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: Library Swag

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a good week and have a lovely weekend planned. Today, let’s talk a bit about library swag. Whether you love or hate getting it, swag is ubiquitous at conferences, workshops, and events. Libraries have long created and provided swag as part of our outreach and promotional efforts and we’ve probably all seen good, bad, and downright ugly swag.

I love good swag. What do I mean by good? If swag is well-designed and useful to me, I love it. Clever and unique swag might draw me in, but if it isn’t well-designed and it has no use for me, I don’t find it great. So how do we create great swag that won’t end up cluttering someone’s dorm room or office and instead gets used and loved?

The way we do everything: with thoughtful design.

Swag doesn’t have to cost a fortune to be well-designed and useful. Take the humble button. Button making supplies aren’t super-expensive and the presses can be reused for years with care so you just have to keep buying pin backs and covers as consumables. You can find lots of design inspiration online and buttons are fast to design because the canvas is so small. Think pithy, clever, and concise on buttons. This is a photo of some I created for our summer orientation events. You can get your library marketing in on the rim of the button (I added our library’s URL).

photograph of well-designed buttons that say, Read, Eat, Sleep, Repeat

Buttons are almost universally popular with our students. You can also use button-making as a library event as other libraries have done.

Small swag like buttons also encourage interaction at outreach events. They are small and if you have multiple designs, people like to read/look at them all before choosing. It’s a great time to have a short conversation, answer a question about the library, or plug an upcoming library event.

 

But swag, like grades, seems to be getting inflated over the years and departments often compete to have the coolest, most popular swag at events. From pop sockets to water bottles, T-shirts to sunglasses, the amount your library can spend on swag is truly astronomical.

If you are looking to up your swag game and have the budget for more expensive swag, make sure it’s something your target population wants (asking is always the way to do this) and make sure you can brand it with your library’s logo. It’s important for this type of swag to be useful and to provide a promotional push for your library. For example, we purchased power banks for an upcoming library event to use as prizes as you can see in the photo below.

photograph of power bank with library's logo on it

You can’t miss our branding on these power banks! Larger canvases are great for going large with your library’s logo and create striking promotional messages.

So I hope these two examples have given you some inspiration for swag in your library. Remember, you can always do right by creating simple, bold designs for your swag. Stand out with great design on a useful product and you’ve got a winning combination for your next piece of library swag.

See you back here with more design news and notes soon. Allons-y!

Friday Design: Timely Design

Hello, dear readers. I hope your week has been going well. We’ve had a bit of hot, hot weather so I’m hoping the next week give us a reprieve. But the design show must go on! Today I wanted to talk a bit about timely design and why it matters.

I was in my local Target the other day and saw this end-cap display:

photo showing timely, well-placed display that libraries can copy

I had to take a photo because this is what I’m talking about when I’m talking about timely design. It’s summer and who doesn’t want a tasty frozen treat during a heatwave? Everything you need is here, including gluten-free cones and an ice cream scoop! It’s perfect and was set up right by the frozen dessert aisle.

Timely, convenient, organized, well-marked. Great design, great promotion, and I bet it moved a lot of waffle cones, toppings, and ice cream, which was the entire point.

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

Everything.

How often do you and your colleagues thing about timely design? About placing collections, service points, and signage right where people need them? Where it is convenient rather than where we’ve always had it?

How can you incorporate timely design into your library?

You can start small. Why not place some guidebooks and summer reads by a fabulously designed poster promoting free museum passes via the library’s Discover & Go program? People can find out more around the museums they go to and get a book to read on the bus or train or in the museum’s garden when they need a break.

Libraries do great book displays for various events such as Banned Books Week, Blind Date with a Book, heritage months, and more. These are timely, but how can you make them more compelling and timely? Use your creativity and your graphic design skills to showcase other linked resources that people might not know about. Banned Books and promotion of legal help via the lawyer in the library program. Test Prep book collection right by the reference desk with a huge arrow pointing towards the friendly-looking librarians for more help.

We often think long-term in the library and that is as it should be for the work we do with preservation of access to knowledge, sustainability of our funding, and building of relationships. But we also need to think about what we can do that is more ephemeral, but no less important, to get timely information, services, and resources in front of our patrons in ways that are appealing, well-designed, and fun. The two ways of doing and thinking can happily coexist and support each other.

So remember the importance of timely design and synergies the next time you have to design a new display, decide where to hang promotional materials, or move a collection.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get an ice cream cone. 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 Design: Redesigning an Instruction Handout

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you are well and looking forward to a relaxing, rejuvenating weekend. Today I want to share with you a look at my process for redesigning an instruction handout. As schools are back in session, those of us who teach are probably thinking a lot about handouts so I thought it would be useful to go over some tips and inspiration for redesigning handouts. Also, because the entire Pinterest and Instagram perfect pics of creativity and creative processes don’t do anything but make me feel like I’m not good enough, I wanted to share some parts of what my process looks like when I’m walking the talk of graphic design in libraries.

