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 Inspiration & Typeface Considerations for Branding

Happy Friday, dear readers! Can you believe we are to the end of another week? I can’t. This month is going by too quickly, in a deluge of rain here in the Bay Area. But at least there is always good (and bad) design to talk about in the libraries. Today I want to share some inspiration and a few considerations about typeface choice when deciding on branding guidelines–applicable to libraries and just about any organization.

First the fun. As always, Smashing Magazine has provided a heap of inspiration in their, Breaking out of the box: January 2017 edition of design eye-candy. Love all the illustrations and color palette ideas from these gorgeous images. Makes me want to throw out all the editing work I have to do today and just start sketching.

The new year brings with it a breath of fresh air and kick in the pants to start movement on new projects, doesn’t it? Something that I see a lot of libraries and other organizations doing is thinking and working towards refreshing their visual brands. This isn’t inherently either a good or bad thing, and often it is necessary. You don’t want a website that looks like it is stuck in the 20th century any more than you want to be wearing the same clothes you did in high school. Times and fashions change. And yet, when trying to brand something we need to think of the future, the past, and how we can create timeless brands that whether the trends but aren’t defined by them.

All of this gets me to choosing typefaces for any branding activity–and really any graphic design activity though it is especially important for branding. If you are creating a branding and style guide that you actually want people to adhere to in your library, for goodness sake pick typefaces that people actually have access to! This seems simple right? Of course. If you want someone to actually use your guidelines, you’ve got to make it easy for them–seamless experience and all that. And yet, too many times I see organizations pick a typeface–or two!–that no one can use unless they pay hundreds of dollars. That is quite a large barrier, especially for a library or a department with a small budget.

However, if you choose typefaces that come pre-loaded with the design software your organization uses or even pre-loaded in office productivity suites, then no one has the excuse not to use the defined typefaces and you might get more compliance. Does this limit you some in your typographical design choices? Yes, but it is a better way of ensuring consistency than specifying a typeface no one has and then getting mad that no one is following your guidelines.

But wait, you may say, I’ll just design everything then it will all adhere to the guidelines no matter what typeface I choose. Really? You’re going to design absolutely everything for your library or organization? This may happen in a large org, with lots of design staff, but even at my university we don’t have a large enough design staff to produce absolutely everything that is every made on campus. I’m not talking about every promotional brochure that goes out to potential donors–I’m talking about everything. Every handout, flyer, button, mug, brochure, change in hours sign, everything. Do you have time to do that for your library? Probably not unless you were solely hired as the library’s graphic designer. I know I don’t have time to do all of that and library graphic design is my passion–but I was hired to teach and do reference and buy books, etc.

Also, is it really sustainable to say that you’ll hoard all control over the graphic design at your library through using a typeface that no one else can use? Maybe you bought a great typeface on a flash sale–goodness knows I have–and you want to use it. That’s great, but don’t make it the standard for your branding. Think long term. You won’t be at your library forever and you need to share guidelines if they are to work–the whole point is to have some standards for designs. And typefaces are so important to branding that it behooves you and benefits your library to create guidelines that people can follow.

So, all I’m asking is that when you are working on your redesigns in the new year, pick typefaces that are available and accessible to everyone who will be designing at your library. Your colleagues and your inner graphic designer will thank you.

I hope you have a lovely weekend–I’m hoping for a break in the rain to do some walking–and have time to create something lovely. I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. Allons-y!

Library Graphic Design Inspiration in the New Year

Happy Friday, dear readers! We’ve made it to the end of the first workweek of the year. Hard to believe we’re almost a week into 2017 already. Time really does go by too quickly no matter what it seems like is happening or we’re doing. For this first post of the new year, I want to share a few things that I hope will get you excited about your library graphic design work in the new year, perhaps even think of some new goals you want to achieve.

As for me, I’m not much of a new year’s resolution kind of person. I have enough stress without piling on more pressure with a bunch of lofty resolutions. However, I am all about goals and setting goals allows me to plan what I want to do in the new year, both professionally and personally. On the professional, design-oriented side, I want to increase my skills in hand lettering–it’s gotten so big over the last few years. It will be a nice complement to my continuing practice of calligraphy and hopefully expand the scope and feel of what I design in the new year. I’m not sure yet what I’ll get a chance to design for my library, but I’m hoping I get lots of opportunities (or I just might have to make my own).

Speaking of getting inspiration for new designs, it’s a new month and you know what that means–awesome new desktop wallpapers from Smashing Magazine. I’m particularly enamored of the tea pot and tea bag one, so calming for the new year. Also, the wonderful illustrated wallpapers reminds me that another goal is to continue to improve my ability to use Illustrator (a librarian graphic designer can never stop learning).

