It's been almost 8 years since I created my first digital flyer for this site. Ever since, every time I post one, I get questions about how it was created. Over the years, the tools I've used to translate the thoughts swirling around in my head into a visual have changed, but some things haven't. Since I'm not a graphic designer, and have no training in this area, I've always landed on tools that were easy to use and free (or very cheap). Everything I've learned about these tools over the years has been gleaned through trial and error. For every success I choose to share, there were many failures that preceded it. And if there's one thing I've learned, it's that it is truly amazing what we can accomplish when given the freedom to experiment and draw motivation in our own interests and determination. There's nothing quite like the desire to make a tool bend to my creative will, to help me figure out the ways to do just that!
That said, the very first digital flyer I ever made was inspired by the work of Carl Harvey. I'd read Carl's work on what administrators should expect from a 21st Century School Librarian and wanted to create a visual that built on the foundation he'd laid. Thus, my first (and by far the most popular!) digital flyer was born! Over the years, I've seen this poster hanging at countless libraries and many, many librarians (from as far away as New Zealand), have written to me to ask if they could reproduce it. But more than anything, I get asked how I created it. I always get a little chuckle out of answering this question because, believe it or not, the tool I used to create this flyer was.... wait for it.... Microsoft Word! That's right! There was a time when I was convinced there was nothing Bill Gates and I couldn't do together! All of the clipart also came from Word and if nothing else gives away its age, I can tell that this is old because it came before the Library Girl avatar was born. Instead of my cape wearing alter ego, I employed the services of a clip art cousin to Wednesday Addams to help me emphasize Carl's points! It just goes to show you that even though Word is hardly a graphic design tool, where there's a will, there's a way!
Eventually, I graduated from MS Word (sorry Bill!) to using Comic Life to create digital flyers, like this one about weeding. Over the years, I've fielded lots of questions (and a significant amount of criticism) from librarians when it comes to when/if we should discard books. I'm of the opinion that having fewer, but better, resources is always preferable to shelves brimming with out of date materials. (Not only are out of date resources detrimental to student learning, but they also give the false visual impression to folks that visit our spaces, that we've got all the materials we need!) But I've learned that not everyone agrees with me! That said, this flyer represents my attempt to clarify these thoughts. At the time, I was hooked on using Comic Life, a tool I learned about through Gwyneth Jones, to create all things visual: from flyers like this to images for presentations and everything in between. On Gwyneth's recommendation, I purchased the Comic Life software (for something like $29.99 at the time) and got every single penny's worth of use out of it. I still use when I want to make something that has a comic feel, and you really can't beat it for creating text heavy images.
These days, I use Canva almost exclusively as my creation tool of choice. Not only is Canva free, but it's just so easy to use, and oh my stars! Canva creations just look so good! Truly, you've got to work pretty hard to create something in Canva that's unattractive. I love how easy it is to create using custom dimensions, (I chose 11x17 for this flyer, so it would be easy to print), share your creations with collaborators and upload your own images to use as part of any design. (Note: on the rare occasion that I can't find an image I want in Canva's library, I either create it myself or snag it from Pixabay, which is my favorite source for CC0 images!)I also adore that products can be shared as links or downloaded as either an image file or PDF. And did I mention, it's all free? What's more, the elves working behind the scenes at Canva are super responsive on Twitter if an issue should arise. The few times I have contacted them, the response has been speedy, friendly and uber helpful. I can't say enough about Canva. I am constantly recommending it to educators to use both for themselves and with students. (Elementary school folks should be aware, however, that the terms of service require students to be at least 13). Anyway, for more information on this, my most recent flyer, head over here.
Finally, let me just say that I've never, ever endorsed a product on this blog in exchange for any kind of compensation - and I never will. All the tools I've mentioned in this post, (or in any other!) I did so because I truly love them and NOT because they've hooked me up with some swag or pennies per click. Additionally, every flyer I've ever created has been licensed using creative commons and (almost) every time someone has written to use sometimes I've posted here, I've said yes. (I draw the line at the Library Girl avatar because, well... she's me! Whenever someone writes to inquire about using the image for themselves, I always politely say no and then encourage them to create their own avatar and, finally, I point them to this post from Gwyneth Jones which lists 1001 tools to help them do just that). To that end, many of my digital creations can be found and downloaded from here, including some that I've made for #2jennsbookclub. Obviously, I share things on this site because I hope they'll be useful, but I also hope you'll consider creating things for yourself and, ultimately, you'll get students involved in that process too. Flyers, infographics and comics are fun ways to make sense out of complicated information while honing creative skills. Additionally, I encourage you to license your work and help students learn how to license theirs. The more we share, the greater our collective understanding becomes. What's more, the more times students think about how they want their own creations used in the world, the more likely they'll be to give credit to others when using theirs.