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Friday Design: Soup Can Label Redesign

September 9, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a lovely week and have a wonderful weekend planned. For today’s Friday Design Talk, I want to talk about redesigns, specifically in the context of soup cans. But it applies to libraries, especially with regards to logo redesigns, rebranding efforts, and web redesigns. So let’s talk soup!

I was recently in a store shopping with my husband when we noticed that Progresso has redesigned their soup can labels. I took two photos, which you can see below, of the redesigned labels on the left and the older design on the right. So what do you notice? What speaks to you? What works and doesn’t work for your design sensibilities? I’ll wait a bit while you check out the cans and think about it. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you my thoughts below the photos.

photograph of two cans of clam chowderphotograph of two cans of chicken noodle soup

Okay, are we ready to talk redesign and rebranding? Yes? Great!

So, first things first, there really isn’t anything terribly wrong with the redesigned soup labels and the rebranded Progresso banner. But there really, in my opinion isn’t anything great either. It is all quite bland, which I’m almost positive wasn’t what anyone wants people to think of when they think of their soup line. You want soup to be delicious, aromatic, comforting, yummy, right? I just don’t get that feeling from the new design.

So what is in the new design and what’s been changed?

The serif fonts used in the old label have been swapped out for a plain san serif font. Okay, one could make the argument that this makes the label easier to read. It also makes it look like every other redesigned packaging and sign I’ve seen over the last few years. It seems like a large chunk of the design world has been swept up in the Helvetica trend and san serifs are the only go-to fonts used anymore. I have nothing against a good san serif, but I never get the feeling that it is either “traditional” like the label says nor do I feel like it makes me think “yum, soup”.

The new label is less busy. There are no pops of color from the vegetables on top of the Progresso banner (which I seriously thought was part of their logo, but apparently isn’t). There is no depth to the label–most of the gradients have been removed, giving the new banner a flat look, even with the bit of movement with the swoop of the banner from left to right.

The use of just the bowl of soup as the focal image, instead of a close-up with the spoon is an interesting choice. Even with the removal of the center square with the name of the soup from the old labels, it feels like the label now has an odder delineation of space. It almost looks like the can is frowning with how the bottom of the label cuts off the soup bowl, but that could just be me.

The new labels just feel bland, like they don’t want to stand out from the crowd, they just want to sit on the shelf with every other soup can and be quiet. That’s not what you want when you are competing for market share in soup. You want to be bold–to connect–to be different. Stand out. It’s okay. At least they kept the blue, although it is much lighter overall, so I can find it in the soup aisle.

So what does this have to do with libraries? If you are contemplating a redesign or a design of a label, a logo, or really anything for your library, don’t be bland. Be bold. You don’t have to follow every hot new design trend. You don’t have to set everything in san serif fonts and you don’t have to make everything completely flat in your design. Pops of color can be good and eye-catching. In design, as in life and libraries, sometimes you have to standout and be brave. Don’t always go with the safe choice, just because it is there. Pick fonts and colors and designs and graphics that truly connect with your message and evoke the emotions that you want to evoke with your designs.

And, if you are designing for soup packaging, make sure its label screams yum and comfort (it doesn’t have to actually say those words, but the design should). Think about what your design needs to communicate first, always–then go from there.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of fun and relaxation as we head into autumn. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!


Friday Design Short

September 2, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you are well and have a lovely weekend planned. Today’s design post is going to be short as I’ve been under the weather with another nasty summer cold this week. So instead of the post on redesign and branding that I had planned, which will hopefully be written next week, I’m going to share some design inspiration for the start of your September.

First, have you remembered to change up your desktop wallpapers for the month? If not, head over to the always fabulous Smashing Magazine post to change up your wallpapers. Love all the different designs for this month!

Also, for design inspiration, check out the wonderful series of park identity posters Michael Schwab created for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. (Sorry the link goes to their store, but it was the best way to see all the posters together.) If you are in the Bay Area, you can also see the posters as part of the Legion of Honor’s current exhibit, Wild West: Plains to the Pacific. Great reminder that simple and bold are almost always great design choices.

And finally, because it is the last long weekend of summer, check out Joy the Baker’s post for some lovely things to make and eat this weekend. I’m looking forward to hopefully feeling better and getting a lot of reading, writing, drawing, hiking, and relaxing in this weekend. How about you?

