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Thinking about Design, Committees, and Libraries

October 23, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers. I hope your week has gone well and you have some fun planned for the weekend. Today I wanted to take a little time to share some thoughts on design and libraries. Or, more specifically design by committees, potential pitfalls, and a way forward.

I think about library design a lot. I can’t help it. One of my great loves is for good design, specifically good graphic design. I have an incorrigible habit of volunteering to design or re-design things for my library, even when I really have enough to do because I can’t stand having something get printed up or posted online that doesn’t reflect well on our library. Plus, I love design. I love the challenges and constraints and being able to communicate well visually.

I also think about library design a lot because I research graphic design and librarians. In an upcoming paper, I share information about best practices and processes already in place at libraries (article will be published soon, I hope, since it was accepted). One of the takeaways from my research thus far is the variation of how design processes are handled at libraries and the costs & benefits of design committees. Like all committees, design committees at a library can either be a blessing or a curse and either way, there is sometimes no way around a committee. But I wanted to talk a bit about how we can make the most of design committees.

First, try to get people on your design committee that actually know something about design. That always helps. If the people making the decisions don’t know about design, how can you expect to have great, or even good design, come out of the committee? Common sense, but sometimes committees are filled more by seniority or crystal ball than by actual experience or knowledge. So if you have control over a design committee, get people who know something about design.

Second, make sure your mandate and authority are clear. If you don’t know what you’re supposed to do or how much authority/control you have over the design work in your library, you are being set up for failure. Don’t allow it and get as clear of an answer as possible from whoever implemented the committee and has final approval over the designs you’ll produce.

Perhaps most importantly, remember that you aren’t going to please everyone with your design work and that’s okay. As Seth Godin wrote about the 2% who misunderstand you, they aren’t the ones you are designing for. You are never going to please everyone. If you try to, your designs will become so watered down and boring that it would have been better just to stick with the clip art and default typefaces you were using all along; at least then you would have saved time. Design is about function and form, but also about beauty and aesthetics. Not everyone agrees on those last two. Make your peace with that and, if you can’t, doing design work for your library is probably not for you.

Just like we shouldn’t create library policies based on one or two squeaky wheels, we shouldn’t make design decisions based on the squeaky wheels. Be bold, be daring, make a mark with your library’s designs whether online or in print, on a huge banner, in the remodel of a study room, or the sign-up form for your programs. Merge utility and beauty to create amazing functionality and fabulous form. Solve problems and present improvements, do user testing and read the research, and then get your committee moving. Don’t wait; don’t fuss; just make.

I wish you all the best in your design work at your library. I’ll be back with more thoughts and research updates. Until then, I wanted to share a couple more things that may interest you as a librarian designer. One, planner subscription services, who knew? Not me, but they look fabulous and fun. I’ve actually been ruling a personalized planner in a Rhodia journal my husband bought me. I couldn’t find a planner I liked at our indie bookstore and thought, why not make my own? So far so good. Also, another lovely freebie from Smashing Magazine: Office and Business Icon Set. Love these icon sets. Great, classy alternatives to the dreaded clip arts. Reward yourself and your designs and download this set!

Have a wonderful day and weekend. Allons-y!

Blog Action Day 2015: Raise Your Voice!

October 16, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! So today is Blog Action Day 2015 and this year’s theme is Raise Your Voice! It brings a spotlight on the silencing and abuse that people sometimes face when sharing their views, research, and ideas online. This is an issue that happens especially if you do not fit with the dominant majority (aka not white, cisgendered, heterosexual, and male). So Blog Action Day is a time for us to come together and spotlight this issue and take a stand against it. Today I’m sharing some information and how I think libraries and librarians can, do, and should be advocates and allies against the hatred and silencing that occurs all to frequently online.

Anita Sarkeesian, creator of Feminist Frequency, continually amazes me with her insightful commentary on representations of women in video games and her courage to continue her work through the vitriol and threats that she is subjected to constantly online for speaking out in an arena that a very vocal minority feel should remain a male-only space. If you’ve never heard of Feminist Frequency before, go check out some of her videos and interviews. They are amazing and I’m thankful that she’s continue with her work. She’s making a difference and we should support her against the bullies, trolls, and others who somehow think it is okay to threaten someone online.

Monica Lewinsky gave a powerful and moving TED Talk about her dark days of personal harassment on the early days of the Internet and how she is speaking up now to reclaim her narrative and advocate for safety and compassion online. It is a great speech and reminds us that we need to practice compassion in all aspects of our lives, including online. Harassment and intimidation should not be acceptable to us no matter the medium. It’s up to us to create a better world online and off.

