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Friday Design: Let’s Be Loud

August 18, 2017

Happy Friday, dear readers! So wow, I don’t know about you, but I’m still processing this week. Let’s get something out of the way right away before diving into some design: Nazis are bad. Hate is bad. There is no room for either in our work as libraries, in our libraries, in our communities, and I believe that we can be louder in our calls and actions of love and welcome and solidarity. There’s definitely no room for hate or othering or an of the many “isms” in our work as librarian graphic designers either and our creative work can be a powerful form of resistance. So, with that, let’s get into what I mean about being loud and what it has to do with design.

Art is powerful. Words are powerful. As librarian graphic designers, we wield both on a daily basis. As librarians, our business is information, knowledge creation, and support for lifelong learning. Our business is in words. Which is great at this moment and every moment because we can be loud.

And I don’t mean just in the “let’s go against shushing stereotypes of librarians loud.” I mean loud in the graphical sense, too, with what we choose to create and post and share in our libraries and communities. We wield the epic power of brushes, paints, posterboard, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Publisher. We can create and adapt posters and banners and flyers and buttons that show publicly that we are about inclusion and diversity and love and reading and community and all the things that build us up as people together instead of tearing us down.

So as you are working on your next design, remember that design is never neutral just as typefaces are never neutral. We can use our graphic design work to make a difference, however small, and add our voice to the conversation.

So be loud in your designs. Be bold in your stance. Mark your library as a safe space. And show everyone how important librarian graphic designers are beyond marketing and promotion. Break out of your shell in your designs. We can do this, together.

I’m working on new banners and posters for my library to greet our students when they come back for the fall term. I want there to be no doubt where my library stands and I can do this through my designs. I’ll be sharing them, too, in upcoming posts for inspiration and for you to use, too.

If you’ve created graphics of welcome for your library, I’d love to see them. Please share and let’s be loud in our library designs together!

May you have a weekend full of good times, rest, and inspiration to continue your work and your art. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Friday Design: Inspirations and Sabbaticals

August 11, 2017

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has been going well and you have a lovely weekend planned. I’m working through the final pages of proofs for my book and looking forward to seeing some friends and recharging my design inspiration batteries this weekend. To that end, I want to share some resources for inspiration (as usual) and some thoughts on sabbaticals (as promised) today.

First the inspiration. I love these monthly posts for design inspiration from Smashing Magazine. This month’s one I find especially inspiring in terms of color palettes. With the end of summer just another turn of the calendar away, I’m itching to create some bright new designs for my library so we can keep the summer vibe even with the school year starting.

Also, if you need some typography or lettering reads, check out the list over at The Well-Appointed Desk for suggestions. I find endless inspiration looking at great type and lettering. I hope you do, too.

Now, some thoughts on sabbaticals. I was super-excited to be awarded a sabbatical during last year in the fall quarter. This meant that, with adding in vacation time, I was able to be “out of the office” from mid-September until we started the winter quarter in January of this year. To say it was a fantastic experience was an understatement. In the words of one of my dear friends, it freakin’ rocked! I finally caught up on rest and was able to be so productive. I wrote, edited, and illustrated my book that is coming out this fall during that time. (Obviously copyediting, proofing, and layout came later, but the bulk of my work was done on sabbatical.) I was able to do all that, plus hang out more with my husband and friends, have time to walk and hike, participate in NaNoWriMo, and travel. Oh, and there were almost daily naps. I miss my naps.

Sabbaticals, contrary to some misconceptions, are not about getting paid not to work. They’re about having the headspace and time to tackle big projects that can’t get done (or can’t get done well in a reasonable amount of time) during the regular work schedule. So, once every 7 years, there is the possibility of a sabbatical. It’s not a guarantee at my university that you’ll get one just because you’re eligible, but you can apply for one. I’m already thinking about what audacious projects I could do if I were awarded another sabbatical and how I’ll possibly wedge in writing more books before then.

What my sabbatical taught me is what I really love about my work as an academic librarian, what really drives me and inspires me and what totally drains me. It was clarifying for me and also allowed me to be a whole lot less stressed than usual, which I think everyone in my life appreciated. Trying to bring this knowledge to bear on how I work while at the library is still a work in progress, but I’m hoping to be more balanced and able to move forward on projects (especially in graphic design) as we go into the next academic year.

