Friday Thoughts: Incorporating Creativity

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that you have a wonderful weekend planned and, if you are in the academic world, that your semester/quarter/term is over (or nearly over). It’s been a bit quiet around this blog lately, but I’m hoping and planning to write more over the summer. This last term has been a bit of a time (I still can’t believe it’s the beginning of June already) and while I’ve done some graphic design work and thought often about what I want to share in this space, reports, meetings (upon meetings upon meetings), and other fires came up that pushed this small space to the edge. So today, I wanted to reflect a bit about something that’s been on my mind for awhile as we wrap up this school year–incorporating creativity into my work.

It’s probably not a surprise (far from it, in fact) that I believe creativity is so important to work and life and librarianship. What got me down this particular musing about how I’ve incorporated and define more and more of my work as creative was a meeting a few weeks ago. Also, probably not a surprise for readers, I’m not a fan of meetings especially those without agendas or action items. In this meeting, one person tried to divide the group into the creatives and non-creatives. And this, dear readers, rankled me greatly and (again, no surprise), I said so.

I believe truly, completely, and without reservation that everyone is creative and a creative. To label some people as not creative is not just untrue but detrimental not only to the person but to the community as a whole. How many of us can remember a time when someone said we weren’t creative enough? A good enough artist? Musician? Thinker? Writer? Probably most of us and those comments, often said in such an offhand manner that the speaker doesn’t even remember, can stifle our creativity for years if not lifetimes.

And that’s just wrong.

And it’s not just me who says it’s wrong. And if you need some words from those more eloquent than I (and with research to back it up), I suggest you read the work of Brene Brown and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Their works are inspiring and help when you’re feeling down or when someone implies (or outright says) you’re not creative.

We need creativity in our work and in our libraries, desperately and always. So what does this have to do with my work? For that, I have to tell you a story.

My first written piece as a professional librarian (in a now-defunct online space) was about the importance of play in academic librarianship, about not taking ourselves too seriously and seeing where we could be creative in what we do. And I got a comment on it that said such frivolity was not welcome in academia in the library and basically that I should get serious.

I’m serious about a lot of things, dear readers, and my work is one of them. But there is no need to sacrifice creativity or playfulness or (heaven help us) fun, in order to be serious about our work. On the contrary, being creative and having fun allows us to do better work and be as creative as we need to be.

Which brings us back to why I’m thinking about how much more I’ve incorporated creativity intentionally into my work in the last decade (yes, in July I’ll have been doing this librarian thing for a decade) and why I won’t let others label people as not creative.

I surround myself with visual inspiration in my office–postcards from trips, quotes from books and people I admire, photographs and buttons, origami from friends, and a dozen other little mementos that make me smile. And lots of these things show up in my work, in color schemes, and typography, and emotions for my designs, but also in what I want to bring to my teaching, to my writing, to my outreach, and to the dozens of other projects we do in the library that we may not think of as creative works, but truly are.

Incorporating creativity and being willing to try new things, ideas, ways of conceptualizing, are what have kept me engaged and serious about my work as a librarian. What have kept me from the cynicism and keep me coming back, even when some days it feels like I’m not making a difference, not having my expertise heard, not doing anything.

Creativity is what you make of it. It’s what you define it to be. Whether it’s creating a new flyer, engaging someone with a report they’ll actually read, or finding a way to reach a student where and when they need it. And it’s important, it’s vital, no matter what anyone else says.

You are creative. I am creative. We are creative.

And the library, the world, our community needs what we have to make and to offer.

Here’s to many more days and ways of incorporating that which inspires us, guides us, and moves us into our work and our lives.

I wish you, always, a wonderful, joyful, and relaxing weekend, dear readers. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back soon (with luck and determination) with some 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: New Year, New Inspiration

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you are having a good start to the new year. I can hardly believe we are already a week into the new term, but I’m looking forward to using the new year’s momentum to get a lot of things done. Today, I have a bit of inspiration and thoughts to hopefully help you get into a new year of designing, too.

First, time to refresh your desktop wallpaper, if you haven’t already. Check out the inspiring and cute designs over at Smashing Magazine.  I am partial to the penguin on the rainbow popsicle, which will surprise no one who knows me.

Second, if you need more inspiration (and really, who doesn’t?) check out this talk by Chip Kidd, The Art of First Impressions in Design and Life. Great ideas and practices to apply in your library design work. (Hint: we’re almost always going for clarity rather than mystery in our library designs)

Third, I have a question: what library graphic design projects or topics do you want to know more about? Let me know in comments and I’ll try to work them into posts this year.

Finally, some shameless self-promotion: if you are going to ALA Midwinter in Denver and are working on your schedule, I’d like to suggest that you come by to see me at the ALA Booth on Saturday, February 10th at 11:30 am.  I’ll be giving a brief talk about graphic design in libraries (without a projector! It will be fun!) and signing books (but, you know, only if you want your book signed). Stop by and say hi. Tell your friends. Hope to see you there.

Okay, that’s it for this week. I’m working on some projects that I hope to be sharing with you all soon. Until then, be kind, be creative, and have fun. 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!