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Library Design Short: It’s Always New for Somebody

August 5, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope the first week of August has treated you well and you have many fun plans to get the most out of the last bit of your summer (or winter, depending on where you live). I’m looking forward to a few more weeks of picnics, watermelon, and enjoying long days of sunshine. For today’s design short, let’s talk about how it’s always new for somebody. What’s the “it” we’re talking about? Well, really anything when it comes to doing design, especially if you’re just beginning your journey as a librarian graphic designer.

I finished reading Neil Gaiman’s lovely collection of nonfiction this week, The View from the Cheap SeatsAnd it was wonderful, as you’d expect and much of it I’d not read before. What struck me as I was considering what to write about for this week’s post was Gaiman’s discussion of how it something in a book isn’t hackneyed and cliched if it is the first time the reader has ever encountered it. He was specifically writing about children reading, if I remember correctly, but it goes for adults, too. If it is the first time you’ve encountered something, it can’t be hackneyed to you and it can resonate with you, move you, make your life a bit better for it. That’s not hackneyed at all.

And no one should make fun of you for it either, which we see all too often when people dismiss books because “it’s all been done and said before” or when people dismiss the personal discovery of learning something new that others have done before. How many times have you heard, “everyone knows that”?

But everyone doesn’t know that. And it is important to remember in life, in teaching, in listening, and in designing. Everyone doesn’t know it. And that’s okay.

In fact, that’s glorious because it gives you a place where you can help and can connect.

If you know something about graphic design, you can help others with their projects. Not in a bossy, know-it-all way, because no one likes or deserves that. But in a collaborative way that hopefully ends up with both of you being more excited than you were when you started.

At ALA Annual two years ago, I had a poster session where I shared my preliminary research on librarians and graphic design along with examples of my work and best practices. It was a hit and I got to talk with so many lovely librarians. And, I got to share simple tips that for me were now second nature, but news to others. I was listening to one librarian discuss her frustrations with alignment and asked if her guides weren’t working. She looked puzzled and I told her how to pull guides from the rulers so her various text boxes and images would snap in alignment. She was thrilled. She’d never heard of that before as she was trying to figure out it all on her own. So it wasn’t old news to her. It was new and it could help.

As I share my work and my designs in my talks and on this blog, I have to remember that what is new to me might be old to someone else but the reverse is also true. And that keeps me going and keeps me from thinking what I’m doing has no use or meaning or value. Because it does. And if I can help other librarians feel delight instead of dread at creating another programming flyer or postcard or bookmark, then I’ve done what I’ve set out to do. Together we’ll make the library world a little more beautiful and a lot better at visual communication.

So remember, it isn’t hackneyed if you’ve never heard or read or seen it before. Help others as you learn and you’ll get better at your designs, too. And, whatever else you do, be kind. Don’t snuff out another person’s delight at discovering something new. Embrace their excitement and maybe it will even influence you.

Also, if you need some desktop wallpaper delights, check out Smashing Magazine’s selection of August wallpapers. They are inspirational and delightful.

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

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