So what’s this have to do with anything? Well, I hope you enjoy reading my finished book that came together during my sabbatical. I hope that you’re able to find ways to carve out space to do things that inspire you, even if sabbaticals aren’t an option. I hope you (and me and everyone) can maintain our joy in what we love to do so we can continue to make progress in whatever work inspires us, even if it won’t be progressing as fast as if we had whole days to devote to it. Plus, if you ever get a chance to apply for a sabbatical, take it. It really can be amazing.

Finally, just for fun, if you missed the hilarious Twitter exchange between Sam Sykes and Chuck Wendig, please do yourself a favor and read it. It will make you laugh out loud…When Authors Talk on Twitter: Slasher Movie Edition.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, full of inspiration and relaxation. I’ll be back soon with more design news and notes (maybe even book updates). Allons-y!

Big News: My Graphic Design Book for Librarians is Available for Pre-Order!

August 7, 2017

easy graphic design for librarians book cover

Yes, you read that blog post title correctly. I have a book coming out! (*squee*) I’m super-excited to be able to share that my book, Easy Graphic Design for Librarians: From Color to Kerningis now available for pre-order! It’s in the ALA Store and everything. Tell your friends, tell your colleagues, tell anyone who does graphic design work for their libraries. Many, many thanks for spreading the word!

So you might be wondering, book? What book? When were we talking about a book?

Answers: yes, see above, not until today.

So a bit of background. Obviously, my dear readers who have been following this blog know that I’m passionate about graphic design. I love to share what I know and the idea of writing a book began percolating in the back of my mind after the 2015 ALA conference where I presented a poster session on my research on librarians and graphic design. I looked to see what was out there and there wasn’t much focused on librarians, which was interesting. So, being that I’m eligible for sabbaticals at my university, I applied and was awarded a sabbatical for fall quarter of last year (2016).

I spent my sabbatical writing my book and also used the time to send in a book proposal to ALA Editions. I was thrilled that they wanted the book and I did do a happy dance in front of my desk before getting back to writing, illustrating, and editing.

It’s been a whirlwind the last few months as I turned in my manuscript earlier this year, went through copyediting, and am currently finishing up reviewing proofs. I can’t wait to hold the finished book in my hands–and I don’t have to wait long as it’s coming out this fall!

I’ll write more about the process, my sabbatical, and other thoughts later. But I really just wanted to share that my book is real, it’s being published, and I can’t wait for you to read it. I’m so excited to be sharing in more detail my passion for graphic design in libraries with you.

Thanks, as always, for reading. And I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Friday Design: Typography Inspiration from Signs

July 28, 2017

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week is going well and you have a wonderful weekend planned. Can you believe we will be into August next week? How fast the time does fly! But that still leaves us at least a month of summertime to fill our inspiration tanks with so we can stay creative throughout the year. Today I want to share some inspiration for typography from store signs. One of the few things I like about smartphones (other than maps so I don’t get lost and Pokemon GO because it’s fun) is the camera. This isn’t because it in anyway replaces my DSLR for photography, but because it is great for quick shots of things that I might want to use later for design inspiration, as I’m sharing today.

I recently went on a trip to Ireland, which was fantastic, and one of the great things about traveling for me is seeing what the signs look like. (Yes, I am that kind of design geek.) I’m always interested and often inspired by what I see. Dublin is one of the great places to find signs that may inspire, especially in terms of typography. Below are some of the signs I saw that I thought were interesting and may inspire some new designs in my work.

photograph of beshoff sign

I was quite taken with this sign from Beshoff, which is a fish and chips restaurant. This is a good example of integrating text with graphics in a way that works. It is simple with just the right amount of quirky without taken away anything from the readability. It’s easy to reproduce in only two colors, a plus for any branding, and would look good at many different sizes. Plus, I’m a sucker when it comes to flourishes and the old-time look when done well. What might I use this inspiration for? Maybe a header for an exhibit on campus history or community history in the library, or maybe as a juxtaposition between old and new in terms of library resources and services.

