Skip to content

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!ūüôā

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!


Design Example: Revising a Library Newspaper Ad

June 17, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I feel like we could use a week of Fridays about now, but since we only get one I hope yours is a great one. Before we head into the weekend, I wanted to share a redesign I’ve been working on as promised. So keep reading for an example of how I put some of the design stuff I’ve been sharing into practice for my work.

So, disclaimer time: even though I love graphic design and do research in it, I’m not responsible for the advertisements the library runs in our student paper nor am I on the library’s UX committee. I redesigned the following ad simply because I couldn’t help myself, though it would be great if we did run a redesigned ad the next quarter.

Now that the disclaimer is through, let’s look at the current ad, which is below:

current ad for extended hours in library

Now, there is nothing that is overly horrible about this ad. It is clear, has a lot of white space, doesn’t use any fonts that make your eyes want to twitch and, if you take the time to read it, gives you all the information you need about the library’s extended study hours.

So why redesign it?

Two main reasons: 1) because almost any design can be made better and 2) to make it easier to scan for information and therefore more likely to be used.

So how did I start the redesign?

With planning and brainstorming of course. The ad space runs in a 5 by 8 inch space, so I knew my space parameters, which always helps for planning. I also knew what information I needed to include from what is run in the ad and I knew what I didn’t want to keep. So below you can see a photo of my brainstorming page with what I wanted to keep.

scratch paper showing brainstorming, thumbnail sketch for new ad

You can see that I also drew a thumbnail, along with some notes, for a redesign idea (plus a note for another idea on how to redesign the ad, specifically around the tricky issue of the dates and times).

Notice I didn’t copy everything from the original ad. All the basic, necessary information is there, but not the questions and headers. I wanted to simply the ad so I could use bigger, bolder fonts to be eye catching.

One element that I wanted to expand from the original though was the dates and times of the extended hours. I wanted students to be able to tell, at a glance, when the library would be open for all the dates of the final weeks of the term. The original way, while taking up less space than what I envisioned, seemed to be more difficult to scan.

The photo, as noted above, is pixelated–not a lot, but enough to be annoying. But more importantly, it doesn’t really add anything to the ad. It just takes up a lot of space and is awkward with the other box of quasi-calendar hours. It had to go.

In place of the photo, I already knew I wanted to use some free icons from the Dashel Icon Set¬†because of their relationship to the information in the ad and because of their simplicity. They reproduce wonderfully in newsprint (I’ve used them in another library ad I was able to design) and don’t create any visual boxes in the ad that make for awkward layout.

I decided on a centered alignment, even though this can be seen as formal, because I wanted to use a movie credit style layout for all the hours (I had 2 weeks worth to work with) and to keep a rather lot of information calm on the eyes.

Below you can see my first redesign with all the dates and hours displayed.

extended hours ad redesign version 1

I used just 2 San Serif fonts from the same family for this redesign, but due to the differing weights and use of all caps for the headlines, it still gives a lot of visual interest.

All elements are center aligned and the days of the weeks, dates, and times are easy to find at a glance.

The extra information about the “Spring out of Stress” events are still at the bottom of the ad, but look unified. Using the same alignment as the extended hours, it is easy to see when the events will happen and what will happen during the events. Everything looks like it goes together.

I added just three icons to this ad that work with what happens during extended hours–lots of coffee drinking, lots of note taking and writing, and lots of conversations. Using three keeps the eye moving as odd groupings help keep visual motion in the design.

The redesign presents the same information, but in a clearer, cleaner way that is easy to read. It isn’t complicated, because it doesn’t need to be. Also, because I don’t have all day to redesign ads, this layout was made to save time. All told, it probably took about an hour from concept to finished product to do.

I also did another redesign to take advantage of a calendar layout that we’re all familiar with.



This second redesigned ad simply puts the date and time information in calendar format. I think I might like it more than the first design because the information is even easier to take in at a glance.

extended hours ad redesign version 2

Other than changing up the date/time layout, I left most of the rest of the layout the same. I just moved the icons so they serve as visual interest and a bridge between the calendar and the “Spring out of Stress” event information. Again, I used three and just changed up one to see if I liked it better. I could easily swap it out for the conversation bubbles, but I saw so many sticky notes being used in those two weeks that I thought it would be an appropriate icon to use.

Because I was reusing the same basic layout as the first redesign option, this one took much less time to do.

And, the best part about creating a design for an ad that will be run every term is that you can just swap out the dates/times and you are good to go. You now have a template that doesn’t even look like a template!

So, I hope this example gave you some ideas for your next design or redesign project. There’s a lot to design and a lot more we could go into about why and how I chose different elements, but I wanted to give an overview today.

