Art and design school library visual identity

Art and design schools are keen to establish and promote their individual visual identities.  Do libraries at these institutions need to follow suit?  At The New School, where half of the student body is enrolled at Parsons School of Design, communications are highly visual.  In the spring of 2015, the university commissioned Pentagram to design a new typeface (“Neue”), logos, and Pantone color (“Parsons Red”), for the university.


The New School’s new logo designed by Pentagram, 2015

 The Neue typeface was met with positive reviews from Tobias Frere-Jones at Typographica and Armin at UnderConsideration. (The comments section is another matter: the words “fascinatingly ugly” were used to describe the new design.)  However, the new identity put the libraries in a bit of a conundrum.  


Bookmarks from The New School Libraries and Archives, 2013

Just a year earlier, before Neue was born, we had printed bookmarks as promotional materials to accompany our move to the new University Center (read about it in an earlier blog post by Kira Appel).  This bookmark uses the angular design of the University Center façade as its motif, and looked to its interior walls for its color scheme.  Should we continue to use these bookmarks that had become obsolete more quickly than an iPhone?  In the interest of sustainability, we decided to continue to distribute the bookmarks at computer workstations as “scrap paper” until they run out.  The bookmarks do appear to be used, as evidenced by their being tucked inside a large number of the books that are returned to the library.  


Stack signs in “Irma” and “Neue” typefaces, University Center Library, 2016

Next to change were our environmental graphics.  Our shelf labels were updated with the new typeface.  


The New School Libraries and Archives website,, 2016

Then there the task of updating our online presence.  Our library technology department redesigned the website with the help of the marketing department of The New School, which distributed Neue to the University.  A custom logo was also created for the Libraries.  The new logo is used in our PowToon videos on Youtube (although we used one of PowToon’s typefaces, Nexa, which is the most similar to Neue, in our videos).


The New School Libraries and Archives logo

Finally, we updated our email signatures with the style and format that is being used university-wide.   When it comes to printed material, librarians each take an individual approach when creating and distributing handouts that support instruction.

Does your institution promote the use of any specific logos, typefaces, or colors?  Does your library (1) adhere to the same visual identity as the school; (2) have its own, separate visual identity; (3) have multiple identities, depending on library function or division; or (4) doesn’t really have a defined approach to visual identity?


Inspiring Examples of Librarians’ Design Work

Here’s a really cool website that a colleague recently shared with me. It’s full of examples of fliers, displays, handouts and other visuals created by librarians.

Librarian Design Share :

What have you designed recently?

Be Curious: Research Instruction for First Year Studio Students

Recently I was asked to provide research instruction for a brand new 1 credit course required for all new incoming BFA and BArch students at Tyler School of Art. This course was designed to create a community of learning and introduce students to the world of art and design. I had 35 minutes and was asked to talk about image research and demonstrate only two databases. The professors requested specifically the free database of and our in-house image database of objects in our special collections. I was one of several “guest speakers” invited to talk to the students. The instruction room was packed with about 150 students.

I rarely teach with Powerpoint, but wanted to have visual material that represented my ideas and that engaged the students during my introductory talk. I took cue from my yoga class to spend some time at the beginning of the class giving a type of “pep talk” about what it was we, as a class, were about to embark on.

While I was composing my session, it occurred to me that when I’m teaching students about research, I’m really teaching them about curiosity – what it means to be curious, why they should be curious and how to act on their curiosity. I started my talk with the students by addressing that same concept. [I’ve illustrated this post with various slides from the presentation. You can watch and download the entire presentation at the end of this post.]

Slides 2 – 5: Illustrating Curiosity


In an effort to illustrate what I meant by curiosity, and to start them thinking about visual representations of concepts, I showed images of different ways to represent curiosity. As I clicked through the “Be Curious.” slides, I talked about the different ways to define what it means to be curious and the different ways in which you can illustrate those definitions.

Slide 7: Why be Curious

Slid 7 is animated and the images appear one at a time starting from the bottom right with Shepard Fairey’s Obama Hope poster and working to the left, then up to the book cover of Graphic Design, moving right to Art in the Streets, then Art of Obama and ending with the headlines about the copyright case of Shepard Fairey’s Hope poster. During this slide I spoke about reasons why you would want to be curious. I used this slide to illustrate how curiosity can help you contextualize objects and give them depth. With curiosity you can discover the history of objects, learn about their influences and possibly find relationships between them and your own work.

For this slide I needed to start with an image I knew the students would recognize. The starting image also needed to be something I knew I could connect in an obvious way to other images. I was not going to talk about the images, so the connections had to speak for themselves. The bottom row are objects that demonstrate a sort of history of image making and the top row are resources about the objects.

Slid 8: Utilize Resources

From this slide I link to the image databases found in an art research guide I created. I demonstrated the free online image database, and our Head of Special Collections demonstrated searching images in our in-house image database. I used this opportunity to briefly talk about utilizing all resources available to them, whether they be Google or lectures, or professors or peers or the library. Different resources will connect you to different pieces of information.

Slide 9: Practice. Practice. Practice.

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice drives our curiosity. The more we use something and the more we practice with it, the more we understand what it can do for us, and the more we understand how we can make it work for us. There is no level of perfection in information seeking, only levels of improvement.

Little did I know that the next reading assignment scheduled for the class was and essay entitled “Curiosity Cabinets, Museums, and Universities” by E. Bruce Robertson from the book, Cabinet of Curiosities: Mark Dion and the University as Installation. Two weeks after this session I spoke with the students more about developing a vocabulary for researching.

I’m curious to know about what you do to teach students about research.

Where Do You Get Your Juice?

As I prepared for this year’s ARLIS/NA conference in Indianapolis, the familiar feeling of excitement began to build as I thought about the idea of connecting with colleagues, sharing ideas and expanding my understanding of what it means to be a librarian. This year will be my fourth ARLIS/NA conference. My first was in 2006 in Banff, Canada. At that time I was still in library school and was nervous to be around all the professionals. I understood that I was new on the scene and needed to spend my time observing, and taking notes on who, what and how. I sort of felt like I was in a foreign country; still learning the language. Is there really that much of a difference between academic libraries and art & design school libraries to require separate division groups? What’s so difficult about outreach to faculty and departments? How do the Director and Circulation affect my role as a librarian? Four years later, I have a much better understanding of the differences and the challenges and the consequences. I’ve been a real librarian for two years and I am amazed and even inspired by how much I’ve learned.

Each year that I attend the ARLIS conference I meet and connect with more people. I learn who shares my interests, who would be a reliable partner for session moderation or panel session, who knows what ropes and who needs me to show them my ropes. It’s a great source of juice to power me through the year, but I find that I often need a bump here and there to keep me motivated until I see these colleagues again the next conference. Staying connected to colleagues and sharing and brainstorming ideas with them I think is so vital to my success as a librarian. During our ADSL Division discussion this year we also discussed ways to stay connected. This blog was one way we thought would help keep us juiced during the year. Outside of the ARLIS community, I also read the ACRLog and belong to the listserv. What are some of the ways you all stay juiced during the year?