Friday Design Tip: Committing to Better Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday Design Tip: Get Your Digital Files in Order

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Design: 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!

End of Summer Thoughts: Design and Otherwise

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope the end of August is going well for you and you have something grand planned for the end of summer (even if that is eating more watermelon before it turns into sweater weather). Today I wanted to share a few bits and bobs for the end of summer–design, books, and other things.

I apologize for not having a post out last Friday, but I was at a weeklong bookbinding intensive at San Francisco Center for the Book. It was absolutely fantastic and now I’m trying to figure out how I can find room in my itty, bitty space for crafts to hold bookbinding supplies. If you are in the area and ever have the chance to take some classes at SF Center for the Book, I highly recommend it. Both bookbinding and letterpress classes are great. Last week reinvigorated my love of crafting by hand, away from the computer. It was inspiring to work with such beautiful materials, to learn something new, and to connect with others who share my fascination with books and journals.

The workshop reminded me that we all need to have people to connect with who share our passions for designing, crafting, and creation. Talking with my classmates got me excited to think about ways to bring back what I’ve learned into my teaching and work at the library. Paper crafting for finals week? Sounds like fun to me! We all need to take time to recharge our creativity through learning from experts and talking with others. I’m so glad I had that opportunity this summer.

And summer should be a time for recharging and getting ready for the push to the end of the year (especially if your life revolves around the academic year, like mine does). So it seems fitting to share this Lifehacker article, What Psychology Teaches Us About Structuring the Workday. As we transition from summer into fall, it seems like we lose our laid back attitudes and replace them with stress. So we might as well use everything to our advantage to make our workday work for us, instead of against us, as much as possible.

While I love summer, there is something lovely about fall, too. Although it sometimes makes me sad as it ushers in the ending of another year, the one thing that never makes me sad is finding out there are a bunch of awesome books I can look forward to reading. So check out this guide to fantasy and science fiction books coming out this fall. Time to update my reading list.

Finally, if you are in the Bay Area this weekend and are a fan of pens, you should really go to the SF International Pen Show. It has an inexpensive admission and looks like it should be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to walking around this weekend as I try not to buy everything in sight!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of art, design, and lots of good times. I’ll be back with more news and notes soon. 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!

Break Week Thoughts

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope this week has been treating you well. We are on Spring Break at my university so the campus and library have been quiet and it has been a wonderful week for getting things done. I wanted to share a few thoughts on the importance of break weeks, or something similar, along with a few bits of fun.

I love being an academic librarian. I love the students. I love the work. And I sometimes even love the frenetic energy on campus. But this last term just about had me crawling under my desk in search of some quiet and calm. It was a chaotic term for everyone I talked with, not just those of us in the library. No one is sure why, but it completely zapped our energy reserves. This break week, even though the library is open (albeit limited hours), has been a joyous bit of calm between the storms.

Break week isn’t a week of zoning out or goofing off. We don’t have it as vacation, unlike some of the other faculty and students. Instead, it is a week of catching up and diving into those projects that take a backseat to the urgent demands of teaching and other work during the term. For me, it has been a week of research and writing, getting to delve deeply into projects that I had to neglect while teaching two credit-bearing classes and doing more committee work than I care to remember.

I’ve actually been able to get into a state of flow with my work, which never happens during the quarter. I’ve been able to finish another round of analysis on a large stack of transcripts, complete a conference paper and presentation, and check of a half-dozen other smaller projects that need to be finished. And, I’ve hardly had to look at the clock at all. Without interruptions or meetings that section off my time into hour increments that may work for busywork, but don’t work for deep thinking and analysis, I’ve felt more relaxed and accomplished at the end of the day than I have for a longer time than I care to admit.

It is hard brainwork, deep thinking, but satisfying in a way that urgent emails and fixing work for committees will never be for me.

It is a reminder that we need time like this to think and to plan so that when we take action, it will be thoughtfully considered instead of a reaction. If you can carve this out into your week or month, you are fortunate indeed. If you are an administrator, my hope for you is that you would figure out a way to carve out this time for your staff if you aren’t as fortunate as my library to have built in “downtime” like the break week, where work can be done without interruption.

We, as the faces of the library, are public serving and public-facing, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need some time for reflection and flow work, too.

As for fun, because we need fun, too, check out Smashing Magazine’s Easter Icon Set (it’s free). And, if you are in the San Jose, California area on April 9th, check out the S.F. Bay Area Printers’ Fair & Wayzgoose. It sounds like it should be fantastic!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend filled with good times and good reads! I’ll be back soon with thoughts on our spring exhibit and graphic design for librarians.

2016 and We're Back

Happy Friday, dear readers! Can you believe that we are already over a week into the new year? I can hardly believe it myself. The campus is full of students again and everything is chugging along at its usual frenetic pace. So I thought we’d slow down a bit today and focus on some articles and items that can help us try to keep calm as we rush headfirst into the new year.

I love being organized, don’t you? It makes work and play that much easier. While it isn’t gift-giving season per se, this article on the Gift of Organization from Lifehacker is still useful if you are trying to figure out how to get a bit more organized before the month is out. I recently bought some new storage containers for home, now I just need to find some time to actually get things organized in them…

A new month of course means new beautiful Desktop Wallpaper Calendars from Smashing Magazine. If you have to stare at a screen all day like I often do for work, you might at least have a lovely desktop wallpaper. This month’s batch of wallpapers run the gamut from cute to quirky to beautiful so I’m sure you can find something to perk up your screen.

Finally, if nothing else works for holding back the chaos at work and/or home, have a cup of tea. There is nothing like a cup of tea to make a few minutes a bit better. In that vein, check out the lovely Tea Time Fashionable Friday post from The Well-Appointed Desk. Tea (and some coffee) plus stationery? Count me in.

