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  • valarie907 11:15 pm on August 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , signage   

    Library Sign Revolution 

    “Stop posting signs people won’t read and start posting (pretty) signs that matter.” (Rogers, 2012)

    Apparently people don’t read signs (Rogers, 2012).  So, why do libraries rely on them so much?  Signs provide information and libraries are in the business of information…coincidence?  I don’t think so.  Libraries have a lot of information to share, and good signage can reduce the redundancy of frequently asked questions and difficulties in order to improve the usefulness, usability and desirability of the library and its offerings.

    I chose to redo library signs that I noticed were not working during my observations for the context analysis assignment.  If it doesn’t work, then it’s time to rethink solutions figure out what will.  I used principles from Schmidt (2011), Williams (2004), and Roberts (2012), to guide my re-designs of the following signs.


    Entryway Sign

    Original entryway queit poster

    Original entryway poster  (Sorry for the reflection…but it proves another challenge for putting up good signs!)

    For the most part, people tend to be fairly quiet in the library, but the entryway ceiling opens to the second floor where the library is located.  Unbeknownst to many, voices carry loud and clear.  The informational sign posted doesn’t seem to catch people’s attention, as noted during an observation for the context inquiry assignment in which a young woman came in and continued her phone conversation even though she came through the door where the sign is posted.  The image is cute, but it looks childish, so it might grab the attention of kids or parents, but others might ignore it.  The attention grabbing text in red does not offer the most important piece of information and the centering takes away from the readability.

    Voices Carry

    Entryway poster revolutionized

    I looked for an image that was more generalizable to everyone, and came across this Creative Commons image on Flickr which appeals to me because it’s a dramatic black and white image and is off center.  The young woman is attractive in a youthful way that many people can identify with, and she doesn’t look like she’s judging anyone.  Plus, she’s looking up, as in upstairs.  This image communicated the need for quiet, so I didn’t have to spell it out, thereby freeing up space to play with.  I based my choice of words on what might actually be said to warn someone, as in “Psst, voices carry…they can hear you upstairs.”

    Contrast:  The image provided a great deal of the contrast.  It was serendipity that the image didn’t quite fill the page, leaving a white band on the top and bottom, so I centered it and filled the background with black to give it further contrast and sophistication.  I used large red text for the main message to grab people’s attention as suggested by Williams (2004).  I chose the font based on readability at a distance, by zooming out to see if it can still be read.  I added a shadow to the text to improve the readability by adding additional contrast since it was on top of the grey part of the image.

    Repetition:  The black band on top is repeated on the bottom.  Though I played with a lot of fonts, this sign had so little text on it; I decided to use the same font for all the elements, just in different ways.

    Alignment:  I set most of the text on the left to accent the image, except for the attribution URL.  I spread out the name of the library in the bottom band making it easier to read in a small font size, and wondered if it clashed too much with the plain text of the URL, but decided to keep it…I’m still not sure if I should have done that.  The JPG image isn’t as clear as the PPT or PDF, so it stands out better in the actual document.

    Proximity:  The two lines of text are close together, so that when the eye is drawn to the red text, the person will easily follow through and read the white text.  I placed the attribution URL for the image below the image in a small font size to the right because I wanted the eye to continue to drop to the library’s name after reading the main message.

    Printer Sign

    Original printer sign

    Original printer sign

    This sign isn’t working either.  It’s taped to the front and side of the printer, but people using the printer aren’t reading it.  During my context analysis, I watched a young man collect his printed items in confusion, looking from back to front over and over.  He checked with the front desk to figure out what happened, and stated that he was confused as he walked away…still looking perplexed.  I imagine this must happen frequently.

    Besides not catching people’s attention, the words, re-used paper, are split between two lines, and even I made the mistake of thinking re-cycled paper, which had a totally different meaning.  It’s too text heavy and the centering makes it hard to read or make sense of at a glance.


    Mini printer sign revolutionized  (or better yet, this one!)

    My solution is two-part.  First, I made a small sign to place on the printer, and then, using the same image to link the two, I made a poster to place next to the printer to grab people’s attention.  I chose the image because it had the familiar recycle symbol on it and the extra lines around it gave it the feeling of motion, which I thought was a good association for a printer.  I decided not to use either of the two logos for the library since they clashed with the overall design, didn’t look good if made very small, but I thought it was important for the name of the library to be included to give it some formality and gave it a wide spacing so it stands out and is easy to read as I did in the last poster.

    Printer poster revolution

    Printer poster revolutionized  (or better yet, this one!)