An older post, but still wonderful, is this photo-heavy post of a pin-sized book of Life’s Lil Pleasures. Miniature books are wonderful and this one is quite miniature. Plus, it would be a great challenge for bookbinding, which I think is another area where librarian graphic designers can learn to stretch their creative wings and use to improve their design work. There is something incredibly satisfying about creating a book by hand. It is a nice change from all the work we do in front of a computer when we are designing flyers and brochures for the library.

And, finally, because sometimes you just need a peaceful scene to look at when all seems too overwhelming, I give you Pickles at the Green Dragon. You can’t help but smile looking at that photo. So peaceful.

I’ll be back soon with a post reflecting on last year’s design work and where I see this year going. Along with more tips and hints for creating some great library graphic design projects. Until then, I hope you are inspired to break out your pencils and start sketching something new.

I hope you have a lovely first weekend of the month and a wonderful year full of opportunities and time to create awesome things for your library and your life. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Friday Design Inspiration: Brush Lettering and Holiday Breaks

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a good week and have a lovely weekend with some time for relaxation amid all the bustle at the end of the year. Today I have a bunch of links for inspiration that will perhaps inspire some crafting and designing before we ring in the new year.

First, if you liked reading about brush lettering in Smashing Magazine, you’ll enjoy Part 2 of Brush Lettering that discusses practicing the techniques needed to create lovely, oh-so-trendy brush lettering. I’m looking forward to practicing over the holidays and maybe adding it to my calligraphy work.

If you are interested in getting into brush lettering, you’ll want to read the entire three-part review on brush pens over at The Well-Appointed Desk. I’m linking here to the third installment review on waterproof bristle tips as these are what I’ve gotten from Japan to use.

Do you listen to music while you work or do you prefer silence? Me, I’m a silence all the way kind of person whether I’m working on a design, writing a blog post, or reading. So I had to link to The Atlantic article, The best music for productivity? Silence.

Do you love wrapping presents or think that anything but a box should come pre-wrapped? If you need some help on wrapping odd-shaped items, check out this guide to wrapping with cloth: wrap anything, which goes over wrapping with Furoshiki–beautiful fabric wrapping cloths.

Finally, if you need to create some holiday cards or last-minute winter designs, check out the round-up of free holiday and winter icon sets over at Smashing Magazine.

I hope you have a fantastic end of the year and very happy new year, dear readers. I’m taking a break from posting until the new year so I can focus on family, friends, and relaxing before diving back into everything. I hope you have time to rest and recharge, too, so you are ready for all the challenges–design and otherwise–that I’m certain the new year will hold. Thank you, as always, for reading and I’ll be seeing you in the new year. Allons-y!

Friday Design Inspiration

Happy Friday, dear readers! Can you believe we are a bit over a week into December? The last month of the year always seems to fly by. But on the plus side, there is always so much holiday inspiration for design at this time of year. It can actually be a little overwhelming. So I wanted to share with you some inspiration that hopefully helps instead of hinders your inspiration for the last graphic design projects of the year for your library.

Part 2 of Smashing Magazine’s guide to brush lettering is available. It’s a good guide to getting started practicing your lettering. I’m looking forward to trying out more brush lettering in my work as I was gifted a handful of brush pens from my trip to Japan. It will be interesting to see if I have any affinity for it after having done calligraphy.

Who doesn’t like free icons? I personally love free icon sets and Smashing Magazine has a lovely one for Christmas.  What I really like about this set is its versatility. Even if you don’t want to use it in the original format for an Advent calendar, many of the icons–gingerbread man, mug of cocoa, snowflake, etc.–can be used in other projects, too.

Finally from Smashing Magazine, check out the December design inspiration–so many great color palettes, illustrations, and photographs. Makes me want to create all the things.

Also, in the vein of breaking out of the box and thinking of things in new ways, I highly recommend reading, “The strange, surprisingly radical roots of the shopping mall.” It’s a great article from the TED Art + Design blog and had me considering the design of shopping malls in a new light–even if their original intent has never come to fruition. Food for thought as you work through your redesign projects at the library.

And, purely for fun, check out this article–and especially the video–on the World Sign Spinning Championship. It’s fun and amazing. Plus, the competition signs are well-designed, too.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend without stress over the upcoming end of the year and you have time for good books, good food, and good friends. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!


Friday Design: It's December Already

Happy Friday, dear readers! Can you believe we are in December? I certainly can’t. November, well, November has been a bit more of a wild ride than I was expecting and I’ve been busy with lots of design projects so there hasn’t been as much posting here as I was hoping. But here’s hoping the last month of the year provides some good fodder for the design posts. Today, I’m sharing some design inspiration and fun that will hopefully help inspire you as you race towards the holiday finish line of the year.

