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Design and NaNoWriMo

November 4, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you are well and that November is treating you kindly! How did we get so far into November already? Time is really flying, especially if you are participating in NaNoWriMo. So what does NaNoWriMo have to do with design? I’m glad you asked.

For those who aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. November is NaNoWriMo, which means thousands of writers all over the world are attempting (and succeeding) in writing a novel in 30 days. Yes, an entire novel–at least 50,000 words–in November. It’s audacious, crazy, exciting, and fun. Plus, lots of libraries get in the action by becoming Come Write In partners and hosting write-ins–meet-ups for writers–at their libraries. My library is a Come Write In partner for the second year and I’m hoping we have even more writers come this year. It’s hard to say no to free coffee and cookies in a quiet library space when you are on a writing deadline. If you’ve never taken part in NaNoWriMo, I really think you should and it isn’t too late to start this year.

But what does NaNoWriMo have to do with graphic design in libraries?

Well, I could tell you that writing a novel will help you with creating great copy for your next flyer, poster, or brochure–it probably couldn’t hurt your copy writing abilities. I could tell you that getting writers into your library for Come Write In events is a great outreach opportunity and they may even take a look at your current exhibits or other programming when they come out of their writing fog–they probably will. Or, I could tell you that there’s nothing like banging away at a keyboard during a word sprint to encourage you to stop making excuses and just get writing–it totally works.

But really, the best reason for doing NaNoWriMo in terms of library design is that it isn’t about library graphic design. You aren’t cropping photos, you aren’t matching color swatches, and you aren’t creating a grid for the next newsletter layout. You’re writing. Pure and simple, words on the screen or in your notebook. You are exercising another area of your brain, taking a break from your sketchbook to get into your word processing notebook. And that’s great!

This break from consciously working on graphic design–but still working on a creative project–will give your subconscious time to process and find solutions to your design challenges. You’ll come back refreshed and ready to create even better designs for your next outreach brochure or flyer for storytime. This is a great thing that should also absolve you of any lingering guilt for taking time away from doing more and learning more on graphic design. By widening your scope of creative endeavors, you widen your personal encyclopedia of inspiration and understanding to draw from in your next project.

Plus, you’ll probably have a chance to eat a cookie and drink some coffee or tea while resting your wrists before another wordsprint. And, who knows, you might find another graphic designer among the writers at your event who you’d never meet otherwise.

So get out there and find inspiration through writing. You never know what you’ll be able to bring back into your library graphic design work until you do. And, good luck and fast writing to all my fellow WriMos! 🙂

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




Friday Design: Sign Inspiration and Library Exhibits

October 28, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had another lovely week and are excited about the weekend. We are almost to the end of October and I can hardly believe it. So much to do at the end of the year–work to wrap up, cookies to bake, cards to write, NaNoWriMo to win. It seems like there is hardly time to stop and consider anything in the rush at the end of the year. I find it both exhilarating and slightly terrifying. So, this post is part inspiration, part a bit of visual fun to help you find a moment to slow down and look at pretty things, and part call to making better posters for your next library exhibit. Sound good? Okay, let’s get into it.

I spent last week in Washington, D.C. with my mother. We saw more museums and monuments than I thought was possible, walked further than my feet told me was recommended, and generally had a wonderful time even though it was way too hot for the middle of October. Of course, in between looking at all the amazing art, inventions, and such, I spent time taking photos of signs and exhibit designs that inspired me. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas to bring back to the library and luckily it didn’t bother my mother–too much–that I kept taking close-ups of exhibit captions and posters.

It isn’t surprising that the various Smithsonian museums have amazing exhibits and great signage. They have the professionals and experts to put together exhibitions and the support that most libraries can only dream of. But that doesn’t mean we can’t copy some of their best ideas and get inspiration for our own exhibits. My library creates two main exhibits each year and has begun to step up its game in terms of design. I’m part of the exhibit team, so I may be a little–a lot–biased and invested in the outcome of the exhibit designs, especially the posters where I have the most input and sway. So I focused mostly on the exhibit posters, captions, and signage as I walked around the museums. Below is just one example that I love, not just because it is for the exhibit about birds.

photograph of bird poster

This is the poster that greats you as you enter the exhibit and see the first cases of specimens. It is just wonderful. I love the silhouette of the birds, the breaking of the border at the bottom by the egret’s feet, the combination of text, and the overall color scheme used. It is at once a beautiful poster and a great orientation to the exhibit.  I especially love how the headline was colored using sampling from the image. It ties in great. The fact that the type leans towards Art Nouveau is just icing on the cake as far as I’m concerned.

birds of the District of Columbia caption close-up

This is a close-up of the headline and caption at the bottom of the poster to show more detail and the great composition of this type. Great use of color to tie the text together and relate back to the main image. The variation of font size clearly denotes the information hierarchy at a glance allowing readers to quickly get information without any confusion.

