Friday Design: Clear is Kind in Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what changed?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday Design: Signage Matters

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

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

Why?

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

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

sign that reads priority use for disabled patrons

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

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

new sign that reads priority use for patrons with disabilities

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

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

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

 

Friday Design: Semi-Homemade Designs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want examples? I’ve got examples.

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

save the date open house card

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

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

library workshops banner

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

University Libraries, Heart of the Campus logo

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

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

Friday Design: Simple Handout Formatting

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has been gentle to you and you have a relaxing weekend ahead. I can hardly believe we are now three weeks into the semester and a week into September. The time really does fly. Today I wanted to share a quick project I was working on that will hopefully provide some inspiration for the next time you need to create a handout.

As I’ve said before, no project is too small for great design and it doesn’t take really any longer to create a great handout than a poorly designed handout, especially when you keep it simple. I was updating a handout I used in a previous term for a colleague and thought I’d share that today with you. Below is the first page of the handout:

image of the first page of a two column handout for evaluating sources

The handout is simple and clear with lots of resources that students can use after the workshop on evaluating information sources. The clarity comes from the consistent, two-column design that separates the title of the source from the URL and short description. This is easily set-up with two guidelines and a couple of textboxes in a program like Publisher or InDesign.

Notice that the left column is right aligned and the right column’s text is left aligned. This set-up is seen often in movie credits and allows for the information to interact with each other in a way that connects the titles with the additional information without being visually overwhelming.

One typeface, in multiple sizes and weights, is used throughout. This also lends to the simplicity of the design, plus it saves time from having to match typefaces. Keep the sizes and weights consistent for titles and body text to again make the handout clear.

Two icons from the same set are used to give some visual interest and these are also aligned to the guidelines, keeping the page’s structure consistent.

In all, a quick, clean, easy-to-reproduce handout for a workshop whose structure can be reused with minimal changes for a variety of handouts.

So, what are the takeaways?

  1. Keep things simple: 1 font, graphics from the same source, easy to align structure/guidelines
  2. Make the information the star of the handout: resources are key here and should be easy to find on the page
  3. Good design is possible with any canvas: handouts are often used, but overlooked canvases for great design. Make your handouts stand out in a good way to show that you care.

Hope that Friday design tip is useful for your next handout project.

Now, a bit of fun, in case you’ve missed the Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell essay in pictures on why we need libraries, you should go read it now. Really, it is wonderful.

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

Friday Design Fun: Chosen Collaborations

Happy Friday, dear readers! I apologize for the relative blog silence over the last few weeks. I hope you’ve had a good spring, thus far, and today I want to talk a bit about collaboration and design, how important it is and how wonderful it can be (if done well) or horrible (if done poorly). So let’s talk about collaboration.

I don’t know about you, but I hated group work when I was in school. No matter how good my teachers’ intentions, there was so little individual accountability in the groups that I often (okay, more like 95% of the time) ended up doing most of the work. Others knew I would do the work because I cared about my grade and took advantage of it and even when tasks were assigned, people often didn’t follow through. It left a bad taste in my mouth that has, unfortunately, been reinforced by more than a few committees I’ve been on since becoming a librarian. So you wouldn’t be surprised that sometimes I have issues with so much emphasis being placed on collaboration and group work, without equal discussion about accountability and equity within the group.

All that aside, I love collaboration when I have agency over who I’m collaborating with and for what tasks. I especially find it useful in graphic design work to have someone to bounce ideas off of and to critically go over designs to improve them before they are ready for final printing or launching online. While I’m not a fan of design by committee, I’m a fan of collaboration in design work. The same principles for making design collaborations work are the same for making any collaboration work, in my experience:

  1. Clear communication is key, as is individual accountability. Work out responsibilities and deadlines in the first meeting and check in often.
  2. Brainstorm together, then individually work on designs to bring back and compare and critique. Best thinking work still gets done individually and everyone needs time to have ideas percolate and come together.
  3. Be open and kind with critiques and work together on the edits. Also, give credit to the editors in any process. Too often only the designer gets credit and the editor gets ignored. Editing is hard, important work, too.
  4. Always praise and thank your collaborators publicly when your work together is complete. Everyone likes to be appreciated and it will help the next time you need collaborators.

At my work, I love collaborating with our fabulous web designer, Brooke, who is also a great graphic designer. We’re both deadline oriented (and hit our deadlines) and we’ve worked out good communication so we can get a lot done in a reasonable amount of time. Collaborating also gives us a chance to learn from each other and I think strengthen our own individual design work.

So, even if you’ve been burned in the past by group and committee work, give collaboration in your design work a chance. If you can pick your collaborators and maintain clear communication, you never know what amazing things you can accomplish together (and make your library’s visual communications more beautiful and useful in the process!).

And, if you haven’t changed up your desktop wallpaper yet, check out the lovely ones over at Smashing Magazine.