I hope you had a lovely end to 2015 and are having a good start to 2016. I’m sure this year will bring many changes, challenges, and surprises. I’ll be back again soon with some more thoughts on libraries and such. Allons-y!

 

 

Time at the End of the Year

Happy Friday, dear readers! Another week in December gone by. The time does really seem to fly by at this time of year. Everything wrapping up (including packages) and the start of anticipating the new year makes it a great time of year to slow down and prioritize what we want to do next in our lives. This post has some resources to help with time, focus, and getting our stuff done (in life and at work).

Do you feel like time is speeding up as you get older? If so, you’re not alone. Goodness knows I’d like to have enough time to be bored sometimes. Lifehacker has an interesting article on why this phenomenon exists and what we can do to get back into the present moment. Enjoy the article on Why Time Feels Like it’s Flying By.

Part of the reason time seems to be flying by is that most of us, if we admit it, are overscheduled, bad at multitasking, and jump from project to project throughout the day. Because of this, our focus suffers. Being reflective and proactive about how we work helps and so do these Seven Strategies for Regaining Focus in Hectic Workplace. Let’s all agree to have a less hectic workplace in the new year, shall we? That would be grand.

I love the idea of taking the time now to Schedule Catch-up Days in the new year. Having a day or even an afternoon to tackle the to-do list and get through everything that keeps getting put off is a great idea. I’m pulling out my planner now to schedule some in 2016.

I hope you have a lovely day and weekend, dear readers. Hard to believe we are at the end of another year. Let’s make the most of it. Allons-y!

Summer Reflections

Happy Thursday, dear readers! I hope you are having a lovely week and have a wonderful weekend planned. I feel like I’m still recovering from ALA Annual, which was wonderful and exhausting. (Thanks to everyone who stopped by my poster presentation and had a chat. It was a lot of fun!). Today, I just want to share a few thoughts and links before I head off into the 3-day weekend. Summer is a great time for reflection and hopefully some of this post will be useful to you.

Can you believe half the year has gone by already? I can’t. Time is just going too fast, even when I’m bored! I’m going to take some time this weekend to check in with the progress I’ve made this year and what I still want to do with the coming 6 months of the year. Because as we all know, time can just get away from us whether we’re at work or at home. So I think this article was very timely and had some good advice on how to prioritize your life before your manager does it for you. No one (or at least very few) wants to be all work and absolutely no time for anything else. So take some time to think about what you have control over and how you can make your job work for you. It’s worth it.

On the flip side, I know that I’m often drained mentally after work and feel like curling up with a cup of tea and not doing much else the rest of the evening. But I know I should work on my projects and the things that I love to do outside of work, even if it can be hard. So I liked this idea to set aside 20 minutes for personal projects to avoid crashing as written about on Lifehacker. It’s kind of a different take on having an after-work ritual to separate work from home. I need to implement this.

And, of course, we can’t have a post without a little bit of fun. At ALA, I was reminded how many librarians are also cat lovers so thought I’d share this post from The Well-Appointed Desk, Fashionable Friday: Feline Fur-vor. Adorable, especially the copy cat mug.

Also, 3D printing is both interesting and confusing to me, but I can totally get behind this use of a 3D printer: duck waddles and swims with 3D-printed foot. Adorable!

I hope you have a lovely day and weekend filled with all good things. Allons-y!

Work, Goals, and the Light at the End of the Term

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that your week has gone well, you’ve accomplished what you’ve set out to do, and you have something fun planned for the weekend. At my university, we can see the light at the end of the quarter as we are done to the final week of classes and then the hurdle of finals week. Summer is almost here, even though it looks like January outside with all the fog and high clouds, and we can almost taste it. So today, I just wanted to share a few thoughts and links on work, goals, and the light at the end of the term.

I’m exhausted and I don’t think I’m the only one. I love teaching at a university, but by the end of the spring quarter I’m pretty much spent. Spring quarter is when all the annual reports are due and everyone is trying to wrap up every project all at once. It is enough to make anyone exhausted and overwhelmed. When I came across this post, It’s not just about working harder, you also need to work faster, I thought I couldn’t have read it at a better time. We don’t just need to work longer, we need to work faster. And to me faster doesn’t mean we run around it a panicked miasma, making everyone around us feel panicked, too. Instead, we channel all our energy, remove all the drama and distractions, and just get work done. Be efficient. Don’t complain about having to do work. Just do the work. It works. I’m not saying I can work full throttle all the time, but it does help to crank out the work at the end of the quarter, especially when I can see the light at the end of the term. (Yay, summer break!)

Doing this at work means we have more time for outside projects, although we have to remember that you can’t achieve your goals if you’re never working towards them. Great, short post by Lifehacker. It reminds me that it is easy to have a goal in my head, but much harder to continue to work towards that goal. But it is worth it because who doesn’t like to level up in achievements? And we all define those achievements in different ways, which is the fun part. Dream big, then get working. Just don’t forget to take a nap once in a while, too.

On the design front, I’m having way too much fun playing with Coolors: the super fast colour schemes generator for cool designers! (Their words, not mine.) It is easy, fast, and a lot of fun to play around with different color schemes. A great tool for those who feel overwhelmed by color choices when designing something new. I’m thinking this might be great for designing our new exhibit color palettes and marketing materials for the library.

And, because it will be summer soon, I just had to share two Joy the Baker recipes that sound amazing: blueberry cheesecake ice cream and strawberry cookies and cream cake. I will have to make these for summer parties this year.

I hope you have a lovely weekend, dear readers, full of fun and play and whatever you want. I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. Allons-y!