    Contrast:  The large title in bold stands out as the focus point in contrast to the bright blue and green recycle image.  I took a bit of a chance using a slab serif for the title, but it was the large contrasting focus piece, so I thought I could get away with it here.

    Repetition:  I used the same font for all but the large title.  The bright blue color is repeated throughout the design.  The arrows in the recycle logo are repeated in the bullet points in the same color.  I also used the same fonts for the Entryway poster, including the name of the library, which was set with wide spacing to help it stand out.

    Alignment:  The different sizes, contrasts and colors of the elements provided plenty of variety, so I used a right side alignment throughout for a distinct, simple and readable design.  I also made an effort not to space all the elements out evenly.

    Proximity:  The name of the library was placed above the title, to emphasize whose printer and sign these belong to.  This prevents having to repeat this information to clarify who to see in the last bullet point.  The details about the paper used and cost is together in one block element.

    I kept fiddling with the designs, trying this and that, getting a little lost in all the details.  It was particularly helpful to walk away from it for a bit and look at it again later, but sometimes, it just has to be good enough.  The best part is that all this experience adds up and I can get better at this.  *edit  In fact, I was struck by an idea while double checking the layout for this post and came up with a mini sign (JPG) and a large sign (PDF), that looks better.

    Sometimes a library is limited by its resources, and I was hoping that I could use software that was fairly common to make a decent sign.  I chose PowerPoint, and was pretty pleased with how it worked, although I need to purchase more fonts.  It’s probably a good idea to embed the fonts in the saved document, though, so others can view and edit in case they don’t have that font.  The most challenging aspect was the alignment, since a text box alignment was not equal to the actual text.  Sometimes a local printer won’t do a design justice, so it may be worth the effort of taking it to a copier for a more professional print if it will be around for a while.


    Roberts, J. (2012). Signs that work, part 2. Event and informational signage. Retrieved from http://jrdesignstrategies.com/environmental-design/1459/

    Schmidt, A. (2011). Signs of good design: The user experience. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2011/02/opinion/aaron-schmidt/signs-of-good-design-the-user-experience/

    Williams, R. (2004). The non-designer’s design book: Design and typographic principles for the visual novice. Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press.

    Also, for inspiration, check out this blog:  Library Graphic Design



    • johnpappas 2:57 pm on August 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I love the first one! It seems almost foreboding. I like a little humor in a library’s signage.

      • valarie907 4:31 pm on August 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks John!
        I really like how it turned out too. To be honest, I think I could have found a better image for the printer signs…I should have kept looking. I guess that’s the difference between having to find something (free) that works versus being able to design my own image. I wonder where the pros find theirs?

    • Aaron Schmidt 8:30 am on August 12, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Great signs!

      And to answer your question: professionals often make their own graphics.

  • valarie907 11:21 pm on July 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: environment, , , signage, staff,   

    Library Touchpoints 

    We all know the importance of first impressions.  First points of contact in libraries are important because they leave unforgettable first impressions.  There are several touchpoints that act as first points of contact which are important for giving a positive first impression to encourage library patrons to return to visit again and again.

    First Point of Contact:  The Entrance (space, signage and staff)

    Mosley (2007) suggests that some library users know exactly what they will do when entering a library, but not all do and it’s important that the library be prepared to offer a positive first impression and meet the needs of those who don’t.  While Mosley focuses on the desk nearest the front door, it also includes the experience the visitor has when approaching the library and entering the library on his/her senses:

    • Sight:  Well kept, tidy, neglected, litter, signage…?  Is it welcoming and obvious where to go?
    • Touch:  Soft carpet, wood flooring, concrete…?
    • Sounds:  Quiet, loud, echoing, talking…?
    • Smell:  Clean, mildew, body odor (big homeless issue), chemical…?
    • Taste:  Hopefully there is no taste, but strong smells, such as exhaust can be tasted.

    These physical experiences send subtle messages to the library visitor that can be pleasant or unpleasant and add to their library experience.

