Friday Design Tip: You Don’t Always Have to be Literal

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that you have found something that has brought you joy this week and found time for some rest even in the middle of everything. We went to an outdoor nursery and pottery shop and bought some lovely, large pots for our garden. It was a nice break from the routine that we are in of cramming together work and play and childrearing and everything in the house. It reminded me that there is beauty in so many small things. Today, I have one thought to share that may help with your design work: we don’t need to be literal.

What I mean by that is not that we shouldn’t strive for clarity in our graphic design work. Our work should be clear in its message and ensure that our readers are able to get all the important information they need easily. What I mean instead is that we don’t have to be literal in how we interpret themes for every piece of work we do. We can interpret them more broadly and creatively while still maintaining clarity and enhancing our theme.

I thought of this when designing the LibGuide banner for our online resource guide for Accessibility Awareness Month. While I could have pulled from some of the universal icons for disability/accessibility or found photos to try to represent a range of ideas discussed in the resources the library is highlighting, I instead decided for something different. This worked, in part, because the banner doesn’t have to do the heavy lifting of conveying the information on this page. It simply needs to grab attention and draw readers in so they browse through the many resources available to them.
Because of this, I decided to create the banner you can see below using an image of lightbulbs against a blue sky with clouds.

banner with a photograph of lightbulbs against a blue sky with text that says accessibility awareness month

I chose this image because it is striking and lightbulbs are often used as a visual metaphor for gaining insight and knowledge, which is one goal for our resource guide. A blue sky is often used as a metaphor for calmness, peace, and also dreaming and planning big. So together, they created an inspirational visual for the banner. The text is simple and the font chosen because it is reminiscent of the filaments in the bulbs, tying together the theme.

So the next time you are designing something for your library’s marketing, resource guides, or handouts, think about if you can interpret the design theme slightly less literally and whether that would serve the overall purpose of your design. You may be happily surprised by what you create.

I hope this gives you a bit of inspiration to think outside the design box and that you have a wonderful, restful weekend to recharge and relax. I’ll be back soon with more library design tips and thoughts. Allons-y, friends!

Friday Design Post: Good Enough is Good Enough

banner that says, good enough is good enough

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope the week has been kind to you and you’ve been kind to yourself. It’s been another long week, in a long year, and I hope that you’ve found some moments of joy during it all. Today, I want to talk about something that has gotten me through a lot of my work this year: when good enough is good enough.

We all know that perfect is unattainable and can keep us from doing anything. At the same time, having too low a bar for what is good enough, doesn’t help us produce good work either. But sometimes, good enough really is good enough.

What do I mean by this?

To get anything done during this time, I’ve embraced good enough as one of my mantras.

I don’t have time to design everything from scratch, so I’ve had to adapt templates and streamline my design process. And that’s good enough for Instagram posts and other ephemeral marketing needs.

It’s okay that I don’t have time or space to take as long to find the “perfect” font. One that ticks most of the boxes and supports the design theme, is just fine. It’s good enough.

It’s okay to simply design good enough and not try for groundbreaking right now.

And there are some advantages to this, too, that I didn’t foresee in the beginning, even though I long for the days of again having enough time to do more wholly original graphic design work. I have created templates for our workshops, that I’ve written about previously, which brand our workshops and make it easier for me to update the graphics for the many workshops we have each term. Good enough has created a branded look that is simple, collegiate, and recognizable.

Good enough allows me to create the space to take on the graphic design work that comes up with very short deadlines. We all know that projects come up at the last minute and it is good to be able to help out with these requests when we can. I’ve been able to create banners for online displays and handouts for instructional sessions by freeing time and design headspace by embracing good enough.

So, while I’m not a fan of ever using good enough as an excuse to do sloppy graphic design work, it is a good mantra to be kind to ourselves and acknowledge that this is a difficult time and while we still need to be creative and create, we don’t always have to make something that is wholly original and will last for the ages.

That’s all I have for today. I hope you have a rejuvenating weekend, find something to refill your creative passions, and come back as refreshed as possible to your next bit of library design work. Allons-y, friends!

