Friday Design: Little Things Matter

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that the week has been kind, you’ve been able to create lovely things, and you have a wonderful weekend in front of you. This week has been busy (when is it not?) and I’m looking forward to seeing some family and taking some naps this weekend. But first, I want to share a piece of advice that I’m sure you’ve heard before: little things matter.

Little things matter, whether we are talking about design, work, friendship, or life. Saying hello, remembering to ask after a coworker’s family, sharing a treat, or taking care even with ephemeral things. Little things matter. For today’s design advice, I’m talking about the little things of matching colors.

We’re coming to the end of Banned Books Week and although we didn’t have time to put together a big display, I still wanted to have something up in the library by our Popular Reading Collection to remind students about the continued attempts to ban books from libraries. Luckily I had buttons already made, but need to make a couple of mini-posters to supplement the great information from ALA’s website.

I created and printed the simple, but eye-catching mini-poster below and was ready to install it when I noticed something wrong. Do you see it?

banned books week flyer showing color of text not matching rest of flyer

The text was a dark navy versus black. I quickly changed it to black so it would match and reprinted the mini-poster below.

banned books flyer with text matching color of icon on flyer

In this case, the little thing that mattered was ensuring I kept a consistent color scheme for the mini-poster. Would anyone have noticed the difference in color? Perhaps not consciously, but subconsciously they’d feel that something was not quite right. Making this change makes the mini-poster more polished and professional, which is what I hope we all want our libraries’ communications to be.

So next time you are designing, take a moment to pause and review your work with a critical and caring eye to ensure you have the little things right. Oh, and always support the freedom to read.

I’ll be back with more news and notes. Until then, have a lovely week. Allons-y!

Friday Design: Clear is Kind in Design

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope the end of summer is treating you well and you are still enjoying long days and pleasant nights as my favorite gunslinger would say (high five if you get the reference and hugs even if you don’t). We’re in the midst of the chaos that seems to hit every year right before the academic year starts and every year it makes me wonder why we continue to do things that set ourselves up for this every year. This has especially come home to me this year as I just finished a re-read of Brene Brown’s, Dare to Lead.

If you haven’t read it, you should. Everyone should. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a leader, and maybe especially then. You can find out more about the book and her work on her Dare to Lead Hub.

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

I was struck again by her discussion about boundaries and accountability and communication, especially this line, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” It’s true in leadership and teamwork and it’s true in design.

How often have you been given a handout where you can’t make heads nor tails of what’s most important, who to contact for more information, or even the point of it? How many times have you walked into a new building and been completely stumped as to where to go to find the elevator or restroom or even a directory? How many times have you just wanted to find the dang customer service phone number on a webpage and had to search through the whole website (or worse, have to go to a search engine to find it)?

Unclear design is unhelpful, frustrating, and useless. Graphic design, and design in general, is here to solve problems and make life better not worse. And it can help us communicate more clearly and bring us together if done well.

So what does this have to do with what I’ve been working on lately?

We have a really confusing library building. The hiring committee lost me in the building when I was interviewing, no joke, so you know it is confusing. And we don’t have great wayfinding and we had a self-guided tour, but it was orphaned (no one knew who was responsible for it and so no one wanted to step on someone else’s toes to do something about it). Unclear is unkind on so many levels.

So what changed?

A happenstance comment from me at a meeting to a colleague who had rewritten part of the copy and wanted to see it used. A check with our web designer to make sure she wasn’t working on it (duplicated effort is a waste). Then two days of furious editing and writing copy, copy & pasting, and revising library maps to create a mobile-friendly self-guided tour to hopefully help our confused students figure out the way around their library.

You can see the updated tour here: http://library.csueastbay.edu/library-tour. It’s simple, clear, and I hope will help our students (and everyone else) find their way around our building. Yes, it has more than just a tour because “clear is kind” and our library jargon is not nor is our wayfinding.

So as you finish up your last minute summer projects and prepare for the fall and meetings and new design projects, keep Dr. Brown’s words in mind: “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”

Here’s to a kind, well-designed, and wonderful end of the summer and start of fall.

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

 

Friday Design: Signage Matters

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

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

Why?

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

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

sign that reads priority use for disabled patrons

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

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

new sign that reads priority use for patrons with disabilities

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

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

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

 

Friday Design: Semi-Homemade Designs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want examples? I’ve got examples.

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

save the date open house card

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

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

library workshops banner

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

University Libraries, Heart of the Campus logo

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

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

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!

Random Friday Fun

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you are well and this month has been a good one. It’s been a while since I’ve posted, for which I apologize. It has been quite the summer (more meetings than I care to recall and we started on the semester system which meant the quiet of summer was too short) and it is shaping up to be quite the fall, too. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t find inspiration for our work and our designs even in the midst of everything.

So today, I wanted to share a few things that have come across my desk (literally and figuratively) that might be fun and inspiring to you, too.

First, I’ve been taking some time to sort, discard, and clean up my office in those spare moments that are too short to dig into a new design project, but long enough to get something accomplished. You know how it is. And I have to say, what a difference it makes. Papers seem to multiple in filing cabinets and on desks, so it is great to get pared down again. I always think the beginning of a school year is a great time to do a bit of refresh, so if you are tied to an academic calendar, too, give it a try. It might just free up some space, literally and mentally.

Second, if you are in the Bay Area, I have to recommend going to SF Center for the Book for a class, to see an exhibit, or maybe even go to the upcoming Roadworks to re-energize your creativity. I’ve taken a number of classes at the center and always come away with new ideas to incorporate into my design work, even though I’ve yet to be called on to bind a book or use my letterpress to create something for the library. I do have some signatures that need binding at home, though, so maybe this weekend would be a good time to do it…

Third and finally, because it is Friday and we could all use a good laugh, a somewhat oldie, but definitely a goodie video, “New Spice: Study Like a Scholar, Scholar”.

I hope you have a wonderful day and rejuvenating weekend. I’ll be back with more news and notes soon (hopefully). 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: 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!