    Pleasant Signage

    Signage as a point of contact is important because it often reflects a less formal communication that reflects more of the personality of the library.  A sign that is sloppily put together, posted or with a negative message is not a pleasant greeting for visitors.  Signage that communicates respect and consideration towards library patrons demonstrate empathy and value for them as fellow human beings.  A TTW article (2010), complete with photo and text from Leah White demonstrates how important these messages are:  “Many library users return to libraries because there is something special that keeps them coming back. However, if you welcome them at the entrance with insulting signage, people will think twice about patronizing such an institution.” (Leah White, 2010)

    Trained Staff

    Another important part of the entrance is the staff the visitor first encounters (Mosley, 2010).  Often workers at these front counters are paraprofessionals, volunteers, or student workers.  All staff should be trained to greet visitors and to communicate verbally and nonverbally they are available to help.  They should also be trained to provide accurate directions to common questions.  An ability to empathize with the visitor’s anxiety of visiting a new place or unanswered questions is important to make this effort natural and sincere.  Training should include how to address questions they don’t know the answers too and how to follow-up with those questions.  Regardless of their professional status, any staff at the front counter represents the library and should be equipped to answer questions (Mosley, 2010).

    One More First Point of Contact:  The Library Website

    The library had traditionally been a physical space that one visited, but with the rise in internet access, the library website is often the first point of contact.  Krug (2006) gave us a lot of tools to establish usable library websites that are self-evident, easy to scan and navigate.  Creating useful, usable and desirable library offerings should be an important part of decision making to provide excellent user experience (Schmidt, 2013).  In some cases the library website may be the only point of contact when potential patrons research a community they will move to, or should a person be homebound, or if they are only interested in the offerings available through the website, such as downloadable materials or databases.  Giving the library website users the information they seek and a means to obtain more information as needed is an extension of the library’s user experience, and there are no second chances to get it right.


    The most important purpose of these touchpoints is that the patron successfully completes their mission.  If they don’t find what they need, it is unlikely they will return.  If they find what they need, this success will encourage them to return to fulfill another need, and repeated success will ensure loyalty and support.  One of the most valuable lessons in this class so far is that UX is a perpetual objective and a good library never assumes it has achieved ultimate usability…it constantly strives to adapt to and meet their community’s needs.  This sounds very subjective, but it would be worthy to assess and evaluate all library touchpoints on a regular basis.  Nicholson (2004) proposes several methods of evaluation of a library as a system rather than attempting to isolate these touchpoints and their impact on the library as a whole.



    Krug, S. (2006). Don’t make me think!: A common sense approach to Web usability. Berkeley, CA: New Riders Pub.

    Mosley, P. (2007). Assessing user interactions at the desk nearest the front door. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 47(2), 159-167.

    Nicholson, S. (2004). A conceptual framework for the holistic measurement and cumulative evaluation of library services. Journal of Documentation, 60(2), 164-182. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/docview/217961349?accountid=10361

    Schmidt, A. (2013). Is your library a sundial?: The user experience. The Library Journal. Retrieved from lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/03/opinion/aaron-schmidt/is-your-library-a-sundial-the-user-experience/

    White, L. (2010). Leah White on library signage.  Tame the Web. Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2010/07/15/leah-white-on-library-signage/ Original article at http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/signage-better-none-bad

    • valarie907 11:23 pm on July 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Sorry for the late post…I was trying to add images, but I guess I had to many windows open and I had computer problems. Fortunately, my text was saved in a Word document! =)

    • pmartin 7:10 am on July 8, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Nice post, Valarie! Thanks for bringing up the “entrance” touchpoint. Have you had a chance to read any of Paco Underhill’s work on consumer behavior? In LIBR204 we touched on some of his theories about entrances. For example, according to his research, people tend to stop and then turn right upon entering a store (and, probably, libraries too).

      Mosley’s observations about smell and taste are important. A library where I worked was in a recreation facility. Every time the pool staff put new chlorine in the pool, the fumes in the library were overwhelming. We suspected that the venting was such that we were getting direct air transfer from the pool’s work room (where chlorine was being poured). To the best of my knowledge, though, the problem was never investigated, despite the fact that both staff and patrons complained about burning airways!

      • valarie907 1:08 am on July 12, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for reminding me about Underhill, Pam!

        A book I read by Peter Block, titled Community, emphasized hospitality to build a sense of belonging and community. I think this can be communicated no matter the physical and monetary limitations many libraries are faced with and it should start with first points of contact. Pam Sandlian Smith, the director of the successful Anythink libraries spoke about hospitality in her keynote at our 2012 state conference and referenced Setting the Table by Danny Meyer, and it’s been on my to read list every since.

        The situation with the pool sounds awful. The pool at the school uses too much chlorine, so I can only imagine…I can hardly stand to be in there!

    • Aaron Schmidt 10:32 am on July 8, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the citation to the Mosley article. I’m going to read that today!

      • valarie907 11:35 pm on July 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        You’re welcome! I was expecting to find other articles about first points of contact, but I probably need to do a better search to find more.

