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Type in the Wild: Store Signs

July 23, 2015

Hello, dear readers! I hope your week is going well. Can you believe we are nearing the end of July? I can’t hardly either. I’ve just gotten back from a visit with family, which was lovely. Although the best part was spending time with my family, one of the fun things we did was visit downtown Flagstaff. I’d never been before and was happy to spot so many wonderful, interesting, and fun store signs while there. As I was writing about typography in my last post, it seemed too good not to share. So today, some thoughts on store signs before I head off.

I’m sharing four photos of signs I saw in Flagstaff that I thought were interesting. I was excited to see so many store signs and such a variety of typefaces used in the compact downtown. First up is a photo of the aspen loft artists’ sign.

Sign for aspen loft artists

Sign for aspen loft artists

I really like this sign (what would you expect but a lovely sign for an artists’ loft?). Although slightly difficult to see in this photo, the “t” in “loft” is actually an arrow pointing up, a fun touch for this sign. I also like the combination of the large serif “a” in “artists” combined with the rest of the lettering in san serif. A nice combination and nod to the older family of typefaces (serifs) along with the newer (san serifs). Also, the kerning is great. Nothing worse than a poorly kerned sign, as xkcd reminds us.

This next sign for Babbitt’s Mercantile is fun and reminds me of the typeface game we played in one of the letterpress classes I took when we tried to determine the feel of different type and when we would use it.

Babbitts Mercantile

Babbitts Mercantile

The typefaces picked for this mercantile store (a camping and outdoor gear store) make it look like it’s been around for a long time. The typefaces picked look like they could have been used in a flyer set with a platen press and fastened to the local news board. They are fun and work well as display type (not something you’d want to read an entire paragraph in, but great at large sizes for a name or headline). I was a bit sad not to see the same typefaces used on the store’s website, but they caught my eye walking around Flagstaff.

Being a college town, there were a lot of pubs and bars in downtown Flagstaff and they all had interesting signs. However, I had to show the sign for Uptown Pubhouse because of its coat of arms.

Uptown Pubhouse

Uptown Pubhouse

Doesn’t it look like it should be hanging in a street in London rather than in Flagstaff? The coat of arms says history and age, even though we can see that it is just over two decades old. The typeface is a serif, though one that looks a bit more modern than say choosing a Blackletter typeface. It is a striking sign that is also featured on the pub’s website, a nice tie for branding.

The last sign I wanted to share is something different from the pub and much more lighthearted in its use of type.

The Sweet Shoppe & Nut House

The Sweet Shoppe & Nut House

This sign is fun, light, and sweet, just like the candy (and gelato) found inside. The colors (pink and green), along with the typefaces chosen, make it look like an inviting and slightly silly place to cure your chocolate craving. It just goes to show that a typeface that would have no place on a sign for a Celtic-inspired pub or a mercantile can look just right for a candy shop.

So that’s it for me today in typography and signs. I love seeing custom signs with something other than the standard typefaces we see everyday when staring at our computer screens or reading a book. Display typefaces are so much fun, especially when used in creative ways that seem to convey the essence of a business. So much type, so little time! I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week, dear readers. Allons-y!

Why Librarian Designers Need to Know about Typography

July 13, 2015

Hello, dear readers! I hope your week is going well and you had a lovely weekend. I can hardly believe we are almost half-way through July, especially with the especially gloomy morning weather we have here in the Bay Area. But no matter, we must carry on with our work and our blogging. Today I want to talk just a little bit about typography and why I think it is so important for librarians and especially librarian designers to understand.

First, what’s a librarian designer? Good question. I use the phrase to denote librarians who have responsibility for graphic design in their library. I’m talking about a piece of graphic design today, typography, which is very important (and fun) for everyone to understand a bit more about. However, it is especially important for librarians who design graphics for their libraries.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since ALA Annual since I had some really lovely conversations with people during my poster session. I’d been thinking a lot about graphic design in general as I’ve been processing the results of my survey of librarian designers and reviewing what and how they talked about typography in relation to what they’ve designed. I’ve also been reading the book Useful, Usable, Desirable by Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches, which is being used by my library’s UX team to look at the over user experience and design decisions at my library. It’s quite a good book and obviously can’t cover everything, but I know a lot of librarians are using the book, so I thought I’d use this post as a starting point to talk a bit more about typography than could be covered in it.

It is difficult sometimes to know what typeface to use when designing a poster, flyer, web banner, etc., especially if there are no guidelines on type at your library. This situation can be made more difficult if you don’t know the history of typefaces or haven’t given a lot of thought about the original uses of various typefaces, why they were created, and what emotions they evoke. So it can be very tempting, as the above book notes, just to pick Helvetica. It seems like everyone is using Helvetica now. But just because everyone is using it, doesn’t make it right for you.

There seems to be a myth that Helvetica is neutral. No typeface is neutral. Every typeface speaks and conveys emotion. That’s why we have different reactions to different typefaces. That’s why we have a different reaction to Uncial than we often do to Comic Sans than to Centaur. San serifs might look more plain than a serif or display typeface, but don’t mistake that for neutrality.

One of my favorite typography blogs, I Love Typography, had a wonderful article on Helvetica, The Last Word on Helvetica?, that I highly suggest reading. It is a great read and reminds us that choosing a typeface is like choosing a tool. A hammer or a pick ax is not always the right tool for the job and neither is Helvetica.

I’m not disputing that a library should have a branding manual that includes typefaces that are to be used in different situations. I’m disputing that Helvetica, or really any typeface, should be considered a default without considering what it is being used for. The same typeface that is appropriate for a webpage content area is not going to be the same that is most useful for a printed newsletter. Nor is it going to be most useful blown up to four inches tall on a poster. We have to consider the content and the format of each project before settling on a typeface. If we don’t take this care, it shows in our designs and they won’t succeed in communicating in the best possible way that we can.

So why do librarian designers need to know about typography? Because it is important. We are visual creatures and we read so much every day. We communicate visually through text and images and if we don’t have thought as to why we are choosing a certain typeface then we are missing out on the opportunity to make that typeface enhance our message. The point is communication and communicating in the most effective way possible. And we can’t do that if we aren’t consciously choosing the type we use, if we haven’t thought of the applicability of the typeface to the product we are creating. That’s why librarian designers need to understand typography, so we can communicate effectively no matter what we are designing.

While obviously this short post isn’t going to get into the history and intricacies of typography, I hope it has convinced you that type is important and shouldn’t be an afterthought. We look at type everyday; it is ubiquitous and important. As librarian designers, it is our duty to understand at least a little bit about typefaces in order to ensure our library can communicate effectively through all our designs. Besides, geeking out over typefaces is fun and we all need some fun in our work.

That’s all I have for now. If you want to learn more about typography, there are any number of wonderful resources available. Obviously the above mentioned I Love Typography blog is a great resource. Right now I’m reading Just My Type, which is wonderful. I loved The Typographic Desk Reference and hope the 2nd edition comes out soon. Thinking with Type is another great reference.

I hope you have a wonderful week. I’ll be back with more thoughts and news next time. Allons-y!

Summer Reflections

July 2, 2015

Happy Thursday, dear readers! I hope you are having a lovely week and have a wonderful weekend planned. I feel like I’m still recovering from ALA Annual, which was wonderful and exhausting. (Thanks to everyone who stopped by my poster presentation and had a chat. It was a lot of fun!). Today, I just want to share a few thoughts and links before I head off into the 3-day weekend. Summer is a great time for reflection and hopefully some of this post will be useful to you.

Can you believe half the year has gone by already? I can’t. Time is just going too fast, even when I’m bored! I’m going to take some time this weekend to check in with the progress I’ve made this year and what I still want to do with the coming 6 months of the year. Because as we all know, time can just get away from us whether we’re at work or at home. So I think this article was very timely and had some good advice on how to prioritize your life before your manager does it for you. No one (or at least very few) wants to be all work and absolutely no time for anything else. So take some time to think about what you have control over and how you can make your job work for you. It’s worth it.

