Graphic Design Basics for Librarians (Plus Free Assets!)

Graphic Design Elements

Image isn’t mine, but I’m having a hard time pinning down the original source. Help me out.

Paper pieces like flyers, handouts, brochures – these seem to be my bread and butter for building buzz about the library. I also don’t have the luxury of Photoshop. GIMP is great, but I’ll admit I have a more familiar relationship with Publisher. (Publisher can still make good design pieces, I think. Just takes some fenangling.)

Graphic design is such a big part of my duties that I wish I would  have had a better formal grounding in it. In lieu of that, here’s some great places to learn and get assets for your design.

Tutorials and Guidelines

Graphic Design for Teen Librarians (or Any Other Non-Designer)

A great primer from Teen Librarian Toolbox about basic design for library marketing pieces. It’s a great place to start, especially if you’re in teen services.

Canva Design School

Canva is a free-to-use (pay-to-publish) graphic design tool, which can be useful in a pinch. What’s cooler is the “design school” they offer – covering fonts, colors, etc, and it’s all free with a free account.

Infographics Lib Guide

This guide from UPenn was designed for a workshop on creating infographics, which is a great skill, especially in advocacy. Beyond that, the graphic design resources gathered here are clear, to the point, and free. Well worth exploration.

Practical Graphic Design for Libraries

Created by the people at Influx (think DC Public Library and Sari Feldman’s campaign site), this presentation slideshow has lots of examples. Remember that it was designed to be paired with an oral presentation, because sometimes explanations feel sparse. Still the images tell a great story and present amazing examples of various principles of graphic design in library settings. There’s a call to perform a signage audit in your own library. Try it! Graphic Design Basics

I’ll admit that I love me some It’s not always the best designed (ironic, yes?), but they usually pull together some great explanations and resources. There may be more here than you want to glance through in one sitting.

Free and Legal Images, Fonts and Other Assets

78 Free Sources of Images for Your Library just put this up this week, and it’s a great resource for finding legal image sources in the post-Microsoft clipart age.

CC Search

This is my favorite starting point for legal images, music, videos and more. Created by the people who brought us Creative Commons licenses, this tool is a one-stop-shop for finding CC images. Various online services have CC searches built in, and this tool is an access point to quite a few of them (Google Images, YouTube, SoundCloud, and Flickr being my favorites). Word to the wise: Be smart about using this – just because one poster says an image is CC doesn’t mean they are the owner of the image. Use this as a starting point, then do your due diligence.

I discovered this site a decade ago and haven’t looked back. The forums are great for helping you identify fonts, there are tons of free fonts available to use both personally and professionally, and it’s all free. If your current font selection just isn’t doing it for you, take a look through these.

Creative Market Free Goods

Creative Market is like Etsy for graphic design assets. In a really excellent service, a handful of top-quality assets are offered for free every week. Go there regularly to get new stuff. Be aware that a lot of the files are designed for Adobe Creative Cloud products. If you don’t have that suite, keep an eye out for non-vector images and fonts.

MediaLoot Freebies

In the same boat as Creative Market, this site boasts a slightly larger collection of free stuff. As with lots of graphic design sites, a noted preference toward Adobe.

Smashing Magazine Freebies

This magazine is a go-to for great graphic design information, and they offer lots of free stuff. I’ve gotten previous WordPress themes from here, as well as fonts and icons. Lots of good blog posts about design, including web design and graphic design, here.


I just discovered this one, but I’ll be checking it regularly. Lots of free icons, mock ups, backgrounds, UI kits and more.


I Love Typography is a giant, beautiful love letter to typography as an art. Lots of history, insight into how fonts are designed and notes on why we choose to use them. You can get lost here.

I hope that these help get you started with graphic design, another one of those “other duties as assigned” that sneak up on us. Let me know if you have a favorite resource that I missed in the comments.