04 July 2013

2013 American Library Association PR Xchange Award Winning Marketing Design

Front and back views of winning entry for Materials Promoting Collections.

In June my work for the Alachua County Library District was named as a recipient of one of the American Library Association's PR Xchange Best of Show awards in the category of Bibliographies / Booklists / Materials Promoting Collections $6M - $19,999,999.  

Formerly called the “Swap & Shop," the PR Xchange Best of Show competition is specifically for public relations/marketing materials designed to promote libraries. Chaired by the Library Leadership & Management Association (LLAMA), a division of the ALA, entries are evaluated based on content, originality, and design by a team of experts in public relations, graphic design, communications, and marketing who then select the winner(s) in each category. This year, nearly 250 entries in print and electronic formats were submitted from over 90 institutions including public, academic, school, state, and special libraries. All winning entries were on display at the ALA conference in Chicago from 23-27 June. 

Surprisingly, I never even knew this event was part of the annual American Library Association (ALA) conference until January of this year when I happened across news of it while searching for something else online. The deadline for entering was only a few weeks away, so I hurried to gather up a selection of materials then narrow them down to submit them one-entry-to-a-category as required by the rules. 

While I'm pleased to receive a Best of Show acknowledgment for my library marketing design work, I have to say that I would have much rather been recognized for any of the other entries I considered far more important and vital to my library's effort to promote itself. Projects such as the new welcome brochure which went through a tremendous amount of concept rethinking, rewriting, branding design integration, paper selection, and printing process coordination; or, the "I Am The Library" employee recruitment campaign which was developed and distributed in multiple formats, including print, online, and even television broadcast commercials; or THINK... the quarterly newsletter that transformed from an unsophisticated and poorly uncoordinated jumble of cheezy dated clip art and uninspiring photography with unappealing colour text boxes that contained every typeface known to man set in mis-matched sizes from story-to-story…to become a well thought-out and focused publication executed with some sense of design integrity and sophistication. 

In comparison, my bookmark that won in its category was the least important item I entered. In fact, it was the very last item I selected from among a collection of other bookmarks in the same Book Talk: Book Discussion series. The strength of the bookmark design I entered was carried forward by a prominently placed book cover with a powerful illustration on the front panel, then on the flip side was sprinkled with a few smaller book covers and their associated single-sentence book descriptions. Compared to my other more labor intensive entries, there was barely any design effort placed on my pre-formatted brochure that won in its category

All that being said, there were definitely many fine examples of marketing design in the PR Xchange Best of Show, clearly deserving accolades of their own. When the award recipients were announced, I was happy read which libraries won in their respective categories. I was even more happy to see what the winning entries looked like after organizers posted images of them into photo albums onFlickr.com at www.flickr.com/photos/97060948@N06/sets/. Being able to see what won in previous years will help practitioners of marketing design to appreciate what had been submitted in the past and also to see where the bar of visual standards are when considering to submit future entries.

I hope that the Florida Library Association (FLA) where my library is located will take careful note of the diverse range of visual marketing tools used to promote libraries and move to add these categories into their own annual awards competition. At the moment the FLA only recognizes website design as the sole manner for promoting libraries. So if you're a web designer, good for you! You have a chance to be recognized. But if you promote your library through any manner of print, you'd out of luck because, after all, who would put an ad in the paper or magazine, or design a brochure, or a flyer, or a poster, or a banner, or a handbill, or an event invitation, or a program, or a newsletter, or a logo, or a display, or a building signage system, or a vehicle wrap, or an integrated branding campaign?

Read about the Best of Show at PR Xchange and link to the entry form where categories are listed:

See links for complete list of 2013 PR Xchange Best of Show Winners as well as a link showing the winning entries on Flickr:

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