Redesign Sign Time

While our library spaces are closed to the public, we have been busy completing tasks that have long been on our to-do lists. For me, one of those things has been updating our signs throughout the Children’s Library. After unintentionally letting some things stagnate between 5-8 years, it seems painfully obvious that I need to make an annual audit of our signs a thing.

Now, a “sign audit” sounds a bit epic, but it doesn’t have to be. At its core, I’ll be looking at our signs through the eyes of our patrons – especially with awareness to my personal preferences towards artsy-fartsiness. What will I be looking for? Glad you asked.

  • Design 
    A consistent and modern theme or style should be used in order to help unify your library’s look and feel. If you’re unironically using ’80’s clip art in any of your signs, then a sign audit in your space should be done.
  • Legibility
    This is incredibly important, and I have to admit to not always putting this at the forefront. You have to walk the fine line between a great design and what will really work for as many patrons as possible.
  • Impact
    Usually this is the result of both design and legibility being on-point and working together. This can be a positive gut feeling that your patrons will have when looking at or using your signs.

Okay. Let’s see some examples of what I’m talking about.

Here’s one of the signs that I was so proud of back in 2015:

This is a good example of style outweighing substance. Being right up close to the signs, they’re easy to read. From a distance it could be a problem, and for our tiny library to have signs that are not the easiest to read? Fail.

Also, over time these signs faded because of all the unfiltered sunshine that comes through our many windows. This lessened the contrast between the color and the white letters, thus making them even harder to read.

That reminds me: be sure to have enough color contrast to make them accessible to those with visual impairments. This is a great article that goes over even more ways to make visuals (online or IRL) as accessible as possible.

I wish that I could take credit for realizing that the previous signs weren’t the best, but they’re a result of our Children’s Librarian looking at a few of my new design options and saying, “The words need to be as big as possible. That’s what’s most important to me.” That was a big-ole reminder of my artsy-fartsy blind spot.

So here are the signs that eventually resulted from my audit:

Even with this wider-shot photo, you can read almost every sign. The unified “color” scheme also makes the signs easier for people to locate throughout our space. Theoretically, patrons could be at our card catalog and spot the section that they need without having to move (of course this only works for sections that are facing towards them).

Here’s how I came up with these signs:

I knew that we’d use the Children’s Library’s branded font: Teen. I found the largest I could go font-wise with the longest word we’d be using in the signs. I think that it was Picture. Whatever that font size was, that’s what the rest of the signs would have. Jumping up and down font sizes (or using different fonts) makes eyes work harder for information (which lessens the impact).

Here’s what the new signs look like when printed out:

The crayon scribble design was a result of my initial use of it on our Kids’ Corner website. It was a ::headdesk:: realization that this would make the perfect design element to tie our signs together. Not only are these signs highly visible, but when people get closer, they’ll realize that there’s a fun design element to each sign.

I’ve written and re-written paragraphs about the making-of these signs, but honestly? It was tedious. I’ll try touch on the most important aspects, but feel free to ask me for clarification on any point.

I ended up adding real crayon scribbles to the printed signs in order to extend the lettering beyond the printed margins. The unexpected benefit of this was when I laminated them (mostly to protect our sign holders from getting a yucky wax buildup over time), the wax bonded the laminating sheets to the paper. That meant that I could completely trim off all of the excess laminate without the paper becoming loose.

Here are pictures of the front and back of a laminated sign:

You can still see the borders, but they don’t stand out as much. And yes, some of the heavier scribbling melted, which makes me want to experiment with the artsy potential of this procedure. It could be a safer version of the “crayon melt art.” If I try that, then I’ll be sure to share the results here.

Yes, the back is ugly, but no one will see that side unless they pull the sign out of the stand. I’m including this underwhelming picture in order to show that my sign-scribbling on the same spot on my desk led to having specks of crayon that melted and kept the backside of the laminate affixed to the paper.

Something I noticed after putting the signs in their holders was that there was a terrible double-glare happening because both the sign holder and the signs were glossy. Blech! If you scroll up and look at the front-side picture again, you can see the results of my spray painting two matte clear coats on it. I did that for all the signs with great results.

To save you from experimenting and ruining a plexi sign holder: I tried spraying the same clear coat on an old, cracked plexiglass sign holder to see what it looked like, and it looked bad. It looked dusty/dirty. So while there’s still some glaring on signs, it was massively reduced by making sure the sign itself wasn’t shiny.

And that about wraps up this portion of the sign redesign.

And yes, there’s going to be another portion about our redesign coming out soon. It’s gonna be chock-full of signs that you can freely download and use for your library. Yay!

Until then, have fun doing your own sign audit. Let me know if you need help or clarification on any aspect, or if you feel uncertain or stuck.

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