Of course, Dublin is also full of awesome signs for pubs as seen below for Brannigan’s

photograph of Brannigan's sign

While I’d hate to read an entire paragraph in the same lettering style as Brannigan’s uses for its sign, as a pub sign it looks great. It’s different than what you might expect from a pub sign and the elongated letterforms gives it a bit of elegance. Mixing typography up so it isn’t the same cliched sans serif for everything, makes people stop and notice. Also, remember, with large display fonts, you can have some fun and use forms that would never work at smaller sizes or in larger bodies of text.

photograph of Il Fornaio sign

Il Fornaio’s sign is completely different from Brannigan’s. Instead of angular forms, here we have sweeping, rounded forms that invite people in, a good thing for an Italian restaurant. The use of a script-type font here brings a bit of romance to the sign while maintaining readability. It is a great contrast to many of the other more angular fonts used on modern signs. While I’m not as much of a fan of the smaller font used for the rest of the sign (I’d have gone with a simple sans serif for readability and contrast with the restaurant name), it still works and hopefully invites people to come in and enjoy a meal.

The Dublin Trading Co. sign

This sign simply screams Dublin. Nothing subtle here. From the name of the store to the inclusion of the iconic arches and lamps from the Ha’Penny Bridge to the emerald green, this sign lets you know you are in Dublin. And, I’m happy about that. Too much of the same type of design everywhere is boring. Context is important. Plus, the letterforms of this sign work well with the curved lines of the graphics. Nothing is too angular, even with the slab serifs. It’s easy to read, fun, and invites us to see what The Dublin Trading Co. has to offer. That’s a successful sign in my book.

So next time you’re walking around, remember to look up and see what inspiration you can draw from signage in your area. You never know what might influence and inspire your next library design or help you solve a design problem that looked intractable. Inspiration really is all around us, if we remember to look.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of delight, relaxation, and things (and people) that make you happy. I’ll be back with more soon. Allons-y!

Friday Design: Low-Hanging Fruit of Alignment

July 14, 2017

Happy Friday, dear readers! Well, it’s been a summer. I was planning on being back with some posts a lot sooner, but was felled by a summer fever. But I’m back and wanted to share a design tip about alignment today. It’s going to be part of a series, maybe, on the low-hanging fruit in graphic design that can help you create better looking designs quickly. I believe it is John McWade of Before & After who talks a lot about low-hanging fruit in graphic design as a good place to start in cleaning up designs and I tend to agree. So consider this Friday’s Design your quick checklist for alignment on your next project.

So what are we talking about with alignment and why are we talking about it?

Alignment refers to how items on the page (text, graphics, borders, etc.) are positioned in relationship to one another and to the page in general. There are three basic overall alignments: center, right, and left. Everyone’s seen centered alignments; they are used almost as defaults on a lot of flyers and posters and are, of course used heavily in wedding invitations. Right alignment means the text block or image are aligned to a guide on the right side of the page creating a straight right side and ragged left. Left alignment is the opposite and how we read texts in English.

Got it? Great.

Alignment, and consistent alignment, is important for creating visual hierarchy and ensuring that it is easy for your reader to get the information they need from your flyer, newsletter, bookmark, website, etc. There are valid reasons for using each of the alignments described above, but we’re not going to get into that today. Instead, we’re just going for the super low-hanging fruit of consistent alignment.

Consistent alignment means that if you have a guideline (aka guide), you use the same one to align all your different components of your design. For example, if you are using center alignment, it means you pick one guideline to center everything on and you don’t change it. This is especially important (and looks especially egregious, if not followed) on small promotional items such as mini-flyers or handouts for library programs, for example.

So let’s move on to the low-hanging fruit of consistent alignment. If you every create a flyer or notice, don’t do what is shown in the example below. This example shows the start of a flyer for a computer workshop. What can you see that’s wrong with the alignment?

image of a desktop with caption for computer workshop that is not in alignment with the image or with the other text block

So what’s wrong with the above alignment? There is no alignment! Well, actually, there is alignment, just not among the various pieces of the design. So the text blocks themselves have left alignment. Notice how the left side of each text block is totally straight. However, the three components (computer graphic, date/time information, and workshop details) are not aligned with each other. It looks like the graphic and date/time text block might be going for centered alignment, but didn’t quite make it. And the bottom text block is just hanging out by itself.