This poster makes me even more committed to upping our exhibit poster game at my library. It’s so beautiful and eye-catching. Now if I just had a large collection of bird specimens to exhibit at the library…

Outside of the museums, one of our favorite places to walk through was the sculpture garden on The Mall. This sign obviously called to me.

photograph of Metropolitain sign in sculpture garden

So is my point that you have to design in the Art Nouveau style for your next project? Of course not. But consider carefully how you are tying together your type, copy, color, and images to support your message. And, if you can, try to push yourself to take some risks in your designs to create the very best posters and signage for your next exhibit that you can.

I hope you have a wonderful, inspiring weekend full of great reads and fun. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!


Friday Design: Inspiration and a Challenge

October 21, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has been going well and you have some lovely weekend plans. Today I want to share a bit more design inspiration and a design challenge. So let’s get into it!

There is so much to love about autumn and the change of seasons can definitely inspire us in life and in our library work. I wanted to share some things that are inspiring me for the autumn and would love to hear what is inspiring you, too.

UPPERCASE Magazine is endlessly inspiring. I love that it is printed with such care and vibrant colors. That in the previous issue the editor and designer, Janine Vangool, explained and showed all the new typefaces she was using in a refresh of the magazine. I love all the interviews and showcases of artists’ works in areas I don’t work in, but find inspiring nonetheless. A recent issue even had a large spread of artist’s books, which was amazing, and the love of print and craft shows through in each issue. Highly recommended for refueling your creative tanks when you think you’ve run out of ideas.

I love the reviews and information from The Well-Appointed Desk. Great round-ups of other posts and news around the web in “Link Love” and this blog keeps me searching for the perfect teal blue fountain pen ink–plus keeps me motivated to write holiday cards.

NaNoWriMo is coming! Is your library participating as a Come Write In spot? You should. Although you’ll be creating with more words than you’d ever use on a flyer (right?), it is a great opportunity to meet a community of wonderful writers and get inspired to create no matter what medium you’re using. Also, you never know when you might get an idea for your library’s next round of marketing materials from another writer’s story. Plus, it is a great excuse–as if you need one–to break out your button-maker and make some buttons to share!

While I don’t have a link for this one, seeing all the signs for pumpkin patches and autumnal festivals around also inspires me in the fall. I love getting new lettering ideas and seeing what works and doesn’t in signage. I always enjoy seeing what color combinations are used and what I might be able to do in the library with them.

So, now, to the design challenge. Find something new to inspire you this autumn. Maybe it’s a new hike, a new sign for a restaurant that just opened, a great book, or a talk with a friend. Whatever it is, translate your inspiration into a design–your choice for format and size–that speaks to you about autumn. Interpret autumn however you want. (Think about how the artists for the monthly Smashing Magazine wallpapers all design for the same month, yet create radically different final products.) Then, if you’re willing, share your design in the comments. I’ll be sharing mine in an upcoming post.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend, full of all good things. (And if you need a tasty, autumnal treat, check out Joy the Baker’s Vanilla Sweet Potato Waffles.) Inspiration is all around you–you just need to look! I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. Allons-y!



Friday Design: Autumnal Inspiration

October 14, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that the second week of October has gone well for you and if you are in the Northern Hemisphere you are getting into the autumnal spirit. To that end, I wanted to share some autumnal-themed inspiration with you today.

One of the best things for getting inspired–whether you need inspiration for your next library graphic design project, your next lesson plan, or just life in general–is to get out of your routine and travel somewhere. Luckily, in terms of both time and money, you don’t need to travel far to get inspired–you just need to move.

This week I happily met up with one of my best friends and we explored a pumpkin patch together. It was a wonderful time to catch up and be enveloped by the sights and smells of autumn in the country. (Totally makes me want to live in a small town, again, too, but that’s a post for another day.) And the great thing about doing even a small trip is that I come back refreshed, energized, and with new ideas of how I want to incorporate autumnal things that inspire me in my next design projects. This doesn’t mean I’m going to design only with pumpkins or have scarecrow themes, but I did get inspired to change up some color schemes based on my day out. Check out some of this great autumnal color!

photograph of blue pumpkins

Gorgeous blue pumpkins that I’d never seen before. What a classy color to use in a design project!

photograph of mini gourds

There were piles of gourds in crates that had beautiful colors and shapes. What a great way to break out of a grid pattern using organic shapes. Awesome colors to sample for fall flyers and web graphics.

photograph of three sunflowers

Gorgeous sunflowers with their own highlights! And check out that sky! What a wonderful, deep blue color to use in a design with the accent colors taken from the sunflowers!

So I hope–and encourage–you to take advantage of the autumnal festivities and pumpkin patches in your area where you might just get inspired for your next design project.

If you need even more inspiration, check out this amazing photo of a view from Bag End featuring a pumpkin. What an amazing way to greet the morning.

