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!

OMG! It’s 2020 and Design Time!

Happy Friday, dear readers! Can you believe we are almost finished with the first month of 2020?! I can’t. I can’t believe how fast time is flying by, how much I want to accomplish this year, and how often I already feel behind, which is just not a lovely place to be.

And, I know, I know, this blog has been on radio silence for a while.

I want that to change this year.

I’ll also let you in on a little secret as to part of why I’ve been silent on this blog for a while: It feels like no one cares about what I care about in libraries.

It’s not that design isn’t talked about all the time, especially design thinking. And that’s great, but my passion is about on-the-ground, every day creating great graphic design to communicate with our communities and with each other as part of the library ecosystem. And it often seems that very few people care about learning about graphic design, implementing even the smallest changes that can have such a big impact, and seeing it as part of what we do and how we show we care.

And that’s hard.

I’ve done research, written a book, spoken about it, written on this blog so much and it doesn’t seem to make a difference.  At times it feels like no one wants to stop and think about design, people just want to slap something in a template and move on without any desire to customize it for their particular context at all. And that makes me sad and frustrated and wondering why I keep doing this work.

But then I remember that it’s important. It’s important to show up and show that I care through what I create. That what I create reflects on my library and my colleagues and I always want that to be positive, professional, and welcoming. That it’s important even if it is a slog most of the time.

It’s a new year and if you ask anyone who knows me, I’m pretty stubborn (or tenacious, depending on how generous the person is who is describing my personality), so I’m back, again, to share with whoever cares the little design things we can do to make our libraries better for everyone.

And I remind myself, everything is new for someone. My daughter reminds me that constantly and also reminds me that clarity is key and kind to learning. That making a difference to one person is sometimes enough. That you never know who you will touch and who will remember years later.

So to that end, look for short design ideas and tips on Fridays. My commitment to those of us who still want to learn about design and apply it to our libraries.

This week, just wanted to show that even when you use a template, you can take the time to customize it, brand it, and make it work for your library.

flyer that says Popular Reading with images of books

The above sign was made with Adobe Spark, but customized by coloring the text to match the dark background on the middle image (along with changing the default font, font size, and alignment) and playing around with the scale of the images to create a striking sign for our Popular Reading Collection. The goal was to make it easy to locate our newly configured Popular Reading Collection, along with inviting readers in with inviting and intriguing images. Templates are fine, but they’re always better customized and it doesn’t take more than a few minutes.

I hope you feel refreshed and inspired this year. We have another 11 months to make great things and to do it in service of others. So let’s go forth, even if it seems like we are designing and shouting in a void. Because it isn’t a void if there is one other person who cares. I do and I hope you still do to.

Allons-y, friends!