Finally, I wanted to note that I think all librarians can help advocate for and promote values of equity, safety, and compassion online through our work. Librarians already affirm core values of social responsibility and diversity, among others. I see advocating for the safety of all people’s to share their ideas and creations online without fear of death and rape threats, doxing, or other forms of harassment and threat as part of our role as librarians, as people who support everyone in our communities access to information and education, life-long learning and community-building. It is up to us to decide how we want to use our professional standing, our lives, to support and build up instead of tear down others. My hope is that we work together to raise our voices in strength and solidarity to support those who are silenced.

That’s all for today. It makes me saddened that we can’t act better towards each other online, that we are over a decade into the 21st century and we can’t seem to be rid of such vileness and hatred. I want us to have a world that is better than that, for everyone. So that’s why I’m raising my voice with Blog Action Day today. Enough is really enough.

Design Fun for Friday

October 2, 2015

Hello, dear readers! I hope your Friday is going well and you have lovely plans for the weekend. For today, I wanted to share some design and inspiration resources as we head into the weekend.

I love Smashing Magazine. Great posts, tips, and inspiration. Plus, every once in a while they post freebies, including awesome icon sets. I love these icon sets for creating graphics for my library, especially helpful when trying to freshen up some of our brochures to make them more user friendly. To get you started in the world of their icon sets, I thought I’d share the link to the Smashicons Icon Set that has 500 icons! Pretty nifty. Plus they recently released the World Landmark Icon Set that is also lovely.

I love calligraphy. I don’t think that is a secret. But I do think more people should get into calligraphy because it seems like handwriting is a dying art and beautiful writing is important. So whether you love calligraphy or just want to watch a beautiful video, check out the short Ink. You’ll be glad you did.

As we near the end of Banned Books Week, I thought we could all use a little inspiration and what better place to get it than from books? So check out this infographic of inspiring quotes from children’s books.

I hope you have a lovely weekend full of beautiful moments and time with what makes you happiest. I’ll be back soon. Allons-y!

Design in Libraries

September 25, 2015

Happy Friday! I hope your week has gone well, dear readers. It was the first week of the quarter here, or rather the first two days of classes. Technically called Week Zero, but that doesn’t seem to make much sense to me, so I call it the first week. But that is neither here nor there. Today I just wanted to share a few thoughts about design and some other interesting things as we move into autumn.

First, I really think everyone needs to read this article from Smashing Magazine on how designers can stop being an afterthought. It’s a really good article, so I’ll just wait here quietly until you get back. Read it? Great. So I think that even if librarians don’t consider themselves designers, this article is really useful for our work. One of the things that I was told through my research so far into librarian designers is that they sometimes feel that design is an afterthought in their libraries. Too many people equate design with making things pretty instead of solving problems. So it is time we change that in libraries, and not just for the huge projects at big libraries with lots of funding and splashy programs. We can change that and we need to change that.

There are a lot of great suggestions in the article to re-educate people about design work (it’s not about the decorations), re-brand design work as strategic (because it already is), and improve our own work (because we can always improve). I love the reminder to talk the jargon of the administration and decision-makers at your library. If they don’t have a background in design, they can just be hearing “decoration” or “make things pretty” in their heads instead of “functional user interface” or “accessible, intuitive wayfinding.” Use the jargon you need to get the job done. Everyone at my university is always talking about strategic planning, so much talk about strategic planning, that it is a great place to jump in with strategy talk about design, especially since part of our planning is involving revamping our library’s website.

As librarian designers, we solve problems. Design, graphic design, all design solves problems and gives us the ability to communicate better. So let’s look at being the sometimes afterthought as a problem to solve and get on it.

Since it is autumn, I just had to share this fall foliage map. I’m looking forward to seeing the trees outside my office window turn colors again this year.

Also, because I don’t yet want to let the feeling of being able to travel anywhere through my summer reading slip away, I have to share this lovely image from This Is Indexed. Now if only I could read as much when the school year starts as I do in the summer, life would be even better.

And, finally, because it is Friday and Fridays need some fun, I give you this hilarious comic by xkcd.

vet by xkcd

vet by xkcd

I hope you have a fantastic rest of your day and lovely weekend. Allons-y!

Friday Fun for the End of Summer Term

September 4, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you had a lovely week and, if you are in the United States, have a lovely holiday weekend planned. Today, I wanted to share a grab bag of articles and things that are fun and useful and may help you to keep some of the summer feeling as we go into the school year and into fall.

