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Graphic Design in the Library: Poster Headline Example

April 29, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has been filled with good work, good fun, and some good memories. Before we all ride out of the library and into the weekend, I wanted to share some thoughts about graphic design from my library’s latest exhibit. Specifically, I want to talk about collaboration and creation of the logo and titles for the posters. Although this may sound a bit tedious, looking behind the curtain of a final design at the process is really useful as you are learning (as we know from teaching information literacy, right?).  It may help if you are considering mounting some posters for your next exhibit and want a coherent look. So let’s dive into to some graphic design work.

First, you can check out the whole web exhibit here. I’m rather proud of this exhibit on the history of young adult (YA) literature, both for how it turned out visually and how the team worked collaboratively. For context, in my library there is an exhibit team that works together on exhibit conception and creation. We split the work amongst ourselves. For the posters, after the initial concept meeting, our team member who leads the design of the posters (Dick Apple) does some mock-ups and then the rounds of critique and revision begin.

Usually, the poster work falls mostly to Dick and me. I’m lucky that he is very open to collaboration and working in an iterative way, which is basically the only way that collaboration in graphic design can work. If you are working with someone who doesn’t have their heart in collaboration, try to get a new team member as soon as possible or your work (and your sanity) will suffer.

What I want to focus on is just the logo and the titles of the posters. You can see an example of one of the logo/title combinations below:

YA literature logo and title

While this logo and title combination is simple, it took rounds of discussion to get to this final version. How many rounds of email (which we use because our team works different hours and often in different locations)? I counted around 20 emails and about four major revisions and a host of minor tweaks. So how does this work?

After Dick did the initial mock-up of the logo (the YA, horizontal line, and the phrase “young adult literature”), he sent it out to us for review. I asked about font choice, font size (the original had the YA much larger than the phrase), and colors, as well as issues of alignment. We discussed each and after some rounds came up with the above. While not perfect (because very few things are in design), it works really well for our exhibit.


First, you can see we used two different fonts. The YA is in a serif font (Book Antiqua Bold). We chose this deliberately because the serif font family is older than san serif and has an “old timey” feel. This is good because our exhibit is a look at the history of the YA genre, so we need something that invokes history. The phrase, young adult literature, meanwhile is set in a san serif font (Myriad Pro Regular), which looks and feels more modern–great for linking the logo to the current YA literature we are talking about.

Second, after we fixed the font size issue so that it didn’t feel as top heavy, we worked on tracking and kerning. The top letters in YA had to be kerned so they looked right. The tracking was changed on the phrase so that it aligned with the horizontal line. This makes the spacing and placement look deliberate, which it is. Also, having the phrase in all caps makes this tracking and alignment easier. It also creates breathing room so that we have some quiet in the logo. This is useful since the posters, which you can see in their entirety via the first link, are very colorful due to the book covers used to illustrated each poster.

Next, we played with colors. We settled on these complementary colors after a number of different options. These colors work both with the rest of the graphics on the posters and make the logo pop against the dark grey of the background. We also lost an initial white box around the logo that only served to visual separate the logo from everything else on the poster and all special effects on the letters (e.g. drop shadows, outlines, etc.). Sometimes (often in my experience) simpler really is better and stronger for design.

Finally, we worked on the headlines. Unlike the logo, the headline titles are white. This links them to the text blocks, which are also white, and allows them to stand out and apart from the logo and dark background. They are set in the same typeface as the “young adult literature” in the logo, again for coherence. They were then hand-aligned to the slant of the “A” in YA. This allows the logo and title to work together, instead of appearing as separate elements on the poster. It also eliminates visual boxes around the logo and title that can be caused by just using a left alignment because that is what the software program defaults to.

So, that is the condensed, but basic steps we went through in creating the logo and headline titles for this exhibit. As you can see the results are quite nice–legible, readable, and eye-catching. The same logo is used on all the posters for visual branding and the headline titles are aligned the same.

I hope this helps you go under the hood of how a collaborative design process can work for creating exhibit posters in a library. It is work, but creative, fun work that I love. If you have any questions, or any designs you have for your library that you’d like to share, please leave a comment.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend full with reading, napping, and relaxing fun. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!


Design Short for Thursday

April 21, 2016

Happy Thursday, dear readers! It has been a busy few weeks here, but wanted to share some design resources to help make your Thursday a bit more beautiful and fun. I’m still working on a post about my library’s latest exhibit and hopefully will post about that soon. Until then, check out some fun design resources.