So what should you do? Stick with a consistent alignment as shown below in the next example:

example of correctly aligning image with two text blocks, everything has left-alignment

All three components are now on the same guideline so they are all left-aligned and aligned with each other giving a consistent and easy to read start to the flyer or handout or web announcement for this workshop.

Why use left alignment here instead of centered alignment? Left aligned components are more active than centered, which is a better choice for a computer workshop. But we’ll get more into that another time.

Your takeaway to remember is that in most projects keeping consistent alignment throughout the design is important for both creating useful information hierarchy and for creating a beautiful end product.

Simple, right? Totally. And that’s why it’s an important, low-hanging fruit in graphic design that you should remember and double-check for before hitting publish or print on your next project. And that’s Friday’s Design Tip.

Bonus tip: for some design inspiration, get outside and take a walk unplugged from all your devices. Summer is a wonderful time to get inspired outside, just remember your sunblock and bug spray! Enjoy and maybe you’ll find some fresh ideas breathing life into your designs soon, too.

Have a wonderful day and weekend. I hope you have plans (small or great) for a lovely weekend. I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. Allons-y!

End of the Quarter Thoughts and Some Design Fun

June 9, 2017

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a lovely week and have something wonderful planned for this weekend. Hard to believe we are already through more than a week of June. The time really does fly, though I know I’m hoping for it to slow down a bit as we head into summer. It is almost the end of the quarter here, grades are due next week, and commencements are happening this weekend. So I wanted to share a few thoughts on the end of the quarter and, of course, some design fun.

The end of this term marks nine years of teaching at my university, which also means I’ve taught first-year freshmen for nine years. The years have flown by, yet at the same time it seems like I’ve been teaching forever. Many of you can empathize with the conflicting feeling about how time feels, especially with regards to work. I’m in no way an expert, yet, in teaching and I find myself questioning more every year as I research, practice, and reflect to become better. But even as I continue to learn and grow, which we all should do as teachers (and I’d argue all librarians and archivists are teachers), I have a few thoughts to share that have helped me through the wonderful highs and inevitable lows of teaching, especially with this past quarter.

This past quarter was a rough one for most of the instructors I talked with, both inside and outside my department, for a multitude of reasons. But even when it seems like the world is tilting the wrong way and there are a dozen other things competing for my time and attention, when I’m in the classroom I’m there 100%. It doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge what else is happening–it is crucial, especially in a class on information literacy–but it can’t overwhelm so that I’m not there, present (really present) for my students. Creating a place of calm, of discussion, of learning, of sanity was vital this quarter.

By spring quarter, many of my first-year students were already overwhelmed and ready to check-out for summer. But creating an orderly space, creating trust, and setting expectations gave my students who made use of the class a place where they could take ownership over their learning and create some control over what is often an uncontrollable total experience in life (and in the academy). Getting students to engage is always the hardest hurdle to jump, but once they do, once they feel like it is important, then the rest is so much easier.

One constant from all my classes is that reflection is one of the most effective and powerful tools for teaching that I’ve found. When I first had students start writing weekly reflections years ago, I had a number of colleagues who told me it was a waste of time. Students would just parrot whatever I said in class and wouldn’t take it seriously. They would write whatever they thought I wanted to read, I was told. None of that turned out to be true. While some students don’t complete their reflections (you can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do, even if points are attached), most diligently complete them each week and are honest (sometimes brutally) about what they learned, how they’ve found it useful (or not), and what concerns they have moving forward. It has been one of the best ways I’ve found to get my students to review what they’ve learned and to find sticky points to improve in future classes.

Finally, I’ve had to accept that there is no perfect lesson, no perfect assignment, no perfect thing I can say that will reach all my students to get them to engage and succeed in my class. I can try a dozen different ways to explain, to connect, to help, but if a student doesn’t want to come to class or do the work, in the end I have little to no control over that. We can’t make anyone do anything; we can only guide and support. So I’ve had to let go of taking it personally when students don’t hand in assignments or answer my emails. I’ve had to learn not to take it as a personal failing when a student doesn’t pass my class. If I’ve done everything I can to support a student and they haven’t accepted my support, there is nothing else I can do. This continues to be the most frustrating and disappointing aspect of teaching, but I’m learning to live with it and focus on the vast majority of students that do see the value in the course and want to learn.