I love summer for many reasons, but one of the reasons I love summer is because it always seems like the perfect time to have potlucks, BBQs, and parties. If you didn’t get your fill of fun yet, check out Lifehacker’s article on the top 10 tips for hosting the perfect get-together and schedule one with your friends to enjoy the last days of summer before the frost of fall.

While it is already September and a lot of people are back at school and work, it doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice good design or some fun. Check out the September Desktop Calendars from Smashing Magazine to give your work desktop a refresh. I love changing up my desktop wallpaper each month and this month it was such a hard choice with so many lovely wallpapers combining summer with autumn designs.

It isn’t a new article, but it is a great read, like a pep talk and a pat on the back for librarians as we roll into another school year. So reread Neil Gaiman on why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming because it is wonderful.

And it wouldn’t be a Friday without a bit of fun, so check out this previous Fashionable Friday: word nerd by The Well-Appointed Desk. Seems like a good one to share at the start of the school year.

Also, I can’t help but share this laptop scratching post lets your cat create its own viral content. So cute and silly.

I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day and lovely weekend full of all good things. I’ll be back again with news and notes. Allons-y!

Teaching at the End of Summer

August 28, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! I know the blog has been quiet this last month. This is mainly due to my co-teaching in our Summer Bridge Program. Next week is the last week of the program, which is bittersweet. It has been a blast teaching, but also exhausting. After the program is over, there is less than 3 weeks before we begin our fall quarter. So today, I just want to reflect a bit about this busier than I expected summer and some ideas that may be of use to you in your teaching.

So What is Summer Bridge?
For those who are not familiar with the program, Summer Bridge is part of EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) designed to help first-generation, low income, and/or historically disadvantaged students successfully make the transition to the university. At my university, Summer Bridge is an intensive five-week program with classes in math, information literacy, foundations, and ethnic studies or biological sciences (depending on student interest). The students are in class from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm five days a week. Although we all know that five weeks can’t completely prepare students for fall quarter, it can help them feel more comfortable at the university, make friends, learn how to interact with faculty and staff members, and get a leg up when it comes to navigating classwork in the fall.

So What’s the Library’s Role?
My colleague, Gr Keer, and I designed and currently teach the library’s class in Summer Bridge. We have 40 students twice a week for two hours at a time. The course is designed as a pre-LIBY 1210 course, which is the information literacy course required of all first-year, undergraduate students. We’ve covered searching the library catalog, finding textbooks, introduction to databases, identifying information sources, reading citations, evaluating information, information privacy, copyright, and more. I see our role as getting the students more comfortable with accessing and using library resources, understanding that the librarians are here to help them with their research, and reversing any negative reactions they have to libraries and librarians.

So Why Am I a Part of Summer Bridge? (Or, Why Be Exhausted for 5 weeks When I Could Be Catching Up on Research and Writing?)
I’m a part of Summer Bridge because I believe it is the most important thing I could be doing with my time in the summer. I believe that these students, my students, deserve support in transitioning to college and that librarians are some of the best people to help them with this transition. We’re all about helping and supporting students. That’s what libraries and librarians do! Plus, it is a fantastic way to connect more deeply with our fantastic EOP leaders and promote the library as the go-to help point for students when they are researching during the upcoming hear. Plus, I love teaching and teaching in Summer Bridge is one of the places that I feel I can make the most positive impact on our students. Working with upper-division and graduate students can be loads of fun, but I don’t feel like I can make as great an impact on them as with the students in Summer Bridge or in the freshmen classes I teach during the academic year.

Having an impact makes the exhaustion worth it. Makes the hours I could have used to write up my research papers and finish analyzing more data worth it. Seeing and hearing students become passionate about information privacy, understand how to find a book for their class, or find the courage to answer a question in a class discussion for the first time makes it worth it.

So my summer will be over soon and the craziness of the academic year will start up. Could I have gotten more research done on graphic design in libraries if I didn’t devote hours to prepping and teaching Summer Bridge? Sure, but I still managed to get research done anyway this summer. Could I have finished processing another collection in the archives if I hadn’t been expending energy getting students excited about using Boolean Operators? Sure, but the collections aren’t going anywhere.

Everything we do in our work and our lives is a trade-off and goodness knows I’ve made choices that definitely weren’t worth the trade-off. But I can 100% say that teaching in Summer Bridge was and is totally worth any opportunity costs this summer. And I hope to see some of my students in my information literacy classes in the coming year.

I hope you’ve had a lovely week and have a lovely weekend planned, dear readers. I’m hoping to be back soon with more news, thoughts, and notes. Allons-y!

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!


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