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

Design Inspiration for Summer Projects

June 10, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had another lovely week and a wonderful weekend planned. I’ll be at commencement this weekend as the library’s flag bearer for one of the ceremonies, so we’ll see how that goes. But since we are getting into the weekend and summertime, I wanted to share some design inspiration for summer projects. Summer is a wonderful time to plan and to create with the longer days giving us more daylight for work-playing, so let’s get inspired!

Do you ever worry about not being successful enough, soon enough? If so, you’re not alone. But I hope these two videos help you remember:¬†don’t worry if you’re not a creative success by 30¬†(see the second part of the video essay here). Go ahead and watch; I’ll wait here. Now that we feel better about how long the journey can be for creative success, let’s use that as inspiration to keep practicing.ūüôā

If you need a bit more inspiration to continue working on your creative activities–whatever form they take–check out this great post on how you might be feeling stuck if you are¬†not being used properly. This is so simple and so true and has helped me refocus my energies on things that really do use my talents instead of just doing everything that other people want to drop at my desk.

So now that you are inspired to do some creative work, check out this long, wonderful article full of¬†color inspiration from Smashing Magazine. Summertime feels like a great time to experiment with color (must be all the crazy color combos seen on swim towels and popsicles). What designs can you jazz up in your library with some new color combinations? Maybe those handouts that no one has touched in years? I know I have a list of design projects I want to complete this summer for my library, starting with fixing an advertisement we run in the student newspaper that I’ll be sharing with you soon.

I’ve heard that it is also football season (aka soccer in the USA) so wanted to share this great¬†Soccer (aka football) icon set¬†because we can always use another great icon set to use for designs.

Also, I don’t know about you, but when I’m deep into design work, I often start triple-guessing myself about sentence construction (maybe it’s just me) so I love this tool:¬†FoxType Sentence Tree¬†for sentence diagrams. So cool and works in real time.

I hope you have an inspiring weekend and have some great projects that feed your creative energy. I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. Allons-y!

Design and Drawing

June 3, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has gone well and you have a lovely weekend planned. Before we run headlong into the weekend, I wanted to talk a bit about design and drawing today: how drawing can help with projects in the library and how it is a fun skill that we too often overlook once we leave behind our grade school days. So let’s talk drawing, design, and libraries!

Did you draw when you were a child? Do you still draw now? If not, when did you stop? And, more importantly, why did you stop?

I’d wager that everyone drew at least something as a child. Children love to pick up crayons and draw bold squiggles that spark imaginative stories. We love to dip our fingers in paint and swirl it on paper to see what we could create. There was a wonder about having a blank page of paper and a new box of markers that made us want to draw forever (or at least until it was snack time). But then we put away our crayons when we got older. We didn’t draw with abandon anymore. We moved on to computers and spreadsheets and “real” work and forgot our childlike wonder in creating just to create things (even if no one could figure out what they were without commentary from us).

But, since we’re talking about design in libraries, why should we care whether we still draw or not? Most of our finished designs for flyers, floorplans, and bookmarks are going to be made on the computer anyway, right?

Well, yes, but as the illustrator Von Glitschka would say, “Ideas are still best developed in analog form.” And if we can’t draw, if we can’t take the design idea that is in our head and convert it to marks on a paper, we’re going to have a hard time developing those great ideas into designs to help our libraries. So we need to get back to drawing, sketching, and doodling in order to become better librarian designers.

Everyone can draw, but somewhere along the line a lot of us got scared to draw, scared that we’d fail because someone (maybe even ourselves) told us we weren’t good enough or creative enough to draw. That drawing was a waste of time and we needed to get down to “real” work.

So, today, what I’m saying is that if you want to do the real work of designing great things for your library, you need to draw. You need to get back into the habit of drawing so you can move more easily from idea to design. Is it hard at first? Of course, but a lot of things that are worthwhile are hard at first. Is it fun? Oh, yes. So much that it almost can seem wrong, but it will help with your designing.

I’ve always loved to draw, but couldn’t seem to find the time (in reality, I just didn’t make enough time) in the first years I was working at my current job. But I slowly started drawing again and my designs got better and this year I’ve really committed to making time for drawing (it helps that it goes hand-in-hand with my research) and has been wonderful. I love it. I’m lucky that my university has a subscription to as it has a number of drawing challenges (taught by Von Glitschka, the illustrator I quoted above). They’ve been a great jump start to drawing every day.

So what to do if you don’t have a subscription? Challenge yourself to draw for five days straight. It doesn’t have to be anything big, just a new drawing every day. At the end of the five days, pick up your pencil and tackle a drawing project for your library. Maybe it’s signage that needs to be redesigned, maybe its a bookmark with your summer hours, or maybe its a handout for your next workshop. See how much easier it is to come up with ideas and solutions and how much more fun it is to create them. Drawing helps us unlock our creativity. And the great thing is, you never have to show any of your rough sketches to anyone. They are just for you.