I know we are already a day into December, but if you need a refresh for your wallpaper, check out the lovely December desktop wallpaper designs over at Smashing Magazine. I’m rather fond of the little penguin in the Santa hat. Adorable!

I’m rather fond of gift-giving and of all things related to stationery, so The Well-Appointed Desk’s Holiday Buying Guide is like a catalog to a candy store for me. Now if only everyone on my gifting list felt the same…

Brush lettering is absolutely everywhere it seems and on everything. If you want to learn more and perhaps practice it yourself, this article from Smashing Magazine is a good place to start.

Finally, I had to share this blog post from The Blabbermouth Blog because it sums up a lot of my feelings at the moment, especially in regards to incorporating important things other than design and libraries on my blog. But I do believe that libraries are still important, so important, and that creating great graphic design for libraries is not a trivial matter–it can help us communicate and welcome everyone into our spaces, programs, and events. So I’ll continue writing and sharing here and in my other work as a librarian.

Finally, I didn’t forget about looking for autumnal inspiration for our work and our designs. We went to Japan (lots of inspiration for design, which I’ll be sharing at later dates) at the end of October and the leaves were just changing so this photo is from Kyoto. The maple leaves changing colors has inspired my work this fall and I look forward to seeing what inspiration I can glean from the coming winter as it brings its changes to the landscape around me.

photograph of maple leaves

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


Design and NaNoWriMo

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you are well and that November is treating you kindly! How did we get so far into November already? Time is really flying, especially if you are participating in NaNoWriMo. So what does NaNoWriMo have to do with design? I’m glad you asked.

For those who aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. November is NaNoWriMo, which means thousands of writers all over the world are attempting (and succeeding) in writing a novel in 30 days. Yes, an entire novel–at least 50,000 words–in November. It’s audacious, crazy, exciting, and fun. Plus, lots of libraries get in the action by becoming Come Write In partners and hosting write-ins–meet-ups for writers–at their libraries. My library is a Come Write In partner for the second year and I’m hoping we have even more writers come this year. It’s hard to say no to free coffee and cookies in a quiet library space when you are on a writing deadline. If you’ve never taken part in NaNoWriMo, I really think you should and it isn’t too late to start this year.

But what does NaNoWriMo have to do with graphic design in libraries?

Well, I could tell you that writing a novel will help you with creating great copy for your next flyer, poster, or brochure–it probably couldn’t hurt your copy writing abilities. I could tell you that getting writers into your library for Come Write In events is a great outreach opportunity and they may even take a look at your current exhibits or other programming when they come out of their writing fog–they probably will. Or, I could tell you that there’s nothing like banging away at a keyboard during a word sprint to encourage you to stop making excuses and just get writing–it totally works.

But really, the best reason for doing NaNoWriMo in terms of library design is that it isn’t about library graphic design. You aren’t cropping photos, you aren’t matching color swatches, and you aren’t creating a grid for the next newsletter layout. You’re writing. Pure and simple, words on the screen or in your notebook. You are exercising another area of your brain, taking a break from your sketchbook to get into your word processing notebook. And that’s great!

This break from consciously working on graphic design–but still working on a creative project–will give your subconscious time to process and find solutions to your design challenges. You’ll come back refreshed and ready to create even better designs for your next outreach brochure or flyer for storytime. This is a great thing that should also absolve you of any lingering guilt for taking time away from doing more and learning more on graphic design. By widening your scope of creative endeavors, you widen your personal encyclopedia of inspiration and understanding to draw from in your next project.

Plus, you’ll probably have a chance to eat a cookie and drink some coffee or tea while resting your wrists before another wordsprint. And, who knows, you might find another graphic designer among the writers at your event who you’d never meet otherwise.

So get out there and find inspiration through writing. You never know what you’ll be able to bring back into your library graphic design work until you do. And, good luck and fast writing to all my fellow WriMos! 🙂

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




Friday Design: Sign Inspiration and Library Exhibits

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had another lovely week and are excited about the weekend. We are almost to the end of October and I can hardly believe it. So much to do at the end of the year–work to wrap up, cookies to bake, cards to write, NaNoWriMo to win. It seems like there is hardly time to stop and consider anything in the rush at the end of the year. I find it both exhilarating and slightly terrifying. So, this post is part inspiration, part a bit of visual fun to help you find a moment to slow down and look at pretty things, and part call to making better posters for your next library exhibit. Sound good? Okay, let’s get into it.