As with any graphic design project, I start with thinking about what I need to accomplish with the project. In this case, the handout I’m redesigning is for a biology class I’m going into to talk with students about literature searching, source evaluation, and citations. That’s a lot to cover and I know that no one will remember everything we go over. So my handout redesign needs to be comprehensive enough that a student can use it as a reference source when they are working on their assignments later so they aren’t lost. A basic outline isn’t going to cut it.

So, after I’m clear on why I’m designing and who I’m designing for, I move onto brainstorming. And this is where it gets messy and oh-so-not-Instagram-like:

First, rough thumbnails, notes and sketches:

photo of list of pages and thumbnail sketches for redesigned instruction handout another page of thumbnail sketches from redesigned handout

Both of the above images show my messy first sketches and notes about what I want to keep from the old handouts, what I want to add, and how I’m thinking it will fit together on the page based on length of information, context, and layout. I am redesigning the handout so a lot of the information I already have in documents so I don’t need to go as deep as I otherwise would in writing out content at this stage.

Then I move into the digital work after I have my head on straight about why I’m creating this handout and what I want in the handout. For many handouts, I work in Word or Publisher, but I’m trying to get more proficient with InDesign so I decided this was the perfect project to experiment with the program. Overall, it was more fun than frustrating, which I think is a good sign.

image of first page of redesigned handout mockup with scribbled notes for changes

Even after I create the draft handout digitally, I have to print it out in order to revise and markup. I can’t do this on my screen as I miss too much. As you can see from the above image, I have my basic layout completed, but I still have a lot of little things I want to change, correct, and revise to make the final handout better. I’m always thinking about visual impact, conveying my message in the best possible way, and how the information will be received by the students.

final first page of redesigned handout

This is the final, first page of the redesigned handout. It will live in print and online in the students’ Blackboard site, if the professor chooses to post it there (it will also be posted to our library’s LibGuide for biology).

So that’s how I get from messy first drafts to final product. My sketches aren’t Instagram-perfect, but they work for me. And, in the end, I care more about getting my thoughts on paper and getting those thoughts translated into whatever design I’m creating than whether my sketchbooks (when I even manage to do drafts in a sketchbook) are ready to be shown online.

What I hope you’ll take away (in addition to maybe a few ideas for your own handouts), is that your sketches don’t have to be “art” or even understandable to anyone except you. The important thing is that you sketch and get your ideas down on paper so you can create the designs you need to create to solve problems in your library and in the world. Beautiful photos are great, but don’t let them get you down on how your sketchbook or datebook or journal isn’t as organized and perfect. Just create your work how it works for you. Your library and community will thank you.

I hope you have a lovely weekend full of all good things. Our local independent bookstore is having its grand opening this weekend and I couldn’t be more excited for Books on B! I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Friday Designs: Signs, Inspiration, and Randomness

Happy Friday, dear readers! We’ve made it to the end of another week. The fall quarter (our last as a quarter campus) has started and the weather has turned cool (although it looks like we’ll get another heatwave next week), so it’s time to get back into the academic swing of things. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun so I have a few things to get you through to the lovely first weekend of autumn.

First up, a landscape version of the All are Welcome Sign. In order to put these up in our elevators in the library, I had to reconfigure the signs to landscape orientation. In case your library has landscape-oriented sign holders, I thought I’d share this version (click on image to get the printable PDF), too. Please print, use, and share. We could all use some welcome about now.

image of poster reading, there is no space for hate in our library all are welcome we stand in solidarity with all who fight for equity, diversity, and inclusion

I thought most of us would appreciate Lifehacker’s article, the library doesn’t usually want your used books. We’ve all gotten those well-meaning, but not-so-useful donations. And, if you’re not doing a huge project making altered books, it is a great reminder to send would-be donors to other, more receptive places.

I was thinking of what was inspiring me right now to try out new things in my designs and I have to say it is probably snapping more photos (both digital and instax analog) to see what I bits of photos I can use in other projects and what more I could share about graphic design that would be useful to librarian graphic designers. I think a lot about design and sharing so expect some more examples of designs and redesigns soon.

Also, because the weather has finally cooled down here and that means baking time, I had to share this Joy the Baker recipe for brown butter cookies and cream rice krispie treats. I am so excited to try this recipe soon!

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

Friday Design Fun

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that your week has gone well and you have something lovely planned for the weekend. I’m looking forward to finally having a weekend that isn’t abnormally hot for this time of year so I might have the energy to do some design work not related to my library work. It has been a difficult week on so many levels so I thought I’d just share a few fun design things before we run into the weekend.

