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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!

Design Short: Figure Out How You Work

July 29, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! It has been quite the week, hasn’t it? I was out for a bit with a summer cold (aren’t they the worst? I find it highly unfair to be sick in the summer.), but am back to day with a design short that I hope will help with all facets of your life and not just your design work at your library. If you are going to avoid burnout (topic of this month’s CR&L News Internet Resources column), stay healthy, inspired, and productive, you’ve got to figure out how you work best.

Now I don’t think you need to devote a morning or a retreat to figuring out how you work best, you probably just need to sit quietly for a few moments and actually write down how you work. When do you do your best work? Where do you do your best work? Can you work with music? Do you work best in silence? Does your best work always happen before 2 pm or after 9 pm? Are you easily distracted or so focused on a task you lose track of time?

You probably already know how you work best, but it is a good habit to remind yourself of your best environment and parameters as it is easy to get your routine pushed around by others’ demands. And, although flexibility is important, you also need to stand firm about protecting your most creative and productive times–especially if you are designing for your library.

Trust me when I say that you don’t want to see anything I’ve ever had to design between 1:00 and 3:00 pm in the afternoon. It’s just not a good creative time for me. I can respond to emails, process collections, attend meetings, and even teach, but I can’t come up with my best designs then. It is my creative time slump and I know it. So I have to do the hard work of creating and designing either early in the morning or in the evening. Otherwise, I’m just wasting my time and my library’s time because I’ll have to redesign it later.

If you need some help on figuring out how you work best, check out Lifehacker’s article on how to optimize for productivity instead of fighting your surroundings and self. Also, check out their great article on how to focus on boundaries not elusive work-life balance. Both I’ve found useful as I gauge how I’m doing in using my most creative hours to do the hard brain work of my job.

Once you figure out how you work best, get to work! Don’t make excuses and don’t put off the hard work of designing. All you need to start is a pen/pencil and some scratch paper, as I’ve shown in previous posts of my design process. You don’t need to go out and buy anything new to start your next design project. There’s no magic pencil or sketchbook you need. There’s no new app you need to download to your phone. It’s just you and the project and your ideas. So go have some fun and figure out just how you’re going to design the flyer for the next library program–or whatever your next project is.

So, do yourself a favor, step away from your Smartphone (don’t worry, there will be more Pokemon when you come back) and figure out how you work best. You just might thank yourself and your library colleagues might, too, once you get inspired to create great design projects for your library.

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

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!


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