On the flip side, I know that I’m often drained mentally after work and feel like curling up with a cup of tea and not doing much else the rest of the evening. But I know I should work on my projects and the things that I love to do outside of work, even if it can be hard. So I liked this idea to set aside 20 minutes for personal projects to avoid crashing as written about on Lifehacker. It’s kind of a different take on having an after-work ritual to separate work from home. I need to implement this.

And, of course, we can’t have a post without a little bit of fun. At ALA, I was reminded how many librarians are also cat lovers so thought I’d share this post from The Well-Appointed Desk, Fashionable Friday: Feline Fur-vor. Adorable, especially the copy cat mug.

Also, 3D printing is both interesting and confusing to me, but I can totally get behind this use of a 3D printer: duck waddles and swims with 3D-printed foot. Adorable!

I hope you have a lovely day and weekend filled with all good things. Allons-y!

Friday Design

June 5, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a good week and that you have lovely plans for the weekend. This is the last week of classes before final exam week here so it has been a bit of a crazy rush and I’m glad for a couple of days off. But before we hit the weekend, I wanted to share some fun design sources with you that may inspire you to finally clean up your photo organization or go take some beautiful photos this weekend.

This article by Lifehacker on 10 ways to improve your messy photo collection is chocked full of great tips to get a handle on your digital photos. As an archivist, I can’t tell you how much I dread getting digital records that have no coherent filing system. For your own piece of mind and for your own ability to access your photos, find an organizational system that works for you and clean your photo files. For me, I still love printing out photos and putting them in albums to share, but I’m old fashioned that way.

Also in the realm of photography, check out Gizmodo’s article on how to take better photos using your camera’s mode dial. While I love the convenience of the camera on my phone, nothing beats having a DSLR for taking photos. Also, while it can be intimidating at first, it is also a lot of fun to learn and don’t let anyone ever make you feel bad when you are learning. (Last bit because I unwisely looked at a few of the comments and was annoyed at people being rude about beginners learning photography.)

I have to say that I love having new desktop backgrounds and so I’m always excited to see the new crop of designs over at Smashing Magazine each month. Check out the June 2015 desktop wallpaper calendars to freshen your desktop. I love the owl one. :)

Finally, because most things I design aren’t complete without some use of type, I had to share this month in typography by I Love Typography. So much inspiration in this post!

I hope you have a lovely weekend full of inspiring things to do and people to see. I’ll be back soon with more. Allons-y!

Work, Goals, and the Light at the End of the Term

May 29, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that your week has gone well, you’ve accomplished what you’ve set out to do, and you have something fun planned for the weekend. At my university, we can see the light at the end of the quarter as we are done to the final week of classes and then the hurdle of finals week. Summer is almost here, even though it looks like January outside with all the fog and high clouds, and we can almost taste it. So today, I just wanted to share a few thoughts and links on work, goals, and the light at the end of the term.

I’m exhausted and I don’t think I’m the only one. I love teaching at a university, but by the end of the spring quarter I’m pretty much spent. Spring quarter is when all the annual reports are due and everyone is trying to wrap up every project all at once. It is enough to make anyone exhausted and overwhelmed. When I came across this post, It’s not just about working harder, you also need to work faster, I thought I couldn’t have read it at a better time. We don’t just need to work longer, we need to work faster. And to me faster doesn’t mean we run around it a panicked miasma, making everyone around us feel panicked, too. Instead, we channel all our energy, remove all the drama and distractions, and just get work done. Be efficient. Don’t complain about having to do work. Just do the work. It works. I’m not saying I can work full throttle all the time, but it does help to crank out the work at the end of the quarter, especially when I can see the light at the end of the term. (Yay, summer break!)

Doing this at work means we have more time for outside projects, although we have to remember that you can’t achieve your goals if you’re never working towards them. Great, short post by Lifehacker. It reminds me that it is easy to have a goal in my head, but much harder to continue to work towards that goal. But it is worth it because who doesn’t like to level up in achievements? And we all define those achievements in different ways, which is the fun part. Dream big, then get working. Just don’t forget to take a nap once in a while, too.

