Pictograms to the rescue: a behind-the-scenes look at promoting the Library

By: Malika Tamim*

When I started working in the Communications Office at the Library this summer, I was quite excited to hear that I would be working on the marketing campaign for this year’s Library orientation but I didn’t know what to expect at all. I was pumped up and looking forward to this new experience. The Library’s Communication Officer, Merika Ramundo kept telling me from my first day of work to look out for “ideas” for the library orientation campaign. I did some research online and thought about how companies market things to me on social media but I didn’t really know what to look for when it came to our Library here at McGill. I got a chance to look at old marketing materials and the picture became a little clearer but I still wasn’t sure where this was all going.

It was during the first of four orientation brainstorming meetings that I got a taste of what this campaign and the process behind it was really going to be about. The group was made up of Library staff, librarians and me. The discussion began with some questions. What does the Library do? Who do we serve? Why should people care? Why is what we do important? What is our message? How did we want to convey our message? Should the tone be funny, serious, academic or friendly or a little bit of everything? How would we present our message? Should we tell people about the Library’s services and resources by outlining key information or should we use an eye-catching image and a tagline to grab students’ attention? The one thing we did know for sure was that we needed to fill one side of an 8 x 5.5 inch post card with a message and the other side would feature our map with a listing of all the branches. After careful consideration of all opinions and looking at everything that had been done in the past, it was unanimously decided that the goal was to create something different that would grab people’s attention. We would include the Library’s orientation webpage to drive people to our website for more information.

By the very first meeting, the idea of making four different postcards for the Library’s four main themes (space, collections, access and people) was already on the table and being discussed. By the second meeting it was settled. I had finally started to understand the approach that was being taken to create these postcards and was able to bring in some of my opinions to the table. The group tossed around several ideas. From using old photos from McGill Archives to creating minimalist posters, every idea was explored and investigated. Again unanimously, the group agreed that the best approach for this year was to use simple, fun pictograms to relay the message. Pictograms would be easy to create and we could also use different pieces from the pictograms to promote different things over the school year. We decided to add a tagline and incorporate the McGill “red” and famous martlet to help give it the McGill touch.

Brainstorming "space" whiteboard design

Brainstorming idea for “space”. Design concept: Greg Houston

This was the most interesting and challenging stage of the whole process. How do we depict the four library services as pictograms in the most interesting way possible? Several pictogram ideas and taglines were considered and fiddled with. The conference room white board was the canvas for our collective imagination.  Thoughts and designs were being bounced around and I loved every moment of it. At one point during the fourth and final meeting, there were so many great pictogram ideas on the table that it was too difficult to choose just one. It was at this point that I realized how working together can create something amazing and how fulfilling it felt to be a part of such a project.

All four postcards for the Library 2014 marketing campaign

“Access”, “Collections”, “People”, and “Space” orientation map cards, 2014. Design: Greg Houston

When all the four design ideas were finally confirmed, it was up to Greg Houston, Digitization Administrator at the Library to create mock ups of the designs. With everyone off on holiday the next few weeks, it took about three weeks for the mock ups to be done. It was worth the wait though.  The mockups had the exact impact that we had aimed for. It was then time to get final go-ahead from senior administrators. To our utmost delight, everyone loved all of the designs and the taglines. The library orientation campaign was about to become a big success and all that was left was for the printing orders to come through.

Now that the actual physical postcards are all stacked up in the shelf ready to be distributed to the incoming students, I cannot express how content I am with the postcards themselves and the opportunity to work on such a grand project this summer. My only hope is that the pictogram postcards amuse the upcoming students as much as they did me and be the beginning of a great school year at McGill.

*Malika Tamim is a Work Study Project Assistant at the McGill Library.

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