Part of designing is knowing when to use something that’s already been created so you don’t have to recreate the wheel. Free font and icon sets are awesome in this regard. Smashing Magazine is one of my favorite resources for icon sets and, occasionally, for fonts. Check out this release of Yrsa and Rasa. Lovely and inspiring.

Also, not sure about where you are, but caffeine consumption always seems to rise as we get into the quarter at my university. Therefore this barista and coffee lovers icon set seems rather appropriate to share. I love super-clean icon sets, especially that can be used in black and white. So versatile.

Finally, here’s a link from The Well-Appointed Desk on books to check out on sketching and painting. Perhaps it will inspire you to do some doodling this weekend.

I hope you have a lovely, creative rest of your day, dear readers. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes.

Break Week Thoughts

March 25, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope this week has been treating you well. We are on Spring Break at my university so the campus and library have been quiet and it has been a wonderful week for getting things done. I wanted to share a few thoughts on the importance of break weeks, or something similar, along with a few bits of fun.

I love being an academic librarian. I love the students. I love the work. And I sometimes even love the frenetic energy on campus. But this last term just about had me crawling under my desk in search of some quiet and calm. It was a chaotic term for everyone I talked with, not just those of us in the library. No one is sure why, but it completely zapped our energy reserves. This break week, even though the library is open (albeit limited hours), has been a joyous bit of calm between the storms.

Break week isn’t a week of zoning out or goofing off. We don’t have it as vacation, unlike some of the other faculty and students. Instead, it is a week of catching up and diving into those projects that take a backseat to the urgent demands of teaching and other work during the term. For me, it has been a week of research and writing, getting to delve deeply into projects that I had to neglect while teaching two credit-bearing classes and doing more committee work than I care to remember.

I’ve actually been able to get into a state of flow with my work, which never happens during the quarter. I’ve been able to finish another round of analysis on a large stack of transcripts, complete a conference paper and presentation, and check of a half-dozen other smaller projects that need to be finished. And, I’ve hardly had to look at the clock at all. Without interruptions or meetings that section off my time into hour increments that may work for busywork, but don’t work for deep thinking and analysis, I’ve felt more relaxed and accomplished at the end of the day than I have for a longer time than I care to admit.

It is hard brainwork, deep thinking, but satisfying in a way that urgent emails and fixing work for committees will never be for me.

It is a reminder that we need time like this to think and to plan so that when we take action, it will be thoughtfully considered instead of a reaction. If you can carve this out into your week or month, you are fortunate indeed. If you are an administrator, my hope for you is that you would figure out a way to carve out this time for your staff if you aren’t as fortunate as my library to have built in “downtime” like the break week, where work can be done without interruption.

We, as the faces of the library, are public serving and public-facing, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need some time for reflection and flow work, too.

As for fun, because we need fun, too, check out Smashing Magazine’s Easter Icon Set (it’s free). And, if you are in the San Jose, California area on April 9th, check out the S.F. Bay Area Printers’ Fair & Wayzgoose. It sounds like it should be fantastic!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend filled with good times and good reads! I’ll be back soon with thoughts on our spring exhibit and graphic design for librarians.

Tuesday Fun

March 15, 2016

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! Most Tuesdays could use a little more fun, but I think the first Tuesday after Daylight Savings Times begins (at least for some of us) requires a lot of fun. For today, I have some lovely information and articles about books because there are few things more fun than a good book.

In case you missed it at the end of last year, check out this infographic on what happens to your body after you start reading a book. I especially love the tongue-in-cheek writing even as it reminds us how powerful books can be.

Also in the realm of books and fun, check out Gizmodo’s article about 16 fun, escapist books to read. Looks like I have more titles to put on my “to read” list.:)

Springtime is always birding time, so I’m especially enamored of this poster illustrating the birds of North America. It is lovely. Though I’d suggest taking a Sibley Guide into the field is more practical for identification.

I’ll be back soon with some thoughts on libraries and graphic design, as we are about to mount our spring exhibit, as well as other news and notes. Until then, happy reading! Allons-y!

Tuesday Fun

March 1, 2016

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! I hope you enjoyed your Leap Day and are ready for March! I am looking forward to Daylight Savings Time beginning and the start of spring. It is a good month. In celebration, let’s have a bit of fun today.

Who doesn’t like a good home library? No one who reads this blog, that’s for sure. I love having books around to read and to draw inspiration from. So I was in awe of this amazing home library and slightly jealous of what sounds like fabulous talks that happen in the middle of such a great collection. Check out this article and video on Cultivating curiosity in amazing home library. I think I need to go buy some more bookshelves.

