work goes on. It is a weird state to be in, but I find working on my graphic design work allows me to find a state of flow and step back from the constant news cycle for a minute, which is so important. So today I want to share with you the sign I created for our Women’s History Month Book Display that is curated by two of my colleagues.

letter-sized poster for library book display, Our Bodies: Women's History Awareness Month

This sign (or mini-poster) was created entirely in Adobe Spark, which has become my go-to for creating graphics when I don’t have a lot of time [aka only 20 minutes or so to create something before running off to another meeting]. I never like using the templates or layouts without customizing them, but I do appreciate having the stock photo searching integrated in and have figured out how to fuss around with the copy much faster than before.

But what about this sign did I really want to talk about?

Well, I could talk about using justifying type and matching colors and the importance of layout and odd numbers to move the eye. Or the importance of readability and having all the elements of a design enhance the central message. But I’ve talked about that before (and I’ll talk more about that again). Today, though, I want to talk about something else.

I want to talk about the importance of representation. I’ve thought about this a lot in the last few weeks for a number of reasons, not least of which is that my university is incredibly diverse and I want everyone to feel at home and see themselves in the library. So for this sign it was important to me to showcase diverse women intentionally and not as an afterthought.

And it was a bit difficult to find photos that didn’t recreate stereotypes about women generally and women of color specifically. But it wasn’t as hard as I feared, which shows some movement in the right direction. But we can all do better and be more intentional about representation in our libraries in all that we do. And a big part of that is in our designs, which we have substantial control over.

Representation is important. It’s something we have to be mindful of and intentional about. And that’s part of the overall ethos of design, too. We should be mindful and intentional about what we design and the effects our designs can have on others.

I never saw myself represented as a mixed race person in the library when I was growing up and I don’t want that for others who are growing up now. If I can do my small part to change that, by wielding my graphic design skills, then I will count that in the column of good for the library and for my small portion of the world.

I hope you, too, find ways to wield your graphic design talents and skills to represent everyone in your community through your work.

Stay healthy, stay safe, help others, and I hope you have a relaxing weekend. I’ll be back again soon with more news and notes about designs. Thanks for reading. Allons-y, friends!

 

Friday Design: 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!

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!

Friday Design: Sign-Making Quick Tip for Vertical Text

Happy Friday, dear readers! Another day, more things to do. It sometimes seems like the to-do list grows faster than we can get things done and if you’ave added sign-making to your list of things to do, today’s design tips are for you. I want to just take a bit of time to talk about signs, but specifically signs that run their type vertically.

You’ve probably seen a banner or sign like the one below before. Either attached to a lamppost or held up at a march or rally. Tall, slender signs sometimes call for running type vertically. You shouldn’t stack type vertically–you know, one letter on top of another without rotating the letters–but sometimes it does make sense to run type vertically given space constraints. But is the sign below easy to read?

banner attached to a lamppost showing text running from bottom to top for reading

I’d argue that it isn’t. We won’t get into issues of typeface choices, but just focus on how to properly run text vertically on a sign. When do you ever read from the bottom to the top on a sign? Rarely, if ever, I’d guess. It goes against just about every natural reading instinct we have when reading and every design idea about information hierarchy. When reading English, it is most natural to read from left to right and top to bottom. If you are going to run text vertically, so we have to tilt our heads to read it, you need to make your text so we read it from top to bottom.

Where do you see this done correctly? On bookspines, of course. The photo below is of part of a bookshelf in my office. Notice that every spine that runs the text vertically does it so the viewer reads from top to bottom.

photograph of book spines showing that text runs from top to bottom of spine for easy reading

This is the logical way of placing text to make it easy to read and gives it more impact. Don’t work against your readers natural reading habits for creating signs. Use them to reinforce your message.

So, whether you are making a sign or banner for your library or one for yourself, run your text properly from top to bottom if you need to rotate your text. Don’t stack the letters without rotation and don’t make us, your readers, read from bottom to top. And that’s your quick design tip on sign-making today. I’ll be back with more design tips soon.

Until then, enjoy some lovely February graphics in the form of Valentine’s Day Icons and February desktop wallpapers, both from Smashing Magazine.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, full of creativity, productivity, and meaningful interactions. Remember, graphic design can seem a bit frivolous, but that’s only if you don’t harness its power for communication and for action and for resistance. As Neil Gaiman reminds us, “Make Good Art.” Allons-y!

All are Welcome: Library Poster

Hello, dear readers! I know I haven’t been posting as regularly and I’m sorry if you haven’t been able to get your usual graphic design and library fix from this blog. But, as others much more eloquent and wise than me have already written and said, it is hard sometimes to see the point in writing about such things as writing or design or art when it seems like everyday brings a new crisis for civil liberties and human decency and the list goes on and on. But we all also know that art can build community and can help with the resistance. So to that end, in addition to the protesting, and donating, and activism that I know is taking up a lot more of my time than it did a couple of weeks ago, I made a poster–just a simple poster, but I hope it can help.

Here it is:

All are welcome. You belong here. This is a library.

 

It’s simple and straightforward. HT to the other artists and libraries, like Olin Library at Cornell University, who have already created and posted signs and statements of welcome. This one is mine and it can be yours, too.

Click the image and get the link to the PDF. Feel free to download, print, and post at your library. It prints on regular letter-size paper in black and white (because we all know that printing in color can be a no-go for budgetary reasons). Share it with others.

I’m going to be working on a hand lettered one, too, but that will take longer to finish and we don’t really have the luxury of time right now.

It’s a small act of resistance. It’s a small thing to design. But welcoming others is big. Reminding people that the library is for them is big. Being stronger together is big.

Libraries and librarians are amazing and we need to remind everyone we are here for them. We need to remind ourselves, too, that we are not alone.

Design matters. Communication matters. Reaching out matters. I’m going to keep reminding myself these truths and make my creative acts matter.

I hope your day goes well, you find community and purpose in your work, and you use whatever talents you have to help others feel welcome and that they belong. Allons-y!

Friday Design Fun

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has been grand. Mine has been a congested walk through a cold that just won’t quit. But I can’t complain because the weather has been glorious and I have enough energy for walking again, plus have some lovely inspiration to share with you today. So let’s dive in before we scamper away to our weekends!

First up, we all could use some design inspiration as we look at our calendars and see August slipping away and back-to-school season is upon us. So check out Smashing Magazine’s August Inspiration. So much beautiful work and ideas for new aesthetics and color palettes to try. Doesn’t it just make you want to start drawing?

Also is anyone else sick of reading all the articles, tweets, and posts that suggest we can only be happy if we quit our day jobs and go travel the globe? Yes? Not just me? If you are sick of it to, go read this lovely article: Dear Internet, Stop Telling Me to Quit My Job. Love it. 🙂 Reminder that we don’t all have to quit our jobs in order to have satisfying, creative, artistic, and fun lives.

But sometimes, when we are trying to become better at anything (everything?) in life, we can take on too much. Especially true if you are dipping your feet into the world of libraries and graphic design. There is so much to learn, so much to master, so much to do! When does anyone find the time? How do you do it all at once?

The answer is simple: you don’t. Check out this article on the scientific argument for mastering one thing at a time which also relates to the domino effect. It’s like my  mother always impressed on us as kids: you do the hard work and it gets easier and you can move on to the next thing. Don’t try to do everything at once, focus on one task and skill at a time and you’ll find that you’ll be able to master it and have the motivation to move onto the next thing. Sometimes, inertia can totally work in our favor (as long as we are already moving!).

If you still aren’t sold on Pokémon GO and its potential uses for libraries (so much design, marketing, and programming potential!), check out how to “Entice a Pokémon GO Player to become a Library User with these 5 Conversation Starters!” A bit dorky? Yes, but I’d expect nothing else from my lovely libraryland. Plus, we can laugh together and get people using the library, which is totally win-win. The article also links to a good guide to Pokémon GO if you aren’t sure what all the hype is about.

And, while not about librarian graphic designers or design inspiration, I wanted to share this TED article on why online privacy matters and how to protect yours as I know this is an issue dear to many librarians hearts and many of us teach about online privacy to our community members.

I hope you have a wonderful day and fabulous weekend! Go create something grand (and make your bed while you’re at it). I’ll be back with some concluding summer thoughts soon and some news. Allons-y!

Library Design Short: It's Always New for Somebody

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope the first week of August has treated you well and you have many fun plans to get the most out of the last bit of your summer (or winter, depending on where you live). I’m looking forward to a few more weeks of picnics, watermelon, and enjoying long days of sunshine. For today’s design short, let’s talk about how it’s always new for somebody. What’s the “it” we’re talking about? Well, really anything when it comes to doing design, especially if you’re just beginning your journey as a librarian graphic designer.

I finished reading Neil Gaiman’s lovely collection of nonfiction this week, The View from the Cheap SeatsAnd it was wonderful, as you’d expect and much of it I’d not read before. What struck me as I was considering what to write about for this week’s post was Gaiman’s discussion of how it something in a book isn’t hackneyed and cliched if it is the first time the reader has ever encountered it. He was specifically writing about children reading, if I remember correctly, but it goes for adults, too. If it is the first time you’ve encountered something, it can’t be hackneyed to you and it can resonate with you, move you, make your life a bit better for it. That’s not hackneyed at all.

And no one should make fun of you for it either, which we see all too often when people dismiss books because “it’s all been done and said before” or when people dismiss the personal discovery of learning something new that others have done before. How many times have you heard, “everyone knows that”?

But everyone doesn’t know that. And it is important to remember in life, in teaching, in listening, and in designing. Everyone doesn’t know it. And that’s okay.

In fact, that’s glorious because it gives you a place where you can help and can connect.

If you know something about graphic design, you can help others with their projects. Not in a bossy, know-it-all way, because no one likes or deserves that. But in a collaborative way that hopefully ends up with both of you being more excited than you were when you started.

At ALA Annual two years ago, I had a poster session where I shared my preliminary research on librarians and graphic design along with examples of my work and best practices. It was a hit and I got to talk with so many lovely librarians. And, I got to share simple tips that for me were now second nature, but news to others. I was listening to one librarian discuss her frustrations with alignment and asked if her guides weren’t working. She looked puzzled and I told her how to pull guides from the rulers so her various text boxes and images would snap in alignment. She was thrilled. She’d never heard of that before as she was trying to figure out it all on her own. So it wasn’t old news to her. It was new and it could help.

As I share my work and my designs in my talks and on this blog, I have to remember that what is new to me might be old to someone else but the reverse is also true. And that keeps me going and keeps me from thinking what I’m doing has no use or meaning or value. Because it does. And if I can help other librarians feel delight instead of dread at creating another programming flyer or postcard or bookmark, then I’ve done what I’ve set out to do. Together we’ll make the library world a little more beautiful and a lot better at visual communication.

So remember, it isn’t hackneyed if you’ve never heard or read or seen it before. Help others as you learn and you’ll get better at your designs, too. And, whatever else you do, be kind. Don’t snuff out another person’s delight at discovering something new. Embrace their excitement and maybe it will even influence you.

Also, if you need some desktop wallpaper delights, check out Smashing Magazine’s selection of August wallpapers. They are inspirational and delightful.

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

Design Short: Figure Out How You Work

Happy Friday, dear readers! It has been quite the week, hasn’t it? I was out for a bit with a summer cold (aren’t they the worst? I find it highly unfair to be sick in the summer.), but am back to day with a design short that I hope will help with all facets of your life and not just your design work at your library. If you are going to avoid burnout (topic of this month’s CR&L News Internet Resources column), stay healthy, inspired, and productive, you’ve got to figure out how you work best.

Now I don’t think you need to devote a morning or a retreat to figuring out how you work best, you probably just need to sit quietly for a few moments and actually write down how you work. When do you do your best work? Where do you do your best work? Can you work with music? Do you work best in silence? Does your best work always happen before 2 pm or after 9 pm? Are you easily distracted or so focused on a task you lose track of time?

You probably already know how you work best, but it is a good habit to remind yourself of your best environment and parameters as it is easy to get your routine pushed around by others’ demands. And, although flexibility is important, you also need to stand firm about protecting your most creative and productive times–especially if you are designing for your library.

Trust me when I say that you don’t want to see anything I’ve ever had to design between 1:00 and 3:00 pm in the afternoon. It’s just not a good creative time for me. I can respond to emails, process collections, attend meetings, and even teach, but I can’t come up with my best designs then. It is my creative time slump and I know it. So I have to do the hard work of creating and designing either early in the morning or in the evening. Otherwise, I’m just wasting my time and my library’s time because I’ll have to redesign it later.

If you need some help on figuring out how you work best, check out Lifehacker’s article on how to optimize for productivity instead of fighting your surroundings and self. Also, check out their great article on how to focus on boundaries not elusive work-life balance. Both I’ve found useful as I gauge how I’m doing in using my most creative hours to do the hard brain work of my job.

Once you figure out how you work best, get to work! Don’t make excuses and don’t put off the hard work of designing. All you need to start is a pen/pencil and some scratch paper, as I’ve shown in previous posts of my design process. You don’t need to go out and buy anything new to start your next design project. There’s no magic pencil or sketchbook you need. There’s no new app you need to download to your phone. It’s just you and the project and your ideas. So go have some fun and figure out just how you’re going to design the flyer for the next library program–or whatever your next project is.

So, do yourself a favor, step away from your Smartphone (don’t worry, there will be more Pokemon when you come back) and figure out how you work best. You just might thank yourself and your library colleagues might, too, once you get inspired to create great design projects for your library.

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