I spent last week in Washington, D.C. with my mother. We saw more museums and monuments than I thought was possible, walked further than my feet told me was recommended, and generally had a wonderful time even though it was way too hot for the middle of October. Of course, in between looking at all the amazing art, inventions, and such, I spent time taking photos of signs and exhibit designs that inspired me. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas to bring back to the library and luckily it didn’t bother my mother–too much–that I kept taking close-ups of exhibit captions and posters.

It isn’t surprising that the various Smithsonian museums have amazing exhibits and great signage. They have the professionals and experts to put together exhibitions and the support that most libraries can only dream of. But that doesn’t mean we can’t copy some of their best ideas and get inspiration for our own exhibits. My library creates two main exhibits each year and has begun to step up its game in terms of design. I’m part of the exhibit team, so I may be a little–a lot–biased and invested in the outcome of the exhibit designs, especially the posters where I have the most input and sway. So I focused mostly on the exhibit posters, captions, and signage as I walked around the museums. Below is just one example that I love, not just because it is for the exhibit about birds.

photograph of bird poster

This is the poster that greats you as you enter the exhibit and see the first cases of specimens. It is just wonderful. I love the silhouette of the birds, the breaking of the border at the bottom by the egret’s feet, the combination of text, and the overall color scheme used. It is at once a beautiful poster and a great orientation to the exhibit.  I especially love how the headline was colored using sampling from the image. It ties in great. The fact that the type leans towards Art Nouveau is just icing on the cake as far as I’m concerned.

birds of the District of Columbia caption close-up

This is a close-up of the headline and caption at the bottom of the poster to show more detail and the great composition of this type. Great use of color to tie the text together and relate back to the main image. The variation of font size clearly denotes the information hierarchy at a glance allowing readers to quickly get information without any confusion.

This poster makes me even more committed to upping our exhibit poster game at my library. It’s so beautiful and eye-catching. Now if I just had a large collection of bird specimens to exhibit at the library…

Outside of the museums, one of our favorite places to walk through was the sculpture garden on The Mall. This sign obviously called to me.

photograph of Metropolitain sign in sculpture garden

So is my point that you have to design in the Art Nouveau style for your next project? Of course not. But consider carefully how you are tying together your type, copy, color, and images to support your message. And, if you can, try to push yourself to take some risks in your designs to create the very best posters and signage for your next exhibit that you can.

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


Friday Design: Inspiration and a Challenge

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has been going well and you have some lovely weekend plans. Today I want to share a bit more design inspiration and a design challenge. So let’s get into it!

There is so much to love about autumn and the change of seasons can definitely inspire us in life and in our library work. I wanted to share some things that are inspiring me for the autumn and would love to hear what is inspiring you, too.

UPPERCASE Magazine is endlessly inspiring. I love that it is printed with such care and vibrant colors. That in the previous issue the editor and designer, Janine Vangool, explained and showed all the new typefaces she was using in a refresh of the magazine. I love all the interviews and showcases of artists’ works in areas I don’t work in, but find inspiring nonetheless. A recent issue even had a large spread of artist’s books, which was amazing, and the love of print and craft shows through in each issue. Highly recommended for refueling your creative tanks when you think you’ve run out of ideas.

I love the reviews and information from The Well-Appointed Desk. Great round-ups of other posts and news around the web in “Link Love” and this blog keeps me searching for the perfect teal blue fountain pen ink–plus keeps me motivated to write holiday cards.

NaNoWriMo is coming! Is your library participating as a Come Write In spot? You should. Although you’ll be creating with more words than you’d ever use on a flyer (right?), it is a great opportunity to meet a community of wonderful writers and get inspired to create no matter what medium you’re using. Also, you never know when you might get an idea for your library’s next round of marketing materials from another writer’s story. Plus, it is a great excuse–as if you need one–to break out your button-maker and make some buttons to share!

While I don’t have a link for this one, seeing all the signs for pumpkin patches and autumnal festivals around also inspires me in the fall. I love getting new lettering ideas and seeing what works and doesn’t in signage. I always enjoy seeing what color combinations are used and what I might be able to do in the library with them.

So, now, to the design challenge. Find something new to inspire you this autumn. Maybe it’s a new hike, a new sign for a restaurant that just opened, a great book, or a talk with a friend. Whatever it is, translate your inspiration into a design–your choice for format and size–that speaks to you about autumn. Interpret autumn however you want. (Think about how the artists for the monthly Smashing Magazine wallpapers all design for the same month, yet create radically different final products.) Then, if you’re willing, share your design in the comments. I’ll be sharing mine in an upcoming post.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend, full of all good things. (And if you need a tasty, autumnal treat, check out Joy the Baker’s Vanilla Sweet Potato Waffles.) Inspiration is all around you–you just need to look! I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. Allons-y!