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

Friday Design: March News and Notes

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a good week and are looking forward to a lovely weekend. It’s been quiet around here as I’ve had a couple of particularly busy and fatiguing weeks, but I wanted to post some updates and design news so you know I’ve not forgotten about this site (and hopefully you haven’t either).

First, if you are in the East Bay today and have a free hour from 2:30 to 3:30 pm, stop on by the Cal State East Bay Library on our Hayward Campus and you can hear me talk about libraries and graphic design (and answer questions, of course). It should be fun and it would be great to not talk to myself in an empty room!

Second, if you need some inspiration for your designs, or just want to learn something fun, I recommend checking out Daily Infographic.  Even if you’re not creating infographics for your library, it’s a great site to get ideas about layout, writing clean, precise copy, and just learning some new information (and who doesn’t like that?). It’s good to branch out to find new sources of inspiration for our work, whether we are in the middle of designing a brochure or just in the brainstorming stages. I’m looking forward to sharing our new library exhibit with you next week (our web designer has outdone herself with the banners!).

Third, and final, if you haven’t seen The Temple of Knowledge video from StoryCorps, I highly recommend giving it a view. It’s a lovely reminder about the greatness of libraries.

I hope you have a lovely, relaxing, restorative weekend. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Friday Design Fun: Icons, Book Talk News, and Inspiration

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you have had a good week and have a fun weekend planned. Today, I have a few resources for icons and inspiration that I want to share, along with news about a book/graphic design talk I’ll be giving in March.

First, who doesn’t like a free, beautifully designed icon set? Better yet, who doesn’t like two? Check out this friendly office icon set over at Smashing Magazine. It looks like a great resource for using for various library handouts and guides. Also, if you use Adobe XD, you can get a free icon set to use there, by following this link and guide provided by Smashing Magazine.

Also speaking of graphic design (of course), I’ll be giving a book talk/graphic design in libraries talk at Cal State East Bay on March 16th at 2:00 pm in the Biella Room of the Library. This is a free talk, so please come is you are able and interested. I’ll be talking a bit about graphic design basics and how they apply to the designs we create in libraries. It should be fun, so I hope to see you there.

Finally, some inspiration, check out this cool water and ink drop calligraphy. It is soothing, inspiring, and pretty darn awesome.

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

Friday Design: ALA Midwinter Book Talk Wrap-Up

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has gone well and you have a lovely weekend planned. I’m back from Denver and finally warming up (so cold there for this Bay Area weather wimp). ALA Midwinter was great–I enjoyed the book buzzes, presentations, and exhibits. And, it was fantastic to meet my acquisitions editor and two people from the marketing team in person. Plus, I got to give a book talk! It was so fun. Thanks to everyone who came to chat with me. Today, I wanted to give a quick wrap-up on my book talk and share a design handout.

If you didn’t make it to ALA Midwinter, and even if you did (but didn’t make it to my talk), you can view it on the ALA Editions & ALA Neal-Schuman Facebook page here.  It was great chatting a bit about graphic design solutions to issues faced by people who attended. We talked about structure, visual movement, and how to make designs look professional. It was a blast.

I passed out a handout, which you can see in the video, and wanted to share it on my blog, too. I wrote about the design process that went into it before and now you can download the completed brochure (PDF available via this link). It gives some basic tips, inspiration, further reading, and design ideas. Plus, hopefully it will entice you to check out my book! 🙂

image of first page of brochure from ALA Midwinter, links to PDF of handout if clicked

Thanks to everyone at ALA Editions for making my book talk such a success! The ALA Store was beautifully laid out for both browsing and for the book talks. Can’t wait to see what book talks happen at upcoming conferences.

That’s it for now. I’m working on catching up with all my work and will be back soon with more news and notes on design in libraries. I wish you a wonderful, relaxing, and rejuvenating weekend. Allons-y!

 

Friday Design: Blind Date with a Book

Happy Friday and Happy February, dear readers! I hope the month is treating you well so far. It is amazing that we are already into the second month of 2018. So let’s have some fun today with blind date with a book!

February brings Valentine’s Day and lots of interesting and fun book display and event tie-ins at libraries. I really love the programming that public librarians produce and love that academic libraries are picking up on some of their fun. My local public library ran a blind date with a book event last year and I really wanted to do one this year as I was recently given collection development duties for our popular reading collection.

If you haven’t heard about blind date with a book before, check out this great post of tips and tricks from the Ontarian Librarian.

Happily, our Access Services Manager was completely cool with the event after we decided to write barcodes on the back of the wrapped books to make check-out easy and Technical Services was kind enough to change some temporary location codes so we could keep track of the titles pulled for the event. Another librarian colleague helped write up some blurbs and then the fun began!

It looked like arts and crafts time at a kindergarten class in my office this week with all the wrapping and lots of writing blurbs. It is a great excuse to practice different lettering styles. Since I didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to the decoration of the books, I stuck with simply writing our blurbs on the books, but changed up the writing style. We’re also hoping to get students to give us some feedback after they read their book.