On the design front, I’m having way too much fun playing with Coolors: the super fast colour schemes generator for cool designers! (Their words, not mine.) It is easy, fast, and a lot of fun to play around with different color schemes. A great tool for those who feel overwhelmed by color choices when designing something new. I’m thinking this might be great for designing our new exhibit color palettes and marketing materials for the library.

And, because it will be summer soon, I just had to share two Joy the Baker recipes that sound amazing: blueberry cheesecake ice cream and strawberry cookies and cream cake. I will have to make these for summer parties this year.

I hope you have a lovely weekend, dear readers, full of fun and play and whatever you want. I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. Allons-y!

Tuesday Fun

May 19, 2015

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! It has been a gloomy few days in the Bay Area, but no rain, so I think we definitely need some fun. Today I have a few links to things that I think will give you a nice break during your work day.

Yes, it sounds crazy, but just try not to smile while watching CGI Giraffes dive into a pool. It is wonderful and relaxing.

Also, as we inch closer to summertime, at least around here, I feel the itch to travel. Since I can’t do that right now, I have to instead get my fix by looking at these amazing botanical mazes. They’re pretty fantastic.

Also, I had to share the last Fashionable Friday post from The Well-Appointed Desk: Fast and Furious edition. This is especially for my friend, Hanna, and one of our biology faculty members on campus who happens to share my enjoyment of the Fast and Furious movies.

While not strictly as fun as CGI giraffes, I had to share this short article on Lifehacker about saying no to yourself. So important to remember not to fill our time with more stuff just because we are rocking at time management. I totally have to remember this and was happy to see an article on the topic.

I hope you have a lovely week, dear readers. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Organization and Creativity as Partners

May 15, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has been lovely and you have some fun planned for the weekend. Before we get to the weekend, however, I wanted to take a few minutes to share some ideas about organization and creativity that I’ve been thinking about this week. I have numerous projects going on at the moment so I’ve been thinking a lot about how to be organized to get everything done, but I’ve also been thinking a lot about how to partner organization with creativity and how that works in my life and work.

So I didn’t want to talk about creative organization. I think there are enough blogs out there writing about that. Instead I just wanted to share a few observations about how organization and creativity, at least for me, are partners instead of head-butting opposites. I know that there are people out there who believe that creativity has to be messy and I’d agree. But having a messy creativity process, like getting paint on the floor or ink on your wrists from all the edits on your manuscript are not the same as being unorganized. Sure, creativity is messy, just look at my kitchen table when I’m writing or my work desk when I’m creating a new tutorial or video for my classes. It’s a super-big mess, maybe one that I’ll share sometime with pictures. It’s messy, but it isn’t unorganized.

Being organized for me is a way of saving time and headspace so I can devote more energy to being creative. If my stuff is organized (and I have less of it to organize), then I don’t waste precious minutes or hours searching for what I need, be it some more fountain pen ink, my audio recorder, or a stack of notes for a video script. I’m a firm believer in putting things away, in the same place, every time. It not only keeps it organized, but then I don’t have to try to remember where I last saw something. I know where it is.

This, in turn, allows me to free up space in my head to organize thoughts and projects. Do you ever have days when it feels like the index cards or files in your brain are all hodge-podge on the floor? That each thought you have scurries away before you can link it to the next? I feel like that sometimes, but notice that I feel that way a lot less if I’ve been diligent about organizing my stuff, my time, and my projects. Then I actually have the room in my head to make connections I’d otherwise miss in the noise and I’m calm enough to get something new done. And, I like that.

One of the projects I’m currently working on is a poster session for ALA Annual. I’ll be there on Sunday, June 28th, from 2:30 to 4:00 pm in the Exhibit Hall. You can see details about the poster session here. I’d love it if you’d stop by. We can talk graphic design and libraries. It will be fun or at least hopefully not awkward. I’ll be posting more about poster design as I continue to work on them in the coming weeks.

I hope you have a wonderful spring weekend. I’ll be back soon. Allons-y!

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