Skip to content

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!

Graphic Design in the Library: Poster Headline Example

April 29, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has been filled with good work, good fun, and some good memories. Before we all ride out of the library and into the weekend, I wanted to share some thoughts about graphic design from my library’s latest exhibit. Specifically, I want to talk about collaboration and creation of the logo and titles for the posters. Although this may sound a bit tedious, looking behind the curtain of a final design at the process is really useful as you are learning (as we know from teaching information literacy, right?).  It may help if you are considering mounting some posters for your next exhibit and want a coherent look. So let’s dive into to some graphic design work.

First, you can check out the whole web exhibit here. I’m rather proud of this exhibit on the history of young adult (YA) literature, both for how it turned out visually and how the team worked collaboratively. For context, in my library there is an exhibit team that works together on exhibit conception and creation. We split the work amongst ourselves. For the posters, after the initial concept meeting, our team member who leads the design of the posters (Dick Apple) does some mock-ups and then the rounds of critique and revision begin.

Usually, the poster work falls mostly to Dick and me. I’m lucky that he is very open to collaboration and working in an iterative way, which is basically the only way that collaboration in graphic design can work. If you are working with someone who doesn’t have their heart in collaboration, try to get a new team member as soon as possible or your work (and your sanity) will suffer.

What I want to focus on is just the logo and the titles of the posters. You can see an example of one of the logo/title combinations below:

YA literature logo and title

While this logo and title combination is simple, it took rounds of discussion to get to this final version. How many rounds of email (which we use because our team works different hours and often in different locations)? I counted around 20 emails and about four major revisions and a host of minor tweaks. So how does this work?

After Dick did the initial mock-up of the logo (the YA, horizontal line, and the phrase “young adult literature”), he sent it out to us for review. I asked about font choice, font size (the original had the YA much larger than the phrase), and colors, as well as issues of alignment. We discussed each and after some rounds came up with the above. While not perfect (because very few things are in design), it works really well for our exhibit.


First, you can see we used two different fonts. The YA is in a serif font (Book Antiqua Bold). We chose this deliberately because the serif font family is older than san serif and has an “old timey” feel. This is good because our exhibit is a look at the history of the YA genre, so we need something that invokes history. The phrase, young adult literature, meanwhile is set in a san serif font (Myriad Pro Regular), which looks and feels more modern–great for linking the logo to the current YA literature we are talking about.

Second, after we fixed the font size issue so that it didn’t feel as top heavy, we worked on tracking and kerning. The top letters in YA had to be kerned so they looked right. The tracking was changed on the phrase so that it aligned with the horizontal line. This makes the spacing and placement look deliberate, which it is. Also, having the phrase in all caps makes this tracking and alignment easier. It also creates breathing room so that we have some quiet in the logo. This is useful since the posters, which you can see in their entirety via the first link, are very colorful due to the book covers used to illustrated each poster.

Next, we played with colors. We settled on these complementary colors after a number of different options. These colors work both with the rest of the graphics on the posters and make the logo pop against the dark grey of the background. We also lost an initial white box around the logo that only served to visual separate the logo from everything else on the poster and all special effects on the letters (e.g. drop shadows, outlines, etc.). Sometimes (often in my experience) simpler really is better and stronger for design.

Finally, we worked on the headlines. Unlike the logo, the headline titles are white. This links them to the text blocks, which are also white, and allows them to stand out and apart from the logo and dark background. They are set in the same typeface as the “young adult literature” in the logo, again for coherence. They were then hand-aligned to the slant of the “A” in YA. This allows the logo and title to work together, instead of appearing as separate elements on the poster. It also eliminates visual boxes around the logo and title that can be caused by just using a left alignment because that is what the software program defaults to.

So, that is the condensed, but basic steps we went through in creating the logo and headline titles for this exhibit. As you can see the results are quite nice–legible, readable, and eye-catching. The same logo is used on all the posters for visual branding and the headline titles are aligned the same.

I hope this helps you go under the hood of how a collaborative design process can work for creating exhibit posters in a library. It is work, but creative, fun work that I love. If you have any questions, or any designs you have for your library that you’d like to share, please leave a comment.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend full with reading, napping, and relaxing fun. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!