And, one of the best parts, for space cramped libraries is that the entire display fits on one book cart (if you’re willing to refill as needed). I’m pretty happy with how it looks and hope our students get a kick out of going on a blind date with a book. I’ll let you know how it went after the event is over.

photograph of book cart with books wrapped for blind date with a book

So just remember, while designing for your library can be serious business, you should have some fun, too.

Also, since it is the beginning of the month, it means time to change up your desktop wallpaper. Check out this month’s fun designs from Smashing Magazine.

Finally, not to be a broken record, but I’m speaking at ALA Midwinter in the ALA Store. It’s the first time ALA is having author’s give book talks in the store. Come see me and stay for the other talks, too. List of all the talks is here with links to the conference scheduler, too.

I’m talking at 11:30 am on Saturday, so stop by to see me talk about graphic design without using a projector! It will be fun, interactive, and you’ll get a nifty handout I designed. Plus, you can buy my book at the ALA store and I can sign it (you know, if you’re into that. If not, that’s cool, too.).

I hope you’ll stop by as I’m super-excited to share some time with you and talk graphic design in libraries.

So that’s it for today. I hope you have a lovely, relaxing, and rejuvenating weekend. I’ll be back soon with thoughts and notes. Allons-y!

 

Friday Design: Handout for Book Talk at ALA Midwinter

Happy Friday, dear readers! Can you believe it is almost the end of January? Where has the time flown? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’d like a pause button. There’s so many things to do and projects to start that taking a breather (even in January) sounds quite nice. But luckily, there are always fun design projects that might make the hours fly by, but at least in a good way.

Today, I want to share a bit of my design process for creating the handout I’m using for my book talk at ALA Midwinter.

[Shameless plug: If you are going to Midwinter, stop by the ALA Store at 11:30 am on Saturday, Feb. 10, to join my book talk about graphic design for librarians and get your book signed (if you want). Details on the Event Scheduler here. ]

So I talk a lot about planning and process when it comes to graphic design, as do many others. But I find that while we share finished projects, we rarely share the process and planning bits. Today I wanted to share a couple of pages from my planning process for my handout.

First, a bit of context. I’m super-excited that the team at ALA Editions is having me do a short book talk and signing at ALA Midwinter. I love talking about graphic design with my fellow librarians. Plus, who doesn’t like an excuse to design something new? The challenge? I am going to be doing a graphic design talk without a projector! That means I have to get creative in order to show examples of visual communication. Luckily I get to have a handout printed for my talk.

I am a messy planner when I’m working on graphic design projects. I’m sometimes envious of artists who have beautiful sketchbooks and journals that look perfect, even in their rough drafts. I’m not like that. I use scratch paper and a pencil (or whatever else is lying around) and start brainstorming whatever comes to mind first.

Below is the first page I began writing and sketching out what I wanted my talk to be about and ideas for my handout:

photograph of rough draft of handout with examples, tips, and parts of design outlined

You’ll notice it isn’t really pretty and it is very rough. I’m using this page to just get ideas on the page, in no particular order, so I don’t forget anything I want to cover. You’ll notice I have a lot of arrows and some bits are beginning to look like a flowchart. This helps me decide hierarchy, grouping, and order for a handout and presentation. Parts of the writing look better than others because I was pondering how to phrase certain ideas (and I was also using my planning time to sneak in calligraphy practice. It’s all about multitasking.).

But this is super-rough and far from what I’d put in a handout. But I’m getting into what I want to do and by grouping ideas, in my head I’m already thinking about layout and how many columns, rows, etc. I might need to make the handout flow and make sense.

This second photo is of the second page of my drafting, where I was gathering ideas for the presentation, along with more formed ideas for headings/organization of my handout.

draft showing presentation ideas for audience interaction, drawings, headings for handout, and graphic design quotes as well as notes about what to bring.

I write a lot of notes to myself. Here, I’ve written reminders about what to bring with me to the presentation as well as inspirational quotes that may or may not make it into the final handout. The middle section is where I was working on descriptive headings for my handout, again following groupings that I worked out on the first page. And you can see there are also ideas about audience interactions and drawings I could easily do as examples.

What’s this all mean for you when you are working on your next design project?

  • First, don’t worry about about having messy rough drafts when you are sketching out your ideas. They are called rough drafts for a reason.
  • Second, take time to let your ideas germinate in your head and play around with what inspires you and what might inspire your audience.
  • Third, be bold and go out on a limb with what you design. If you aren’t having some fun, you’re not doing it right.
  • Fourth, there is always time to sneak in calligraphy practice. Even if it is simply with a pencil for a modern calligraphy look.

So how did all of this finally work out in my final handout? You’ll just have to come to Midwinter and chat with me to find out. 🙂

I hope you have a lovely weekend full of inspiration, relaxation, and rejuvenation. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Also, hopefully I’ll see some of you in Denver soon! Allons-y!