Friday Design Tip: Using Adobe Spark Video for Library Promo Videos

Happy Friday! I don’t know about you, but it has been a week here in a year that has been quite a year. We’ve had more ash falling from the sky, more fires, and darkened days, which makes it hard to focus on work even when the work is important. I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, not because I haven’t been doing or thinking about sharing library design tips, but because I’ve been overwhelmed with everything. But, in the midst of all of this, we must continue to do the work that allows our communities to access the information and help they need. To that end, I’d like to share something a bit different: using your graphic design skills in a video format.

You’ve probably heard about videos garnering more engagement than still photos/images and, while I’d never suggest giving up doing 2D graphic work, sometimes it’s good to expand our skill sets and try new things. Creating videos is one way to stretch our graphic design skills.

Adobe Spark, which I love using for Instagram posts (which seem to be all the design work time I have lately), also has features to allow you to create simple videos. While there aren’t as many options and controls as you have with video editing tools such as Premiere Pro, it is just fine for creating short promo videos and highlighting parts of your collection.
I created the video below to use in our Library Orientations during the summer and start of our fall semester. I combined stock photos with simple information about our services and resources, chose a base theme, and added music from the selection pre-loaded into Adobe Spark.

And, I’m happy to report that the learning curve for creating a video on Adobe Spark is much lower than learning to use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator or InDesign. But the results are still polished and eye-catching for your users.

Remember to use your graphic design skills from 2D designing (like rule of thirds, contrast, matching fonts with theme and graphics, etc.) when creating a video, too, and you’ll have new promo videos for your library in (almost) no time.

It’s fun to learn a new skill and find new ways to promote your library’s services and resources. At least, I found it to be energizing during these tough times and gave me some more inspiration for creating library designs when I felt my creative well running dry.

I hope you have a relaxing and rejuvenating weekend. Stay safe, help your neighbors, and be kind. Allons-y, friends!

 

Designing for a Difference

Black Lives Matter graphic

Hello, dear readers. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling weary and angry and tired and most everything else that isn’t joyful now. I can’t believe we still have people who argue when we say, Black Lives Matter. Not only do we have to continue to deal with the pandemic, we are now seeing (again) the brutality of the police not only murdering George Floyd (and so many others) but also reigning down violence against peaceful protesters. For those who throw their hands up in the air and ask how this can be happening or blame those in the streets who are protesting, I feel like shaking them and saying how can you not see the structural, institutional racism that permeates everything in our society? How can you be shocked? How can you blame the protesters and not those in power who perpetuate the injustice that keeps them safely in power?

And how can we, who have relative privilege help combat these injustices and fight against white supremacy? And what, dear readers, you may be wondering does any of this have to do with design and libraries?

We have an obligation, as those who work in libraries, to ensure the safety (physical, emotional, and mental) of all our patrons. We have the obligation to call out injustice and we have the means to affect some change. Perhaps only on a small scale, perhaps only in our libraries, but together we can amplify others’ voices who know so much more (for example, Layla F. Saad and Ibram X. Kendi, to only name two) and we can contribute our share to making the world a more just and equitable place.

If you need some place to start, check out 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice. And, yes, I specifically picked this link because, as we know, the library profession is still overwhelmingly white. There is so much we can do to support our BIPOC siblings and fight against white supremacy and there are so many resources online to help (I trust librarians to be able to find them so I’m not listing a ton here.)

And, as librarian graphic designers, we can help by doing what we do best: designing. We can design posters, social media graphics, flyers, handouts, websites, whatever you can think of that bring awareness and hopefully change. We can give freely of our skills to organizations and groups that are fighting the good fight. And we can make sure to use our design skills to be part of the hard work of fighting injustice and not part of the problem by remaining silent.

The Black Lives Matter graphic at the beginning of this post is formatted for sharing. Feel free to remix it, add it to a handout, a flyer, whatever you are doing to raise awareness and solidarity. Find other artists who are creating amazing protest art that speaks to you and share it (with their permission, of course). Monyee Chau’s work speaks to me as a mixed race woman and I love the updating of the much older, “Yellow Peril Supports Black Power,” protest sign.

Remember that design and graphic design are about solving problems. We face huge problems now. So let’s use our skills, talents, hearts, and minds (and wallets, when we can) to help where we can.

Thank you, as always, for reading, dear readers. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y, friends!