First, sometimes you just need to have some retro fun and I have to say that this new camera I got totally fits the bill.

photograph of Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 camera

My husband got the above camera for me (Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 90) and I’ve been having a lot of fun taking instant photos. Polaroid-type photos for the win! There is something that’s just a bit wonderful about watching a photo slowly come into view rather than seeing it instantly on my digital camera (not that I’m not a huge fan of digital photos, obviously). It makes taking a photo a bit slower of a process and more of a fun group activity as you huddle around the mini-photo to see what will develop on film.

I’m not sure yet how I want to incorporate this into my design work in the library, but I’ve been thinking about how and when incorporating some more retro styles of design might be useful.

So I hope you have the chance to try something new and maybe a little offbeat that might spark some new creativity over the weekend. You never know what will inspire your next project.

Second, while I’m not a bullet journal person (though my aren’t the photographs of some people’s journals beautiful?), I am a huge believer in keeping paper notebooks, journals, and planners. While my phone is great for reminders, there is nothing to me like writing down plans and ideas in a journal. Below is a photo of my current journal that I use for everything except my yearly planner (which I create every December in a hardcover notebook [yes, I am that kind of person]).

photograph of traveler's notebook

While I’m not an expert in using the Traveler’s Notebook by any stretch, I really do love its flexibility and the ability to decorate all the inserts. It is really useful to my process to have separate notebooks for different projects, but probably the best thing is that I’ve decided I don’t need a beautiful notebook since I’m not on Instagram and can just use it for all my messy, half-formed, thumbnail sketched, odd ideas that may some day come together for something. It is important to give yourself permission to be messy when designing as usually it isn’t that pretty until the end.

Finally, oh my goodness a makecation! This idea of taking a vacation to do craft projects sounds amazing! I totally want to do this and would love to hear about if you’ve ever done a makecation.

So that’s it from here. I need to be off to an all-day faculty retreat in a bit, so I better wrap up this Friday’s post. I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of rest, fun, and creativity. I’ll be back soon with more design notes. Allons-y!

Mid-Week Design Inspiration

Hello, dear readers! I was thinking that we all could use a little mid-week pickup and wanted to share some design inspiration and news as we barrel on towards the middle of September. I hope you and your loved ones are safe, you are able to use your time and skills to help where you can, and you have found ways for using your graphic design skills to help others.

In wonderful library news, my dean approved printing of two large welcome banners. I installed them at both our entrances and wanted to share. I’m rather happy with how they turned out.

Banner saying: this is your library, there is no space for hate, here all are welcome. We stand with all who fight for equity, inclusion, and diversity.

In case you missed it, lovely September desktop wallpapers. There is no time like the present to make your desktop look lovely for autumn. I currently have the cutest desktop of all year with cats and foxes–love having a dual-monitor set-up for this (and the productivity, of course).

Also, who doesn’t get inspired by books? (I mean, that’s kind of a silly question for those of us in libraries.) So I wanted to share this lovely (truly!) list of books on type and lettering from The Well-Appointed Desk.  More to add to my “to read” list.

I recently finished reading (and let’s be honest, drooling) over the beautiful work showcased in Infographic Designers’ Sketchbooks. If you haven’t viewed this book yet, I highly recommend it. It is a trove of inspiration for creating beautiful and effective infographics for so many different types of projects. Makes me want to sketch all day and redesign every report we put out for the library.

And finally, although I know we should all be good and eating healthy, sometimes you (okay, I mean “I”) just want a brownie. So I leave you with this amazing recipe from Joy the Baker for Thick S’more Brownies.

I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week. You find time and inspiration to use your design skills to welcome and support everyone at your library. And you even find time to have a brownie or two (I won’t tell if you offer to share with me, too!). I’ll be back soon with more design news and notes. Allons-y!

 

Resources for an Online World

Wow, it is November already. Crazy how quickly 2008 is flying by. Okay, so here are three resources for the online world as we all seem to be tied to our computers more and more frequently at work and at home, so let’s make the most of it.

So, do you dislike traffic and commuting? I sure do. Nothing is more stressful first thing in the morning than rush hour gridlock. I think that is why telecommuting is so popular–or at least one of the reasons. I occasionally (like twice a quarter) work from home and I always get so much more done in less time with less stress than at the office. And this isn’t because I don’t like my colleagues, I like my colleagues a lot, but at home I can work without interruptions, take breaks when I need to, run errands, and still have accomplished more in 8 hours of work than I would have in the office. Plus, no driving. So you want to convince your office that telecommuting should be an option? Not to mention a green option for work? Well, you are in luck. Lifehacker has put together a great article on Telecommuting Talking Points. Check it out and then talk to the powers that be. Good luck.

Another great article to check out from Lifehacker is Online Storage Comparison. As you think about storing data online, it pays to compare and use the best one for your particular situation.

Last but not least, for all you graphic designers out there on a shoestring budget that does not include Photoshop. Check out Aviary an online alternative with free and for-fee plans. I watched the video and was amazed by the professional effects created on Aviary. So definitely check it out.

Have a great Monday!