Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Tech Review: Online Creation Tools Piktochart and Canva

I recently learned about two online creation tools and have spent some time (too much time?) exploring both. Now I’m going to share my possibly overly excited thoughts with you. True story: I loved both of these tools and played with them a lot – so I could evaluate them for you of course. See, I’m a giver.

The first tool I found was Piktochart, in part because I was specifically looking for a tool to create an Infographic for the Serving Full T.I.L.T. series. I had previously tried to create an Infographic in both Publisher and Powerpoint starting from scratch and quickly realized that I needed a template to start with. Piktochart has those. The templates are easy to change to fit your needs while making for a solid visual place to start from. Here’s a look at their main screen where you do your designing:

Here’s a handy Piktochart tutorial that explains the basics for you made by Kimberly Ann Jimenez and shared on YouTube:

These are two of the Inforgraphics I made using Piktochart, and it took me less than an hour for the second and third ones after I figured out the basics of Piktochart.

While talking about Piktochart on Twitter, several people pointed me to Canva. I am full on obsessed with Canva and highly recommend it. It is one of my favorite creation tools I have found to date. The interface is easy to use. You can start with a blank slate or a template. They have a pretty good store house of free graphics and allow you to upload your own if you need them. The interface seemed to be cleaner, easier to use, and quicker. Canva has some additional templates that are interesting like business cards. There is a YouTube tutorial for Canva as well, but it is a little over 14 minutes long. You can find it here.

And here are some of the signs/posters I made using Canva:

Below is the poster I made elements in PowerPoint and uploaded in. I couldn’t find a way to fill a circle with an image on Canva so I did it in PowerPoint and just uploaded the .png, which ended up allowing me to create the final poster that I wanted to.

Some Initial Thoughts:

Both programs have free and additional paid for options. If used correctly, you can make entire creations and never have to pay a fee.

Both programs allow you to upload images and use them. Neither programs allow you to manipulate uploaded or pre-loaded images to the full extent that a full graphics program like Publisher or Gimp does. To do a couple of the more creative things I wanted to do I manipulated my image in PowerPoint, saved it as a .jpeg or .png and then uploaded it. (See Faith and Spirituality example above)

Both Piktochart and Canva have great tutorials/blogs and a stream that allows you to see what other people have created to get inspiration. These are very informative and helpful.

Piktochart also has a tool to make Charts, Maps and Videos – I have tried none of these.

Both programs auto-save which is nice for those of us who sometimes forget to save as we go along, but was also sometimes frustrating because I would be in the midst of trying to do something and then had to stop and wait for the auto-save. Still, I prefer the auto-save.

My final thoughts:

Piktochart is hands down the go to tool for creating Infographics, I highly recommend it. Consider adding a yearly Teen Services report in Infographic form as part of your annual report. In addition to facts and figures, use speech bubbles to highlight teen responses and share pictures from actual programs. I think this would be a great way to communicate to admin and our communities the who, what, when, where and how of teen services.

Canva, however, is hands down the go to tool for creating posters, memes and more in my opinion. It offers more options, more flexibility, and just works better for this type of graphic. I highly recommend it for a variety of image and poster creations.

Have you used these tools? What are your thoughts? Is there another tool you use that I might need to know about and obsess over? Leave me a comment.

Graphic Design for Non Graphic Designers, what I’ve learned in 20 years as a librarian

Yesterday, I presented a webinar on Graphic Design for Non Graphic Designers. This webinar has been a post 20 years in the making. Like most librarians, I was surprised to get my first library job and learn exactly how much graphic design I would end up doing. But unlike most librarians, I had an advantage: I was about to marry an Art/Graphic Design major. Over the past 20 years he has taught me a lot about composition and lay out. And over the years I have read a lot of books, attended a lot of webinars and continuing education classes, and of course searched the web a lot.

For the past 10+ years most of my continuing education has been focused on Marketing. At one point and time I was the head of my library’s marketing committee wrote the library’s marketing plan for several years, and took the odd class here and there to maybe get my marketing degree (which I didn’t, I had a second child instead.)

