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Design Short: Summer is for Recharging

July 22, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! Has it been a long week? It’s certainly felt like a long week here. I hope you have something restful and restorative planned for the weekend because your brain, body, and creativity need it. Today, before we head out into the loveliness that is the weekend, I want to share a few things that might bring some sunshine into your day.

First, why the title of today’s post? Because summer is for recharging or at least it should be. We are all so crazy busy, hyper-connected during the rest of the year that it seems like summer is the only time when people collectively decide it is time to slow down, stop to chat, or actually have a glass of lemonade on the porch. But summer, like everything else, can be overridden by work and desires to cram more into the longer days, instead of just enjoying the longer days. And, to me, that’s a true pity. Summer is for breathing in the deep, heady scents of all the blooming flowers, for admiring the birds while hiking, for napping like a cat in a sunspot, and for absorbing new things so we have something in our creative souls to draw on when the work gets tough in the fall.

I was inspired by The Oatmeal’s post, Creativity is like breathing. (Note: parts of the post are not entirely safe for work if you work in an open office plan.) I agree completely, which is why I love the summer for recharging so I have something left to give to projects and to life. Your work, your life will be better for taking a break, really.

If you need more inspiration, check out this post on how a Gutenberg Printing Press Actually Works. As someone who does print on a vintage letterpress, I find it rather telling that the author of the post thinks they know how a printing press works and that it is easy. It may be a simple list of steps to remember to print on a press, but there is nothing about printing that is easy. It’s just the professions with years of experience who make it look easy.

In digital design, Smashing Magazine has another icon set for free, Olympics Sports Icon Set. Good for any related programming your library might be doing this summer.

And, if you need something tasty to make this weekend to celebrate summer, check out Joy the Baker’s Summer Tomato Pie recipe. I can’t wait to make this.

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

Design Short: Color and Random Stuff

July 15, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your day is going well and you have a fabulous weekend planned. Today I wanted to share a few resources for determining color palettes for your designs, along with some other design goodies that will hopefully inspire you to tackle your next library design project.

After choosing fonts, I think I’ve gotten the most questions about color when I talk about graphic design for librarians. Everyone wants to know how to choose the correct colors for their work, which is great! We should all think about colors and how they affect the messages we are communicating. Plus, playing with colors is just fun, kind of like playing with finger paints. Of course, we always need to think about accessibility when we are choosing colors–since the whole point is to communicate, it doesn’t serve us well to have information conveyed only through color or with such low contrast (think yellow text on a white background) that some people can’t read it. After we’ve considered accessibility though, there is an endless spectrum of colors to consider. So how do you choose?

As graphic designers know, if you want to have a coherent color palette you need to sample colors from whatever image you are using in your design. This is easy in programs like Photoshop. If you don’t (or can’t) use Photoshop, you can always upload your image to Color Palette FX and get an automatically generated color palette. Using colors that are drawn from an image you are already using in your flyer or poster or whatever you are designing will make everything look coherent. The people who are looking at your design probably won’t consciously think about this, but they’ll know it looks good to them. If you more help in choosing colors without learning a lot of color theory, check out Smashing Magazine’s article, “A Simple Web Developer’s Guide to Color.” It should get you started and hopefully alleviate any fears you may have about choosing colors.

And while you are looking for colors to use, check out a couple of free icon sets for potential color palettes: Summer Icon Set (super relaxing) and Space Icon Set (intergalactic!).

Also, just for fun, check out these people who are building castle in France with medieval technology. It’s definitely impressive.

I hope you have a lovely Friday and weekend, full of good reads, good design, and good fun. I’ll be back next week with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Friday Design Short: Inspiration for Good Design

July 8, 2016

Happy Friday! It’s been a long, hard week, hasn’t it? We definitely need the weekend and some, well, inspiration and beautiful things. Design might not solve all the world’s problems, but it can help and sometimes that is the best we can do. So today, I’m just sharing some things I’ve found inspiring that might give you a needed break and some needed pretty things (because yes, sometimes we just need a break to remember there is beauty).

Check out this long post of July Design Inspiration from Smashing Magazine. These monthly posts are great for getting new ideas, especially for colors and styles that you might not have considered in your designs. I can see some translating beautifully for library design projects.

For more semi-library related design inspiration, click through to see the 2015 Book Cover Winners and 2015 Book Winners from the AIGA competition. I’m amazed at how gorgeous the covers are and how well-designed the books are. And, now, I want to go buy more books!

Do you like flags? Does your city have a flag? Is it well-designed? You’ll be asking yourself these questions as you watch Roman Mars’ TED Talk, “Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you’ve never noticed” and read Rebekah Barnett’s TED article, “Doing pennants: How to fix an ugly flag“. After, check out if your city has a flag and use the rules discussed by Mars as an exercise to redesign your flag. You never know, it might help if your library ever wants to create some new branding or even a library flag!

Finally, although sometimes the images get all the attention in design, we have to pay attention to our words, too. So if you are writing up copy, you might want to check out Words to Use instead of Very. If nothing else, there’s an adorable cat on the infographic.:)

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


Friday (Before a Holiday) Fun

July 1, 2016

Happy Friday and Happy July 1st, dear readers! We are in the heart of summer now and it is a holiday weekend, at least here in the United States. So today, instead of a design short, I’ll be sharing a few lovely things (some design-related) to help you get into the summertime spirit.