    • jodythomas 11:32 am on July 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      The smell issue is an interesting one. I recently came across a trivia point that Disneyland pumps the faint smell of vanilla out onto Main Street to evoke that old-fashioned homey feel/memory. My library is older and does have the “library smell” of faint mildew, which some people think of as nostalgic and others don’t like, for health reasons and general cleanliness issues.

      • valarie907 12:22 pm on July 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks Jody,
        I read an article some time back about old books releasing a smell close to vanillin. I couldn’t find it, but here’s a recent one by Pew on the smell of books. The science of “the smell of books” I don’t favor a mildewy smell, though. At Disney’s California Adventures, they use smell-o-vision on one simulated ride/movie of California and I remember smelling oranges. =)

      • valarie907 1:42 am on August 3, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Hi Jody,
        I just came across an article that made me think of this conversation about smell: Smell Of Chocolate In Bookstores Increases Sales, Study Finds

        Chocolate and vanillin (lignin) sounds good to me! =)

  • valarie907 6:17 pm on June 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , signage   

    Confusing Signage 

    On a recent trip from Albuquerque, NM, I spotted a sign that had me confused.  I was going through security and chose the shortest line for the TSA screening, when I noticed a sign while heading towards it.  It was a tall rectangular sign with lots of words on it, but in large bold words it said something like “Passengers 75 and Older.”  A guard saw me looking at it and in anticipation of my questions said, “Read the whole thing,” but the lettering was too small so I was going to confirm that it was okay for me to get in this line…he broke eye contact and repeated what he said, so I looked around and ahead for confirmation that I was okay.  Upon seeing that the line was empty, I went on ahead.  It turned out the sign was to inform people 75 and older that they got special treatment during the screening process.

    The guard seemed to shake his head and it occurred to me that this must have happened many times.  I wanted to defend my intelligence and say that it wasn’t me, it was the way the sign was designed, but my courage failed me.  I thought to share it will all of you because it illustrated how easily design flaws interrupt our lives…that guard is going to be shaking his head a lot as people continue to think they are in the wrong line.

    I wish I tsa.signtook a photo of it, but I’m not so sure the guard would have been agreeable to that.  The sign had similar verbiage to this, but the emphasis was on “Passengers 75 and Older” and the explanation was in smaller font that was hard to read until you were close enough to be uncomfortable about being in the wrong place…






    …unlike this sign where the emphasis is on the year 1937, making it much more clear what the sign is about.  Albuquerque Airport needs this signage!


    • pattymapes 8:56 am on June 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I can relate to both your frustration with an aspect of an airport security line and your reluctance to speak up. I feel bullied every time I go through security, whether at the world’s busiest airport (Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson) or tiny Canton-Akron in OH. Most recently in Atlanta, my bracelet set off the security alarm. I stepped back to remove it but couldn’t see the clasp because I had been required to take my reading glasses off my head and send them through. So, with no glasses I have no hope of getting the bracelet off and the line is stopped behind me. The TSA worker told me to “Please hurry, ma’am.” Biting my tongue and close to tears, a kind teenage boy right behind me saw me struggling with the bracelet and unhooked it for me. The scrutiny seems over the top.

      • valarie907 3:48 am on June 24, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        What a terrible experience, Patty! TSA is one entity that would benefit greatly from more empathy, which I think makes for a convincing argument for privatization of airport security. Contracted companies would have something to lose by not doing a good job on behalf of all stakeholders rather than operate from such an egocentric position.

    • pmartin 11:44 am on June 24, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      What I don’t get is why seniors can’t keep their jackets and shoes on at every checkpoint. Since they would have to show proof of age anyways, why not offer this courtesy at each line? It seems to me the signage is just one symptom of a bigger user experience issue.

      • valarie907 12:46 pm on June 24, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Good point, Pam! I think their definitions of customer service and courtesy would not be the same as that of most businesses…certainly not nonprofits. This is evident in the absence of any such language on their About or Stakeholders pages. They have a narrowly defined mission that disregards the experience and an approach that resulting in a negative experience. Unfortunately, this sets up a hostile relationship with those they have the most contact with, the travelers (their public!) which I can’t but help think must compromise accomplishing their mission.

        It also has me asking: Why does authority seem to imply negativity…is it a result of an underlying strategy to intimidate or simply the result of how we perceive authority?

    • Aaron Schmidt 6:16 pm on July 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Nice discussion!

      Once you see UX as a thing, you can’t unsee it!

      • valarie907 12:03 am on July 8, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        So true! I really enjoy how it translates to how everything works…it really appeals to the problem-solver in me.

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