Last December I shared a sign I created for our reference desk advertising our library’s chat reference service and LibAnswers Knowledgebase. I love it when designs on our site get remixed and re-purposed. Erica DeFrain of Honey-Badger-Boolean fame switched up the sign’s layout, “fussed with the text,” and of course, changed colors to match her home institution. The result is below:
If your library is anything like every library I’ve ever worked in or visited, you have at least one hastily created 8.5″ x 11″ flyer meant to disseminate some bit of library policy or rule. More often than not there are collection of these flyers in mis-matched fonts and color schemes across the library, devoid of any branding or cohesive theme, and let’s be honest, just plain UGLY. My library has ’em. Your library has ’em. We all have at least one example of a sign we pass on a daily basis that just makes us cringe.
Melinda Roberts, Business Librarian at the Lippincott Library of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania is tackling ugly in her library, one sign at a time. Her first target was this ancient Food & Drink Policy Sign:
Not good. Here’s Melinda’s take on things:
I’ve become the unofficial designer here at my library. I’ve had no official design training other than attending workshops on several Adobe products. I’ve been trying to update some of our outdated signage around the library. One of the signs we’ve had for a long time is the Food & Drink Policy. The old sign is so full of text that I am sure no one is reading it! I designed a new one that is more visual.
We have small plastic sign holders that are 5×7, so I made my sign so that it can be printed, then folded in half. I try to save prep time in the design.
For the original Adobe Illustrator file of this design, please email Melinda Roberts.
Whether we want to admit it or not, it’s quite likely that we all have a map in our library that looks a little something like this:
It’s descriptive, but difficult to scan, confusing to read, and not particularly visitor-friendly. Carolyn Li-Madeo at the St. Francis College Library in Brooklyn, NY took this original library map and turned it into a resource that’s not only easier for students and visitors to use, but clearly maps out the important spaces in her college library.
Here’s Carolyn in her own words:
The library map is one of my most used tools at the Reference Desk. Prospective students and their families take copies as they pass through on tour, students and professors utilizing the library from other schools use it to find their way around, freshman locate quiet spaces to study and almost every student who comes to the desk for a Reference Interview leaves with an annotated library map.
It was from these scrawled map notes — full of highlighter, arrows and call numbers — that I began to rethink how the map could better serve library patrons. So much of what the library has to offer students and professors is hidden behind a necessary veil of organization, however this organization tends to lead to an obstructive curtain of abstraction.
My goals with the redesign of the map was to ‘un-code’ the library collection by creating visual and textual entrance points for users. This primarily entailed adding subject headings by call number to the new map key and also the creation of a color coding system. You might notice that the subject headings are not all Library of Congress subject headings, instead some of the headings were changed to reflect the courses of study available at St. Francis. Additionally, many students study both nutrition (health promotion) and sports medicine, so these two divided sections were visually connected by the same color.
Other simplifications included the removal of ephemeral or highly detailed information that did not pertain to the physical collection. Individual tables (which often move throughout the semester) as well as computers were eliminated from the map.
Additionally, locations where students can receive help or assistance were united using icons and all three floors of the library were rotated to face north. This rotation caused the map to spill off onto the back of the page, a happy accident that allowed for a space to answer some frequently asked questions regarding library policy.
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.
Why are copy machines so hard to use? It seems like the basic functions haven’t changed in years, yet every machine is different, and every one is overly complicated. The relatively new machine at my library used to take 6 pages of directions to operate! Even something as simple as placing the document on the glass surface to copy took this much direction:
Because we apparently have no control over how difficult the machine is to use (press “finish” then “start”?!?), I attempted to at least simplify the directions. Here is the same procedure as above, hopefully improved:
I used numbers (rather than Roman numerals) that correspond to the pictures on the side because I find that the images integrated into the directions are distracting. I also used simple colors and clearer images that I found from the online copier manual. These directions are posted on the wall near our copier, so to improve the user experience from afar, I enlarged the text from the nearly-impossible-to-see 12-point font to an-easier-on-the-eyes 18-point and surrounded the words with a lot of white space. It’s not the perfect solution (that would be magically making the copier more intuitive), but it works a little better than it did.
If you are interested in seeing more of these directions, email me for the Word document.
Yesterday April and I were fortunate enough to present at the Amigos Annual Member Conference. Their theme for this year was Ingenuity, Imagination, and Innovation: Using Creative Solutions in Today’s Library, which we thought was a great opportunity to share the creativity on display on Librarian Design Share.
Here are the slides from our presentation.
Look familiar? We tried to feature different designs you’ve shared with us as well as some of our own. I used Photoshop to create all of the slides (1024 px x 768 px), then inserted them as images into a Google Presentation that April and I worked on together. It was kind of a pain, but it was the only way to use the font selection from the Librarian Design Share logo in Google Presentations. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the results.
We had a great time presenting and learned a lot from the folks that came to hear us speak. Thanks, Amigos!
If you’d like to adapt or reuse any of the Photoshop slide files, send me an email.