It’s a new month and that means Smashing Magazine has released its monthly post of fantastic wallpapers for your desktop. They are beautiful and inspiring, as always. Take a few moments and refresh your desktop’s wallpaper. It’s the quickest bit of redecorating you can do.

Finally, check out this short, useful video from Lifehacker on how to pack for long trips. Spring makes me want to travel, so I couldn’t help but share this resource, too.

I hope you have a lovely Tuesday and rest of your week. I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. Allons-y!



Design Resources for Friday

February 26, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! As you can tell from the lack of posts this month, it has been rather crazy around the library. Teaching two freshmen information literacy courses in a quarter usually doesn’t throw me for a loop, but combine them with massive amounts of committee work, a battle with a cold, and a bunch of project deadlines, and it has definitely impacted the amount of time I’ve had for writing. So today, I want to share some fun design resources to get you into the weekend because everyone can use some inspiration.

It is no secret that I’m a fan of free icons, and you should be, too. They are so much better than clip art and great for use in quick graphics you may need to create for your library. I’m especially fond of the curated sets available via Smashing Magazine. Check out the adorable home appliance and real estate icons and this huge set of icons on e-commerce, food, summer, and more.

Also, it is no secret that I love good typography and think every librarian (and every person) should know at least the basics. It is imperative for graphic design and finding more sources of free fonts is always useful, so check out this great set from Smashing Magazine: free fonts with personality. I can’t wait to use Badhead in something.

Speaking of design on a much larger scale, check out this Gizmodo article, “Look how much better a city can be when it designs for people not cars.” The photo comparisons are amazing and it is a stark reminder that good, liveable design is a choice; it doesn’t just happen. Something to keep in mind when we renovate or design libraries, too.

Finally, just for fun, check out The Well-Appointed Desk’s Chocolate Lovers’ Fashionable Friday post. So much yummy-looking stuff. And, of course, who can resist this project of turning an old t-shirt into a cat tent? Definitely not me.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend and get to design and to read something wonderful. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!


Dreams and Design

January 22, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that your week is going well and you feel settled in the new year. I’m still trying to remember to write 2016 on memos and papers, but feel like 2016 is already running away from me sometimes. Always so much to do and learn, especially in libraries. Today I wanted to talk a bit about dreams, because it is that time of year, and a bit about design, because libraries should always be talking about design.

First, a couple of things to share: Month in Typography by I Love Typography and All Steps Lead to Somewhere by This is Indexed. Both of these have been on my mind in this new year as we consider design and branding, promotion and outreach, marketing and engagement at my library. Sometimes it is overwhelming when I think about what I can accomplish today or this week (especially when teaching and considering all my other duties). But it is important to remember that we can only accomplish anything by taking the first step, no matter how small, or continuing on with a long-term project.

I’ve been thinking a lot about designing and dreaming in this new year as we are talking about how to do better outreach and publicity for the library, which obviously means we need to design publicity materials. In order to do this properly, we have to have space to dream and to create. Sometimes this seems impossible with all the urgent, and even important, tasks we are called on to do everyday as librarians. However, if we don’t reserve the time for thinking and dreaming, we come up empty when it is time to create posters and flyers and handouts for our events. And herein lies one of the great challenges of librarianship. There is always more to do, so how do we carve out time for these design projects? I don’t think anyone has the perfect, one-size-fits-all answer, but I know that we have to make space for designing if we are going to succeed at my library in promoting and engaging with our community.

For me, the space to dream and design almost always happens in the morning before most of my colleagues arrive at the library. I have to resist the siren song of checking my email and instead use the first hour for whatever design project I’m working on, or paper I need to write, or data I need to analyze. I have to be protective and even stubborn about keeping this space open for my work or it is too easy for it to get lost in the shuffle of all the urgent tasks that need my attention. I’m a morning person, so it works for me. Do what works for you. If you are creative later in the day, use that time. Will  it work every day? Of course not. But if you can line up more days than not for working on your projects, you’ll be amazed what you can do.

And you know, the funny thing about being deliberate about designing my time like that? I still manage to get all the urgent stuff done, too, but feel better at the end of the day because I’ve gotten further along on my important projects, too. Work really does expand to fill time, so design your time so you have as much control as you can.

I hope the new year brings you many opportunities to dream and to design. I hope you turn your dreams into wonderful projects to share with the world. I hope you find great satisfaction, and even joy, in your work this year. I’ll be back with more news and notes soon. Allons-y!


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