Today’s post in a little different in that we’re not just sharing a finished design, but showing and describing a design revision. This submission comes to us from Brittany Iverson, Learning & Research Services Librarian at Montana State University. A walkstation was recently added to the Library Commons, and Brittany was asked to create an infographic with how-to-use instructions and the benefits of walking while working. Here is the first draft of her work:
We’re all working to make our designs pop as librarians, but it’s probably rare that we actually sit back to consider the principles behind the designs we are making. However, just a couple of months ago, I was asked by the Medical Library Association to present on this topic. So, I am posting the presentation as both a review of basic design and also as an inspiration for design, because it was (by far) the hardest part of making this presentation!
We librarians tend to make a lot of help sheets and signage to assist patrons as they use our resources. That’s really what Librarian Design Share is about, right? But even with best intentions, we don’t always fully think about the way our publications as a whole look and feel to our patrons.
I think Librarian Design Share would be remiss if we didn’t talk standardizing the look of your library’s publications, or branding, if you will. Brands can highlight something unique about your community (perhaps it’s near water or you’re known for an historical event), your library (maybe you have an awesome stained-glass window or a spiral staircase), or it can be based on something more abstract, like colors, shapes, or even text. We based our library branding on the pretty rainbow of colors our bound journals make on the shelves. Everyone has bound journals on their shelves, but there’s something about the color arrangement and the mass amount of them that make the way they look in our large, light-filled space memorable. Here’s our general publication header that can be copied to any document:
Whatever standardization you decide upon should happen across the board–from all the pieces of paper that a patron might see in your library to your web presence. This is our website’s look:
I thought my library was well on the way to doing this, but a quick audit of our documents online and on our slat wall exposed at least three previous brands that are still in use on our handouts.
Yikes, you know what my new project is…
Think about it terms of your favorite store: their shopping bags have the same look as their store signage as their website, right? So should our libraries. It’s about making things more consistent in the minds of our users. More simply, it’s about showing our users that we care enough to keep things updated, neat, professional, and easy for them to digest.
If you have great examples of a branding campaign you’ve created and implemented at your library, we’d love to see them! Consider submitting them to our site and sharing them with your colleagues.
What do you do if you’ve labored for hours (or days or weeks) over a design and your coworkers just don’t like it?
When I create something new, I always show the prototype to a few key people as I’m in process. I can get their early opinions and shift my design if it’s necessary before spending too much time and energy on it. In my dream world, I would use 5 or 10 minutes of our monthly staff meeting to project my designs on the big screen, and everyone would care as much as I do about colors, images, and spacing, and readily and openly share their thoughts on each element of the publication.
But this doesn’t actually happen in real life…you’re lucky if you get someone to say “yeah, I like it,” right? And if they say something negative, like your design is too simple, or that it misses the point, or that –gasp– it’s unprofessional, it almost becomes a personal affront. This is because design often feels very personal after you’ve poured your time and energy into it. However, it’s important to remember that when someone contests your handout, infographic, or web slides, they really aren’t attacking you. It’s likely that the person is just coming from a different perspective, and it’s worth hearing them out and considering revising because design, in essence, is not personal at all. Design is for the public, so it is of the utmost importance to consider the public’s reaction to a design.
A situation like this recently happened in my library, and the solution was to have our staff vote in an anonymous survey (we used SurveyMonkey) on their top choice between two designs. Be prepared, though, in a democracy, your choice doesn’t always win!
As librarians we’re often designing websites, handouts, and publicity materials that have to conform to certain institutional design standards. Whether you’re in a library that requires its logo on every brochure or at a university with very specific font and color branding, you’ve no doubt felt the constraints that an established look and feel can have on your design creation. Here are the boundaries we work within:
The college I work for is in the midst of a branding evaluation, meaning that at some point in the next few years we’ll likely have a revised logo, colors, and font that will be standard on all of our print and web publications. For the time being, here’s what we use:
- A fixed-width web template
- Variations of gold and two types of blue to match our college colors
- A very intricate logo
- A standard header that takes up a good portion of the screen
Our web team is working hard to prepare for the changes that this branding evaluation will likely bring to the college’s virtual presence. Like me, the web developers hope that our new university template will be responsive, rather than fixed width, and that the college header will be much smaller. My hope is that we modify or eliminate the standard logo in favor of a simplified text-based brand. I understand the need for color constraints, so I’ve tried my best to work within the colors of the college.
To make up for the space taken by the college header, I’ve tried to keep the library header small, although I’m planning to revise it to take advantage of some of the wasted space in the middle and make the header menu more visible. I’ve also tried to make the search area and announcement slider the main focus of the page. I’m not sure how successful I’ve been, but it’s a start.
How do you work within web template constraints?
I work at a large university hospital with a specific department that concentrates on maintaining our brand so that it is not diluted or misconstrued among our thousands of employees and our international audience. Our brand standards call for a certain set of colors and fonts that should be adhered to when creating designs, even those that are used in-house. Complying with these standards (see below) has been my biggest challenge when designing publications.
One of my first charges as a new hire was to redesign our General Info page (that you’ve seen here). My first draft looked pretty similar in design to what you’ve seen, but the colors were my favorite lime green, grey, and orange, the fonts didn’t conform, and I neglected to add the institutional logo. My supervisor quickly showed me the brand standards on our intranet, and I modified my design to incorporate theirs by carefully replicating the CMYK numbers and adding in other elements.
It’s not always easy, as I find the standards limit my creativity at times, but because I now understand and respect the reasoning behind the standards, I’m trying to follow them more closely in everything that I create.