First, as always, Smashing Magazine has another lovely post of wonderful wallpapers for July. Amazing artistry and some adorable designs this month, too. I’ve already picked mine out for my work computer. Luckily I have a dual-monitor set-up so I can pick two!:)

Speaking of calendars and months, Smashing Magazine has also released a set of free months & seasons icons. Beautiful and calming. You never know when a library design project will come along that you can use them for.

Do you live in an urban center? Are you all work and no play? When was the last time you got out in nature? Not to overgeneralize findings or go Chicken Little on you, dear reader, but if this article on stress causing premature aging in birds doesn’t make you pause, I’m not sure what will. So take it as a sign to slow down, have a glass of lemonade, and maybe go on that nature walk you’ve been putting off for months. I think we should all agree that July should be a month for being chill.

Finally, I know it’s a bit late, but have you heard of the One Book July Challenge (#onebookjuly2016)? No? I hadn’t either until I read about it on The Well-Appointed Desk, but I think it sounds fabulous! Who doesn’t want to pare down and simplify their life? This is a reasonable way to do it. The video below is from the creator of the challenge, Rhomany, who explains both the 1.0 and 2.0 versions of the challenge. Even though I’m a bit late to the challenge, I’m going to do the 2.0 challenge this month. Now if I could just figure out which project I want to focus on…


I hope you have a lovely, relaxing weekend, dear readers, filled with all the creativity, fun, and watermelon that you can get your hands on! I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Design Short: Clarity Matters

June 24, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has been wonderful and you are ready to make the last weekend in June a great one. Today I want to share one design imperative: clarity matters! Design should be intuitive and graphic design should communicate. Sometimes, it can be a matter of safety as we can see in the example I’m sharing today.

photograph of handwritten sign for stairsSo there is a ton of construction at my library this summer, some of which necessitates using different emergency routes because our main entrance is blocked by construction. Now before we get into the part about clarity in one part of the design I want to make something else clear:

All the rest of the signage in the library for the emergency exits and routes to the emergency exits is clear, as you can see from the signage that is in the first picture near the top of the door. It uses a large, san serif type and tells everyone clearly where the emergency exit is.

So, with that out of the way, I’ll give you three guesses about what I was upset about with the signage in this first photo (and the first two guesses don’t count).

Yes, of course I was upset about the blue arrow with the scribbled writing that says “stairs down”! This was awful and it is for the emergency exit!

Now, you can say that the “stairs down” is clearly marked in the first sign, which it is, but a visual cue is useful, too. And, if we are going to do visual signage, we better darn well do it well for emergency signage.

So, what to do?

This second photograph shows you exactly what I did to correct this problem, which was super easy and should have been done in the first place.

clear, typed sign for stairsFirst, make the arrow red to match the rest of the emergency signage. If you see color, red primes us for danger and emergency. All other signs use the red and black color scheme, so this one should, too.

Second, type the words “stairs down”, in large, san-serif font so someone can actually read it! You don’t want confusion in case of emergency. Make it clear; make it big; make it centered like the other signs.

Third, replace the sign.

Easy, simple design fix for clarity when it matters.

So, what can you apply from this to your own signage designs for your library?

Make your signs clear.

Make your signs consistent.

Someday, someone’s safety might depend on it.

That’s it for the design short today. Of course we could go into how we could improve the other sign on the door, too, but that is something for another day.

I hope you have a lovely weekend, full of fun and relaxation. I’m going to the county fair so maybe I’ll find something design-related to bring back to apply to the library and to share for next time.

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


Design Example: Revising a Library Newspaper Ad

June 17, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I feel like we could use a week of Fridays about now, but since we only get one I hope yours is a great one. Before we head into the weekend, I wanted to share a redesign I’ve been working on as promised. So keep reading for an example of how I put some of the design stuff I’ve been sharing into practice for my work.

So, disclaimer time: even though I love graphic design and do research in it, I’m not responsible for the advertisements the library runs in our student paper nor am I on the library’s UX committee. I redesigned the following ad simply because I couldn’t help myself, though it would be great if we did run a redesigned ad the next quarter.

Now that the disclaimer is through, let’s look at the current ad, which is below:

current ad for extended hours in library

Now, there is nothing that is overly horrible about this ad. It is clear, has a lot of white space, doesn’t use any fonts that make your eyes want to twitch and, if you take the time to read it, gives you all the information you need about the library’s extended study hours.

So why redesign it?

Two main reasons: 1) because almost any design can be made better and 2) to make it easier to scan for information and therefore more likely to be used.

So how did I start the redesign?

With planning and brainstorming of course. The ad space runs in a 5 by 8 inch space, so I knew my space parameters, which always helps for planning. I also knew what information I needed to include from what is run in the ad and I knew what I didn’t want to keep. So below you can see a photo of my brainstorming page with what I wanted to keep.

scratch paper showing brainstorming, thumbnail sketch for new ad

You can see that I also drew a thumbnail, along with some notes, for a redesign idea (plus a note for another idea on how to redesign the ad, specifically around the tricky issue of the dates and times).

Notice I didn’t copy everything from the original ad. All the basic, necessary information is there, but not the questions and headers. I wanted to simply the ad so I could use bigger, bolder fonts to be eye catching.

One element that I wanted to expand from the original though was the dates and times of the extended hours. I wanted students to be able to tell, at a glance, when the library would be open for all the dates of the final weeks of the term. The original way, while taking up less space than what I envisioned, seemed to be more difficult to scan.

The photo, as noted above, is pixelated–not a lot, but enough to be annoying. But more importantly, it doesn’t really add anything to the ad. It just takes up a lot of space and is awkward with the other box of quasi-calendar hours. It had to go.

In place of the photo, I already knew I wanted to use some free icons from the Dashel Icon Set because of their relationship to the information in the ad and because of their simplicity. They reproduce wonderfully in newsprint (I’ve used them in another library ad I was able to design) and don’t create any visual boxes in the ad that make for awkward layout.

I decided on a centered alignment, even though this can be seen as formal, because I wanted to use a movie credit style layout for all the hours (I had 2 weeks worth to work with) and to keep a rather lot of information calm on the eyes.

Below you can see my first redesign with all the dates and hours displayed.

extended hours ad redesign version 1

I used just 2 San Serif fonts from the same family for this redesign, but due to the differing weights and use of all caps for the headlines, it still gives a lot of visual interest.

All elements are center aligned and the days of the weeks, dates, and times are easy to find at a glance.

The extra information about the “Spring out of Stress” events are still at the bottom of the ad, but look unified. Using the same alignment as the extended hours, it is easy to see when the events will happen and what will happen during the events. Everything looks like it goes together.

I added just three icons to this ad that work with what happens during extended hours–lots of coffee drinking, lots of note taking and writing, and lots of conversations. Using three keeps the eye moving as odd groupings help keep visual motion in the design.

The redesign presents the same information, but in a clearer, cleaner way that is easy to read. It isn’t complicated, because it doesn’t need to be. Also, because I don’t have all day to redesign ads, this layout was made to save time. All told, it probably took about an hour from concept to finished product to do.

I also did another redesign to take advantage of a calendar layout that we’re all familiar with.



This second redesigned ad simply puts the date and time information in calendar format. I think I might like it more than the first design because the information is even easier to take in at a glance.

extended hours ad redesign version 2

Other than changing up the date/time layout, I left most of the rest of the layout the same. I just moved the icons so they serve as visual interest and a bridge between the calendar and the “Spring out of Stress” event information. Again, I used three and just changed up one to see if I liked it better. I could easily swap it out for the conversation bubbles, but I saw so many sticky notes being used in those two weeks that I thought it would be an appropriate icon to use.

Because I was reusing the same basic layout as the first redesign option, this one took much less time to do.

And, the best part about creating a design for an ad that will be run every term is that you can just swap out the dates/times and you are good to go. You now have a template that doesn’t even look like a template!

So, I hope this example gave you some ideas for your next design or redesign project. There’s a lot to design and a lot more we could go into about why and how I chose different elements, but I wanted to give an overview today.

I hope you have a lovely weekend full of all good things. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Design Inspiration for Summer Projects

June 10, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had another lovely week and a wonderful weekend planned. I’ll be at commencement this weekend as the library’s flag bearer for one of the ceremonies, so we’ll see how that goes. But since we are getting into the weekend and summertime, I wanted to share some design inspiration for summer projects. Summer is a wonderful time to plan and to create with the longer days giving us more daylight for work-playing, so let’s get inspired!

Do you ever worry about not being successful enough, soon enough? If so, you’re not alone. But I hope these two videos help you remember: don’t worry if you’re not a creative success by 30 (see the second part of the video essay here). Go ahead and watch; I’ll wait here. Now that we feel better about how long the journey can be for creative success, let’s use that as inspiration to keep practicing.:)

If you need a bit more inspiration to continue working on your creative activities–whatever form they take–check out this great post on how you might be feeling stuck if you are not being used properly. This is so simple and so true and has helped me refocus my energies on things that really do use my talents instead of just doing everything that other people want to drop at my desk.

So now that you are inspired to do some creative work, check out this long, wonderful article full of color inspiration from Smashing Magazine. Summertime feels like a great time to experiment with color (must be all the crazy color combos seen on swim towels and popsicles). What designs can you jazz up in your library with some new color combinations? Maybe those handouts that no one has touched in years? I know I have a list of design projects I want to complete this summer for my library, starting with fixing an advertisement we run in the student newspaper that I’ll be sharing with you soon.

I’ve heard that it is also football season (aka soccer in the USA) so wanted to share this great Soccer (aka football) icon set because we can always use another great icon set to use for designs.

Also, I don’t know about you, but when I’m deep into design work, I often start triple-guessing myself about sentence construction (maybe it’s just me) so I love this tool: FoxType Sentence Tree for sentence diagrams. So cool and works in real time.

I hope you have an inspiring weekend and have some great projects that feed your creative energy. I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. Allons-y!


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