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

End of Summer Thoughts: Design and Otherwise

August 26, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope the end of August is going well for you and you have something grand planned for the end of summer (even if that is eating more watermelon before it turns into sweater weather). Today I wanted to share a few bits and bobs for the end of summer–design, books, and other things.

I apologize for not having a post out last Friday, but I was at a weeklong bookbinding intensive at San Francisco Center for the Book. It was absolutely fantastic and now I’m trying to figure out how I can find room in my itty, bitty space for crafts to hold bookbinding supplies. If you are in the area and ever have the chance to take some classes at SF Center for the Book, I highly recommend it. Both bookbinding and letterpress classes are great. Last week reinvigorated my love of crafting by hand, away from the computer. It was inspiring to work with such beautiful materials, to learn something new, and to connect with others who share my fascination with books and journals.

The workshop reminded me that we all need to have people to connect with who share our passions for designing, crafting, and creation. Talking with my classmates got me excited to think about ways to bring back what I’ve learned into my teaching and work at the library. Paper crafting for finals week? Sounds like fun to me! We all need to take time to recharge our creativity through learning from experts and talking with others. I’m so glad I had that opportunity this summer.

And summer should be a time for recharging and getting ready for the push to the end of the year (especially if your life revolves around the academic year, like mine does). So it seems fitting to share this Lifehacker article, What Psychology Teaches Us About Structuring the Workday. As we transition from summer into fall, it seems like we lose our laid back attitudes and replace them with stress. So we might as well use everything to our advantage to make our workday work for us, instead of against us, as much as possible.

While I love summer, there is something lovely about fall, too. Although it sometimes makes me sad as it ushers in the ending of another year, the one thing that never makes me sad is finding out there are a bunch of awesome books I can look forward to reading. So check out this guide to fantasy and science fiction books coming out this fall. Time to update my reading list.

Finally, if you are in the Bay Area this weekend and are a fan of pens, you should really go to the SF International Pen Show. It has an inexpensive admission and looks like it should be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to walking around this weekend as I try not to buy everything in sight!

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

Friday Design Fun

August 12, 2016

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has been grand. Mine has been a congested walk through a cold that just won’t quit. But I can’t complain because the weather has been glorious and I have enough energy for walking again, plus have some lovely inspiration to share with you today. So let’s dive in before we scamper away to our weekends!

First up, we all could use some design inspiration as we look at our calendars and see August slipping away and back-to-school season is upon us. So check out Smashing Magazine’s August Inspiration. So much beautiful work and ideas for new aesthetics and color palettes to try. Doesn’t it just make you want to start drawing?

Also is anyone else sick of reading all the articles, tweets, and posts that suggest we can only be happy if we quit our day jobs and go travel the globe? Yes? Not just me? If you are sick of it to, go read this lovely article: Dear Internet, Stop Telling Me to Quit My Job. Love it.🙂 Reminder that we don’t all have to quit our jobs in order to have satisfying, creative, artistic, and fun lives.

But sometimes, when we are trying to become better at anything (everything?) in life, we can take on too much. Especially true if you are dipping your feet into the world of libraries and graphic design. There is so much to learn, so much to master, so much to do! When does anyone find the time? How do you do it all at once?

The answer is simple: you don’t. Check out this article on the scientific argument for mastering one thing at a time which also relates to the domino effect. It’s like my  mother always impressed on us as kids: you do the hard work and it gets easier and you can move on to the next thing. Don’t try to do everything at once, focus on one task and skill at a time and you’ll find that you’ll be able to master it and have the motivation to move onto the next thing. Sometimes, inertia can totally work in our favor (as long as we are already moving!).

If you still aren’t sold on Pokémon GO and its potential uses for libraries (so much design, marketing, and programming potential!), check out how to “Entice a Pokémon GO Player to become a Library User with these 5 Conversation Starters!” A bit dorky? Yes, but I’d expect nothing else from my lovely libraryland. Plus, we can laugh together and get people using the library, which is totally win-win. The article also links to a good guide to Pokémon GO if you aren’t sure what all the hype is about.

And, while not about librarian graphic designers or design inspiration, I wanted to share this TED article on why online privacy matters and how to protect yours as I know this is an issue dear to many librarians hearts and many of us teach about online privacy to our community members.

I hope you have a wonderful day and fabulous weekend! Go create something grand (and make your bed while you’re at it). I’ll be back with some concluding summer thoughts soon and some news. Allons-y!

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!

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