 

Friday Design: Two-for-One Designs

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well. I hope that you have something lovely and relaxing to look forward to this weekend. This has been quite a week as we are finishing up the end of the spring semester and I feel like every meeting I’ve been in has spawned two other meetings and a bunch of new work that needs to be done by the end of the month. And, I don’t presume to speak for you, but I’m not sure I have the brain space for much more work.

But there is more work, and more designing to do, so I wanted to share one of my favorite hacks for speeding up my graphic design work for Instagram. Yes, as I’ve said before, much of my design work currently revolves around Instagram as it is the social media channel used by departments and student organizations at my university. It’s been a challenge and sometimes quite fun and it has been having an impact on visibility for the library with our students, which is great.

But I still have the same time constraints I had when all this started, so I’m always looking for ways to create great designs that can be used in multiple ways and I love getting 2-in-1 designs out of Instagram posts and accompanying stories.

As those of you who use Instagram know, the graphics for posts are square (an interesting design constraint) while the Instagram Stories are rectangular. Both are useful for pushing/marketing content for the library. And while you can simply use the built-in editing and designing tools in Instagram to convert one of your posts into a story, you get a lot more control using a standalone graphic design program.

I’ve been using Adobe Spark a lot and love the ability to convert the size of a design with one click, which is what I’ve been doing to create the posts and stories for my library’s Instagram feed. Below is an example of a post and story I did for this week, our final exams week.

Instagram Post:

example of Instagram post for library helping with papers and projects

Instagram Story:

example of Instagram story for library helping with papers and projects

Creating both in Adobe Spark allows for more control over the design and to keep the look and feel of the design the same for both.

So, what’s the takeaway?

Figure out how you can use your design in multiple ways, even if you aren’t creating a template out of it. It’s not lazy; it’s smart. We still need to create great designs for our libraries, but we also need to be kind to ourselves so we aren’t designing at all hours of the day and night.

I hope this provides some inspiration and that you are able to continue to use your skills to help your library create great designs. I wish you a relaxing and safe weekend. Keep being kind, keep helping others, and keep showing the world how great librarian graphic design can be.

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

Friday Design: Thank you ALLA!

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that today finds you and your family safe and healthy and looking forward to some small (or big) thing that is fun and relaxing this weekend. Today I want to take the time to say thank you,  publicly, to ALLA and remind us all of one of the best ways we can create better graphic design in libraries.

But what, you may be wondering is ALLA? ALLA is the Australian Law Librarians’ Association. I was honored and thrilled to present a webinar, Graphic Design 101 for Librarians, for the association this week. It was amazing to have so many people attend, especially during this uncertain and stressful time, and want to learn about graphic design and applying it to their work.

It was also almost miraculous that the Internet/wifi held strong through the entire presentation (I was worried as we’ve been having spotty connection issues at my house this last week). And the ALLA organizers did such a fantastic job that it was a pleasure. It can be really weird to deliver an entire presentation in a room all by yourself without the immediate feedback from an audience, but the feedback I’ve received after has been positive and I’m looking forward to the next time I’m able to do a similar webinar for my librarian colleagues.

This brings us to one of the best ways we can all create better graphic design in libraries: share our knowledge! Everything is new for someone, and this includes graphic design principles. If you have been studying and creating graphic design in your library, share your tips with colleagues. If you’ve found a great royalty-free site for images or icons or videos, let others know. If you’ve figured out a great way to streamline the design workflow, show your teammates.

Teaching through sharing is how we can ensure that more of our colleagues understand graphic design and can apply it to their work in libraries. This is how we will finally be able to say, someday, that we can think of more well-designed examples of graphic design in libraries than poor ones. And how we can get to more good than bad and ugly.

And, in the spirit of sharing, here’s a link to the handout I shared with ALLA. I hope it provides some inspiration and opportunities to further your graphic design work, too.

I wish you a wonderful day and rejuvenating weekend. May you stay safe, healthy, and find moments of peace and joy. Take care and I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y, friends!

Friday Design: Embracing Design Shortcuts

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you and your family are staying healthy and well. It has been a strange and hard time for everyone. Some days, I feel it is an accomplishment just to get through the day and let’s not even talk about people who are claiming to be more productive than ever.

I’m not one them. I have a toddler and very few hours in the day where I can focus solely on work. If you feel your life is like that, too, or your focus is simply not what it was (I feel you and give you a virtual hug), this post is for you on some design shortcuts I’ve been using to get the work done in a professional manner in the time I have now.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’m not a fan of out-of-the-box templates for designing. But I am a fan of templates you create for your library that can then serve to brand your services and resources. And that’s the big design shortcut of this entire, emergency remote working situation: creating templates for the library’s marketing needs.

My library already was providing a lot of online services and resources, as almost all libraries do, but with the campus closure we needed to up our online marketing and promotions fast as there was no way for students to come into the library to see are signs or pass our sandwich board advertising the next workshop in the library.

Thankfully we’d just started an Instagram account, which is a popular social media platform at my campus for the departments, clubs, organizations, and individual students, faculty, and staff to get their news. And that has meant that my design load has gone up as every online workshop, every online change needs to be communicated via our Instagram and every post needs a visual.

So I quickly designed the library workshop visuals and decided that they needed visual branding so that when you see one of our workshop posts, you’ll know it is a library workshop from the aesthetic. I kept it simple and clear so it was 1) easy to update and 2) easy to read. Here’s some examples to show you our posts for online library workshops

Instagram post for a drop-in citation workshop showing the use of a template

 

Instagram post for a technology workshop showing the use of a template

While these two visuals look similar, they are still distinct with different color palettes and icons used. But they have the same visual feel, so it is easy to tell they are posts for workshops from the library. I create a flat design, without photographs for the workshops and include the same date, time, Zoom information on each at the bottom. The icons reinforce the topic of the workshops and the typography is simple and clear.

Now that I have these templates, I can more easily and quickly update them for upcoming workshops (good since we have at least 4 a week). I’m also creating visual branding that we can continue for our workshop promotion into the future.

Since we are all short on time and attention, use some design shortcuts to make your graphic design work a little easier. You’ll be able to create the projects you need to for your library without wanting to pull out your hair.

Take care and stay safe. I’ll try to be back soon with more news and notes about how we can continue to do our design work during this pandemic. I wish you and your families all the best. Allons-y, my friends!

Friday Design: Blind Date with a Book

Happy Friday, dear readers, and Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you have a lovely day and get some chocolate, if you like it, and have something fun planned for the weekend. Today, fittingly, I want to talk about a Valentine’s Day tradition at my library and many others, Blind Date with a Book.

Blind Date with a Book is a fun event where we wrap books and place book blurbs in hearts on their covers so people can check out a “blind date” and give a book a chance before judging by its cover. This is the third year we’ve been doing the event and it seems to get more popular every year. We’re already almost out of books!

So what does this have to do with design?

As with any book display, you need to have a sign to let people know what’s up. (I like to call them mini-posters because that just sounds more fun for designing.) While some people may remember the event from last year, for many people it is their first time seeing the display so clarity in how to participate in Blind Date with a Book is essential.

We had to update our instructions this year because we’re putting the review slip in the books and the mini-poster below is the result.

flyer for Blind Date with a Book event

Simple, on-theme, and clear, this design will draw people’s eyes and also make it easy for them to figure out what all the wrapped books are about. I created it using both Adobe Spark and Photoshop, but you could could use whatever design program you like best including Publisher and Gimp.

Because this event only runs for 2 weeks, putting hours of effort into the mini-poster is not possible. Instead I found a stock photo that I liked and decided to use a color ribbon over it so the text is easy to read. It’s a graphic design trick that’s used often because it works so well for so many design needs. I pulled the pink color from the stock photo, changed the opacity so the photo could still be seen and laid the type over in a center alignment as there isn’t a lot of text and many romantic things (think wedding invitations, engagement announcements, etc.) often use center alignment.

I used the same pink color for the solid block of color at the top where I have the title. I used the font, Timberline, for the title because it looks handwritten and romantic and has the brush-lettering feeling that is having a moment right now. I used Gabriola for the instruction text as it has some rhythm to the flow of the letters and is also slightly romantic.

A finishing touch of adding drop shadows to the color ribbon overlay and the photo gave a bit of subtle depth before it was off to print.

This mini-sign’s layout can be adapted for other projects and the colored ribbon is a great design trick to remember when you want to overlay text on top of an image.

I hope this example helps and provides some inspiration for your next design project.

Have a lovely weekend and I’ll be back soon with another design example and tips. Allons-y, friends!

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: 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!