Those are just a few of my jumbled thoughts through the haze of grading. Perhaps there will be more later, perhaps not. But now, let’s get into some design fun before we head out for the weekend.

A new month means new desktop wallpapers and Smashing Magazine doesn’t disappoint with June Desktop Wallpapers.

Also, there’s another lovely, free icon set available for your summer designing needs: Geometric UI Icons

Plus, a longer read from Smashing Magazine, Make ‘Em Shine: How to Use Illustrations to Elicit Emotions

I hope you have a wonderful day and weekend filled with good reads, good friends, and some good food. I hope you have something fantastic to design or to make that makes your heart lighter. And I hope that you have some lovely summer plans. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes.

Not Teaching Cynicism

May 12, 2017

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had another lovely week. It is hard to believe we are almost halfway through May. While I am looking forward to the summer, I’m not sure that I’m ready for so much of the year to be over. My list of things I want to do this year is long and it would be nice to have a pause button so I could make some more progress (and have time to nap!). Be that as it may, today I want to share something that is a bit different than my usual design inspiration (though there is some of that as well at the end), but something important and at the fore of my mind this term–not teaching cynicism.

So as many know, while I love graphic design and apply what I know to helping my library visually communicate whenever I have the chance, I wasn’t hired by my library as a graphic design librarian. I was hired, like my colleagues, as a liaison librarian who has responsibilities for teaching our required, freshmen, information literacy class (among many other duties). Because of this, I spend a lot of time thinking, creating, facilitating, helping, and reflecting on the teaching and learning of information literacy. This year, more than most, has been a struggle to model and teach skepticism versus cynicism. But it is more important than ever for my students and myself.

As I’ve been teaching now for almost nine years, I’ve of course changed a lot of how I teach as is natural. And two things that I focus on much more now than when I was so very new to teaching are: reflection and evaluation. Reflection comes easily for my students and, in contradiction to some colleagues who thought it would be otherwise, students are very–sometimes surprisingly–honest in their reflections. Their reflections on their learning, which I have them complete weekly, help them to review what they’ve learned and how they can apply it and help me figure out what needs review, refinement, and revision in our time together.

Reflection is too often overlooked, in our hurry-hurry world, but it helps in teaching & learning and graphic design. And it keeps me from falling into being cynical about the world. And cynicism helps neither teaching nor learning.

Another counter to cynicism is remaining skeptical and knowing how to evaluate claims, sources, and well, really anything. Evaluation of sources has been one of the most difficult concepts for my students over the years. It is a new way of thinking and interacting with information for them, but it is an empowering way of interacting with information. I challenge them to question and critique, but also to stay away from the pit of cynicism. This is hard because every day the news brings something that hits home for us: rising tuition, questions of employment, concerns about housing, whether their voice matters, and everything else that keeps a lot of us up at night or in the early hours of the morning wondering what happened to kindness and empathy and caring.

So we talk about how hard it is to stay positive and willing to engage with school and life. We read research on what we can do that has a positive impact on our lives as students and as engaged humans. And we support each other when it is difficult because I have to model skepticism for them if I expect them to live it, too. And that balance of skepticism and do something in the face of cynicism is a hard thing for any of us to do, but it’s important.

What does any of this have to do with graphic design? I don’t know about you, but trying to communicate from a place of cynicism doesn’t work for me. There is no joy there, no creativity, no ability to connect and communicate visually. So I walk back from that edge and continue creating and teaching because for me that is the only way through. By caring, I can create. And by creating, I can connect. And by connecting, I can overcome cynicism and remain skeptical, but engaged. I and my students can’t ignore the problems and challenges in the world, but we can come together and ensure we don’t add to the cynicism that does nothing to change it.

Whether at the reference desk, in the classroom, or in your designs, I ask you choose skepticism over cynicism. And I hope you find inspiration to connect and create because we all need you to.

Now, as promised, the design inspiration. New-ish month means new May Inspiration and May Desktop Wallpapers from Smashing Magazine. Hope they inspire some new work for you, too.

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

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