1) Get inspired! Before you even start to design something - whether that be your website or a flyer - think about what it is you want to communicate. What information do people need from this item? How do you want it to make them feel? What images can you use to communicate these ideas? Using the answers to these questions as guidelines. Scour the web for images or designs that speak to you and that fit your intentions and use these as inspiration.
2) Less is more: Before we even go any further in the design process, remember this one rule - less is more. Don't overload your poster with a thousand different photos, or include 16 different fonts on one flyer. You don't want too much text either: people don't want to read an opus. Whatever you're designing, pare it down to the simplest it can be. Use the least amount of text you can to communicate your message, try using images instead of text to communicate (but not too many images), and stick with a couple fonts and colours. Use size to make the important information stand out. Whatever you design should be visually appealing, and eye-catching, but it should also be easy for people to get the information they need.
3) Font consistency: I cannot stress this point enough – nothing looks sloppier than a poster with too many different fonts on it. As a library, you should choose around three fonts that you will use consistently on everything, from your website to posters to your annual report. One should be used for body text (this should be “web-friendly”), another for headlines, and so on. The font that you use for your logo and for headlines should be special – try branching out beyond the fonts you can find in Microsoft Word. There are plenty of free fonts you can download and use. Check out Da Font (although you need to check the terms on each to make sure you can use it), or The League of Moveable Type (free open-source fonts). And take some time in choosing your fonts – fonts do a lot to communicate a message or mood, so choose wisely.
7) Alignment and size: Don't always center the text on a poster. There is plenty written about alignment in graphic design, but play around with what you think looks best - left-justified, right-justified, or centered? Also, remember the importance that size can play in differentiating items. Set items apart using font, colour, and size.
8) Consistency across platforms: I've hinted at this already, but consistency is key. This includes consistency across platforms. Your website and posters should look like they are from the same library. Your Facebook page and Twitter page should use your logo and colour scheme. Everything you produce should be able to be traced back to your library because of the way it looks. This is how you create a brand - consistent use of design makes your library recognizable, not by name, but by look.
9) Have fun! It can be okay to break these rules and try different things. Have fun with design and create something that you love, and chances are, others will respond to it too.
There are many websites and resources beyond the ones I named that are available online to help you in the design process. I especially love the blog Librarian Design Share for library inspiration, but also check out the following web tools.
- For colour palettes, check out colourlovers.com
- For creating infographics, there are many free tools, but check out Infogr.am and Piktochart
- For creating free and awesome graphics of your own, visit Canva
- As a free substitute for Photoshop, check out GIMP or deviantartMURO
- For a free photo editor, visit Pixlr
- For a poster maker, check out Smore
- The Library Graphic Design blog