Design Short for Thursday

April 21, 2016

Happy Thursday, dear readers! It has been a busy few weeks here, but wanted to share some design resources to help make your Thursday a bit more beautiful and fun. I’m still working on a post about my library’s latest exhibit and hopefully will post about that soon. Until then, check out some fun design resources.

Part of designing is knowing when to use something that’s already been created so you don’t have to recreate the wheel. Free font and icon sets are awesome in this regard. Smashing Magazine is one of my favorite resources for icon sets and, occasionally, for fonts. Check out this release of Yrsa and Rasa. Lovely and inspiring.

Also, not sure about where you are, but caffeine consumption always seems to rise as we get into the quarter at my university. Therefore this barista and coffee lovers icon set seems rather appropriate to share. I love super-clean icon sets, especially that can be used in black and white. So versatile.

Finally, here’s a link from The Well-Appointed Desk on books to check out on sketching and painting. Perhaps it will inspire you to do some doodling this weekend.

I hope you have a lovely, creative rest of your day, dear readers. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes.

Break Week Thoughts

March 25, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope this week has been treating you well. We are on Spring Break at my university so the campus and library have been quiet and it has been a wonderful week for getting things done. I wanted to share a few thoughts on the importance of break weeks, or something similar, along with a few bits of fun.

I love being an academic librarian. I love the students. I love the work. And I sometimes even love the frenetic energy on campus. But this last term just about had me crawling under my desk in search of some quiet and calm. It was a chaotic term for everyone I talked with, not just those of us in the library. No one is sure why, but it completely zapped our energy reserves. This break week, even though the library is open (albeit limited hours), has been a joyous bit of calm between the storms.

Break week isn’t a week of zoning out or goofing off. We don’t have it as vacation, unlike some of the other faculty and students. Instead, it is a week of catching up and diving into those projects that take a backseat to the urgent demands of teaching and other work during the term. For me, it has been a week of research and writing, getting to delve deeply into projects that I had to neglect while teaching two credit-bearing classes and doing more committee work than I care to remember.

I’ve actually been able to get into a state of flow with my work, which never happens during the quarter. I’ve been able to finish another round of analysis on a large stack of transcripts, complete a conference paper and presentation, and check of a half-dozen other smaller projects that need to be finished. And, I’ve hardly had to look at the clock at all. Without interruptions or meetings that section off my time into hour increments that may work for busywork, but don’t work for deep thinking and analysis, I’ve felt more relaxed and accomplished at the end of the day than I have for a longer time than I care to admit.

It is hard brainwork, deep thinking, but satisfying in a way that urgent emails and fixing work for committees will never be for me.

It is a reminder that we need time like this to think and to plan so that when we take action, it will be thoughtfully considered instead of a reaction. If you can carve this out into your week or month, you are fortunate indeed. If you are an administrator, my hope for you is that you would figure out a way to carve out this time for your staff if you aren’t as fortunate as my library to have built in “downtime” like the break week, where work can be done without interruption.

We, as the faces of the library, are public serving and public-facing, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need some time for reflection and flow work, too.

As for fun, because we need fun, too, check out Smashing Magazine’s Easter Icon Set (it’s free). And, if you are in the San Jose, California area on April 9th, check out the S.F. Bay Area Printers’ Fair & Wayzgoose. It sounds like it should be fantastic!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend filled with good times and good reads! I’ll be back soon with thoughts on our spring exhibit and graphic design for librarians.

Tuesday Fun

March 15, 2016

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! Most Tuesdays could use a little more fun, but I think the first Tuesday after Daylight Savings Times begins (at least for some of us) requires a lot of fun. For today, I have some lovely information and articles about books because there are few things more fun than a good book.

In case you missed it at the end of last year, check out this infographic on what happens to your body after you start reading a book. I especially love the tongue-in-cheek writing even as it reminds us how powerful books can be.

Also in the realm of books and fun, check out Gizmodo’s article about 16 fun, escapist books to read. Looks like I have more titles to put on my “to read” list.:)

Springtime is always birding time, so I’m especially enamored of this poster illustrating the birds of North America. It is lovely. Though I’d suggest taking a Sibley Guide into the field is more practical for identification.

I’ll be back soon with some thoughts on libraries and graphic design, as we are about to mount our spring exhibit, as well as other news and notes. Until then, happy reading! Allons-y!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 254 other followers

%d bloggers like this: