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Friday Design Inspiration & Typeface Considerations for Branding

January 13, 2017

Happy Friday, dear readers! Can you believe we are to the end of another week? I can’t. This month is going by too quickly, in a deluge of rain here in the Bay Area. But at least there is always good (and bad) design to talk about in the libraries. Today I want to share some inspiration and a few considerations about typeface choice when deciding on branding guidelines–applicable to libraries and just about any organization.

First the fun. As always, Smashing Magazine has provided a heap of inspiration in their, Breaking out of the box: January 2017 edition of design eye-candy. Love all the illustrations and color palette ideas from these gorgeous images. Makes me want to throw out all the editing work I have to do today and just start sketching.

The new year brings with it a breath of fresh air and kick in the pants to start movement on new projects, doesn’t it? Something that I see a lot of libraries and other organizations doing is thinking and working towards refreshing their visual brands. This isn’t inherently either a good or bad thing, and often it is necessary. You don’t want a website that looks like it is stuck in the 20th century any more than you want to be wearing the same clothes you did in high school. Times and fashions change. And yet, when trying to brand something we need to think of the future, the past, and how we can create timeless brands that whether the trends but aren’t defined by them.

All of this gets me to choosing typefaces for any branding activity–and really any graphic design activity though it is especially important for branding. If you are creating a branding and style guide that you actually want people to adhere to in your library, for goodness sake pick typefaces that people actually have access to! This seems simple right? Of course. If you want someone to actually use your guidelines, you’ve got to make it easy for them–seamless experience and all that. And yet, too many times I see organizations pick a typeface–or two!–that no one can use unless they pay hundreds of dollars. That is quite a large barrier, especially for a library or a department with a small budget.

However, if you choose typefaces that come pre-loaded with the design software your organization uses or even pre-loaded in office productivity suites, then no one has the excuse not to use the defined typefaces and you might get more compliance. Does this limit you some in your typographical design choices? Yes, but it is a better way of ensuring consistency than specifying a typeface no one has and then getting mad that no one is following your guidelines.

But wait, you may say, I’ll just design everything then it will all adhere to the guidelines no matter what typeface I choose. Really? You’re going to design absolutely everything for your library or organization? This may happen in a large org, with lots of design staff, but even at my university we don’t have a large enough design staff to produce absolutely everything that is every made on campus. I’m not talking about every promotional brochure that goes out to potential donors–I’m talking about everything. Every handout, flyer, button, mug, brochure, change in hours sign, everything. Do you have time to do that for your library? Probably not unless you were solely hired as the library’s graphic designer. I know I don’t have time to do all of that and library graphic design is my passion–but I was hired to teach and do reference and buy books, etc.

Also, is it really sustainable to say that you’ll hoard all control over the graphic design at your library through using a typeface that no one else can use? Maybe you bought a great typeface on a flash sale–goodness knows I have–and you want to use it. That’s great, but don’t make it the standard for your branding. Think long term. You won’t be at your library forever and you need to share guidelines if they are to work–the whole point is to have some standards for designs. And typefaces are so important to branding that it behooves you and benefits your library to create guidelines that people can follow.

So, all I’m asking is that when you are working on your redesigns in the new year, pick typefaces that are available and accessible to everyone who will be designing at your library. Your colleagues and your inner graphic designer will thank you.

I hope you have a lovely weekend–I’m hoping for a break in the rain to do some walking–and have time to create something lovely. I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. Allons-y!

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