Over the years I have read and researched so much that I have developed my own basic marketing plan and graphic design tips. They are based on those topics and tips you see repeated over and over again when you research these topics. So while term like collection development and reader’s advisory become second nature to librarians, things like typography and layout become second nature to those who read a lot on the topic. Don’t get me wrong, I would never call myself a graphic designer, because I’m not one. I can just share with you those things that I see commonly repeated time and time again and have for the past 10+ years. Then I had The Mr. go over all of this to make sure that what I was saying was accurate. So a special thanks to him for his helpful critiques (which were even sometimes kind) and his patience as he tried to teach me how to do these things.


Graphic Design for Teen Librarians (or any other non designer)

I am not a graphic design artist, but I play one on the Internet.  In fact almost all teen librarians are forced to play one at some time or another in their career as they make program flyers, teen area displays, and put stuff up online.  Over the years I have learned some basic design tips, primarily from my husband who was an art major (I don’t always appreciate the way the tips are delivered, but they do always make my final product look better).  And at one point I was even able to arrange for a local graphic design professor to come do some hands on training with some of our library staff.  If you have a local college or university, this is a great idea for some basic training.

For the purposes of this blog post, we will limit our discussion to the creation of flyers and posters, although many of them do also apply to displays or web pages.

Graphic Design 101

1.  Fonts and Colors

You want to limit the main scheme of your piece to 2 or 3 color and font choices.  They should be complimentary colors and readable fonts.  A lot of online sources says no more than 2, but sometimes you can make it work with 3.  It is important to choose legible font for what you are trying to do, some fonts only work well really big.

2.  Typography

Speaking of fonts, remember that your text is also a graphical element.  Headlines and text all need to be considered in the overall design process.  Typography is in fact considered quite the art form and there are whole texts written on the subject.  Here are 10 Common Typography Mistakes by Brian Hoff.

I love typography
Typography Daily

3.  Basic Layout

Americans read from left to right in a Z patterns, so you want to place your important content elements in the top left, middle right, then bottom left and back to the far right corner.  When someone approaches your work to visually scan it, their eyes will customarily focus on these locations just as if they were reading a text.

4.  Justify Your Text

One of the tips I learned that made a dramatic change in the quality of my flyers had to do with centering your text.  I think it is some type of novice instinct to center justify your text.  However, choosing to either left or right justify your text creates a crisper line and makes a better use of the space.  This one simple tip by our graphic design professor led training radically transformed all of our pieces.

5.  Symmetry is Not Cool

Part of the reason why center justification is not ideal is because artistically symmetry is a bad design goal.  While it is true that we tend to instinctively prefer symmetry when we look at faces, symmetry is not typically found in nature:  look at the treelines that you admire so much – yep, not symmetrical.  When you choose symmetry as a design lay out the eye doesn’t know what elements are important, your viewer doesn’t know where to focus.

6.  Size Really Does Matter

Thinking again of typography, differentiating text size helps your viewer understand the hierarchical importance of your headlines.  This is why a headline is bigger then the message.  Your headline grabs your readers attention.  Then your next element is slightly smaller to let them know what the next step is.  You can also help make these distinctions by consistently using different colored text throughout your document.

7.  White Space is Your Friend

White space are those graphically and textually blank places on your page, although they are not necessarily truly white.  The use of white space allows your readers to have a place to rest their eyes and avoid over design.  Having said that let me say this:  I think when dealing with teen viewers you can get away with less white space then you can with an adult audience.  Teens spend a lot of time engaging with visual media and are used to video games, graphic novels, and highly stylized magazines.  It took a while for white space and I to be friends, but I have learned to appreciate its value.

8.  Borders are Also Your Friend

At the end of your piece, a border helps wrap it up in a clean bow.  It presents a clean edge that again helps define your space and helps direct your viewers attention.  That sad, sometimes it looks cool to break the border.

9.  Verb Up Your Image

When writing your text, you should put a strong emphasis on verbs.  In fact, I previously wrote a blog post about this.  The bottom line is your viewer wants to know what is in it for them and you can make that message clear by starting your text with a verb.  As they read it there is an unspoken “You” or “You will” that begins the message:  Create exciting pieces of jewelry, Travel through the library after hours and see if you can survive.  It’s attention grabbing, exciting, and makes the reader put themselves into the action.

10.  If it Works for the Piece, Break the Rules

These are basic tips that I have learned over the years and generally apply to the pieces I create, but at some time or another I have broken them all with success.  If it works, do it.

Don’t forget to proofread!

Some Graphic Design Resources

Desktop Publishing 12 Most Common Mistakes
Graphic Design Blender