Plus we are getting into holiday travel season, so while not exactly design inspiration, it’s still important to share: six pre-flight stretches to prevent blood clots. Thanks, Lifehacker!

Finally, for fun, and because you never know when you could do a library-event to tie in: check out this calendar of all the National Food Days. It’s fun and well-designed.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of fun, inspiration, and relaxation. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!



Friday Design: Getting Typography Right

October 7, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has been full of pleasant things. Can you believe we are a week into October already? Where does the time fly? Away, just away. But while we have Friday, we might as well talk about typography. And, today, I want to talk about getting typography right.

I’m a bit of a type nerd, as you may have figured out from reading this blog, and I could talk about typography for ages if you let me. There’s just so much to explore when it comes to type that it seems like every day brings something new to learn. But today I just want to focus on an instance of getting typography right. I shared some signs recently that I loved and have some to explore later that I really didn’t love, but it’s Friday so we should have something delightful and positive to end the workweek. So here is an example of type done right by Hollander’s:photograph of Hollander's bag showing great typography

Hollander’s is a supplier of decorative papers and bookbinding materials. And, while I haven’t been to their store in Ann Arbor, I did just receive a shipment of supplies that included this lovely example of typography on one of their bags.

Now, it shouldn’t be surprising that a shop that specializes in bookbinding supplies also has a great sensibility when it comes to type, but I’ve been surprised before. This one, though, is great. Everything works.

The serif font used is awesome–readable, upright, traditional, yet quirky. Love how the H functions almost as a drop cap in this setting. The san serif works beautifully with the serif font. Everything is clean and reproduces beautifully even on a brown paper bag. The horizontal line (the rule) between Hollanders and “in the Kerrytown Shops” works to bring the two lines of text together, yet separate them so they are instantly readable.

The contact information is easy to read, which is what you definitely want as a business. People need to contact you so you can make sales. Love that they chose to use some dingbats (I believe these are from Wingding 2) to separate the contact information instead of using default dots or slashes.

This is a great example of typography done right and an example that even something as ephemeral as a paper bag provides the designer with an opportunity to mix beauty and function to make the world a better place, at least typographically speaking.

So with that, I leave you with just a bit more inspiration for your month in the form of Smashing Magazine’s October Design Inspiration post. The photos give me wanderlust while the colors make me want to design all the autumnal things.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend full of autumnal delights and time with family and friends. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

P.S. If you ever want to try your hand at bookbinding and live in the Bay Area, definitely check out San Francisco Center for the Book’s great line-up of workshops.

Friday Design Short: (Almost) October Edition

September 30, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I apologize for this post coming out a bit late. I’ve been caught up with other writing and design projects that I hope to be able to share with you soon. In the meantime, I have a few design links to share before the weekend commences.

First, tomorrow is October. Can you believe it? I can’t, but luckily the start of another month does mean another wonderful selection of wallpapers to redecorate our desktops via Smashing Magazine. So many beautiful, cute, and Halloween-inspired designs to choose from–I might just need to have rotating wallpapers this month!

I know I’ve shared Kern Type, The Kerning Game before, but it’s almost the weekend and I just had to share it again. Besides, it never hurts to brush up on our kerning skills! 🙂

And, finally, while there are some lovely free fonts available online, sometimes you need to buy a font (or two) to create a design project and is a great place to look (among many others that I’ll be sharing in the coming weeks as I post about type and libraries). Also, has a free newsletter and a blog that has some useful posts. If nothing else, it can be fun to look through all the font possibilities–especially when you aren’t on a deadline!

I hope you have a fabulous weekend full of relaxing and creating and reading and whatever else you choose to do. I’ll be back with more news and notes soon. Allons-y!

Midweek Design Inspiration

September 28, 2016

Happy Wednesday, dear readers! I hope you are having a lovely week, reading some great banned books, and designing wonderful things for your library. As a bit of midweek inspiration (because who doesn’t love some inspiration in the middle of the week?), here are a few resources that will hopefully inspire you–or at least make you smile.

Hand lettering is totally having a moment. Well, actually, it’s been having many moments for a few years now and the wave of interest just seems to be growing. Even if you have no desire to learn hand lettering or calligraphy (separate arts, as you know), check out these beautiful examples as inspiration for your next design project: 19 Instagram Accounts to Follow if You Love Pretty Handwriting from The Well-Appointed Desk.

For more hand lettering examples and inspiration, head over to Smashing Magazine’s roundup of many hand lettering artists in The Art of Hand Lettering. Makes me want to work on my handwriting!

If your library is considering a new promotion/marketing campaign for a programming series or whatnot, consider the amazing work of a crowdfunding campaign in the UK that replaced advertisements with cat posters in a London Underground station. Shared not only because the cats are adorable, but the posters also show how simple design and ample white space can make for incredibly striking posters. Something to consider the next time someone at your library wants to cram “one more thing” into the poster or flyer you are designing.

I hope you have a fabulous week, full of inspiration for your work and play. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

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