I hope you’ll take up a drawing challenge and rediscover how wonderful drawing can be along with discovering how helpful it can be for brainstorming and refining your next library graphic design project.

Finally, if you need to perk up your desktop wallpaper, check out this lovely bunch this month from Smashing Magazine.

I hope you have a lovely weekend filled with laughter, creativity, and some relaxation. I’ll be back soon with more news and design notes. Allons-y!

Happy Friday!

May 27, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! It is the day before the long weekend, so I’m sure we’re all trying to finish up projects and to not stare at the clock. So today, instead of a design short (don’t worry, I’ll share more soon) or a long reflection about some aspect of librarianship (also working on a post about that), I’m sharing some fun to get you through your day.

First, I can’t seem to do a post without sharing something graphic design related, so here are two more awesome icon sets you might have missed from Smashing magazine: hotel & spa icon set (some of which might be useful for hours icons, etc. for the library) ¬†and a musical instruments icon set¬†(looks great for any music programs you may be co-sponsoring, etc.).

Also, I don’t know about you, but I love watching people make things with vintage machinery (not surprising given the fact I own a letterpress). So check out this post and video about making drop candy the old-fashioned way.

If you are having people over for brunch sometime during the long weekend, I can’t think of much of anything that sounds tastier than these carrot cake cinnamon rolls.

And finally, if you need an uplifting song to get you through the afternoon slump before you break free for your weekend, check out Andy Grammer’s “Good to be Alive.” It’s quite fun.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend full of lots of reading and good times. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Design Short: Keep Your Fonts Consistent

May 13, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has gone well and you have a lovely weekend planned. Today I want to go over a design short: a quick tip that you can easily apply to your design work at your library. This works no matter what you are creating, but is especially important for signage and work with branding. So what are we talking about? Keeping your fonts (well, technically, your typefaces) consistent.

Earlier this week I was walking around Mendocino and taking photographs of all the lovely business signs. (Yes, I do that because I’m a bit of a type and hand-lettering junkie and you never know where you’ll get inspiration for your next design.) I can across this art gallery which had two signs with its name near the sidewalk.

Here’s the first instance of the part of the business name on the flower box:

photo of panache name on flowerbox

And here’s the second instance of the business name on the sign just to the left of where the flower box is located:

Panache Gallery sign

Now, neither font choice is bad. I quite like both, but they evoke very different feelings and don’t match at all. The font of the flower box looks inspired by uncial (you can also see a similar take on the font on the “Closed” sign near the front door). The font used for “Panache” on the sign is a beautiful, elegant script, but it is definitely not uncial-inspired and neither is the font chosen for the rest of the sign.

So why is this an issue?

Because if you are a business, or an organization, or a library, or really anything that wants to have a brand or visual identity, you need consistency.

One of the easiest ways to be consistent in your visual identity is through the use of the same fonts for all your written material, especially when it comes to your organization’s name.

For this business, because it is a fine arts gallery, I would probably choose to use the elegant script font for the name–wherever the name is placed. The same font should be used for the name on the sign, letterhead, business cards, newspaper ads, exhibition promotional materials. I’d even put it on the flower box. You can imagine that lovely script drawn by hand on the box, highlighted with metallic gold paint to play off the vertical sign and creating a lovely, cohesive look to the front of the gallery’s building.

So what does this have to do with libraries?

Look around at the printed material that your library creates and uses. Look at everything–your letterhead, your website banner, the sign that’s taped up on the wall that everyone’s forgotten about–and check to see if the same font is used on all your materials.¬†Is it?

If your library is like most, there is probably a hodgepodge of fonts used and not a coherent visual identity. Is there a way to fix this? Of course, or we wouldn’t be talking about it.

Create a mini-branding guideline for your typography and stick to it. Easiest way?

Create some templates.

Make a template for signs, for flyers, etc. and stick to using it. You can create these in Word or Publisher, you don’t need InDesign or something fancy. Use what you know people in your library will use. Templates are great for when you don’t have a graphic designer (and really, how many libraries have an in-house graphic designer?). Templates will enable you to create a consistent visual identity and save time once you’ve created the templates. They don’t have to be fancy; they just need to be legible, consistent, and used.

Remember, when it comes to graphic design, and design in general, it’s the little details that matter. Actually, it’s all about the details. So get your typography together and you’ll have a first step to creating a coherent visual identity for your library. Really. It’s a great step and will put you head and shoulders above many other organizations.

I hope this design short provided some inspiration and you have a lovely weekend. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 254 other followers

%d bloggers like this: