We’re delighted to welcome Melissa Morrone back to the site to share an update on the multifunctional community Info Commons at Brooklyn Public Library.  Read on to learn more about their DIY Design Assistance drop-in workshops, run by a dedicated volunteer. And don’t miss the other exciting posts in our series on BPL’s Info Commons! ~Erinn

screen-shot-2013-01-15-at-4.20.47-pmby Melissa Morrone

Never having been able to draw well, I’m always in awe of people who can translate an image in their mind onto the page. Like many people, I’m not inclined to engage in explicitly aesthetic projects, but often design is a necessary component of other activities. For example, I might need to make a flier for an event I’m helping put on. Or—as happened just the other week—I might want to create a map of a country indicating only the destinations of a recent group trip I was on. And where could I turn for help in accomplishing this task? I went to DIY Design Assistance.

DIY Design Assistance is one of the new programs that we’ve been conducting in the Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons at Brooklyn Public Library (BPL). It’s a weekly drop-in workshop where people can ask questions about Photoshop, Illustrator, and other design programs. Brooklyn is home to a much-vaunted “creative community”—a concept I find a bit simplistic, though it’s true that there are thriving local industries related to art and design. The Info Commons makes available computer workstations with professional-grade software for people who are freelance designers or want to build their skills for a possible career in arts and technology. But, as with my own example, many of us need to be “designers” at one point or another in everyday life. The Info Commons offers software that we hadn’t prior to the opening of this space in our Central Library, and we want to give the public—regardless of their experience level—a chance to effectively make use of it.

The Info Commons offers software that we hadn’t prior to the opening of this space in our Central Library, and we want to give the public—regardless of their experience level—a chance to effectively make use of it.

Sina Zekavat is a Brooklynite with a degree in Architecture and Urban Studies and has been leading DIY Design Assistance since June of this year. In addition to this program, we’ve hosted workshops in Adobe Illustrator. First with the Adobe Illustrator Learning Circle, Jeff Lima, a social sciences librarian at BPL who had some familiarity with Illustrator, brought together people who wanted to learn more about the software in a group setting. After spending more time using it himself, he recast the program as an actual class in Illustrator.

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Sina Zekavat, a Brooklynite with a degree in Architecture and Urban Studies, has been leading DIY Design Assistance since June of this year

I posed some questions to Sina and Jeff about how the public makes use of design resources at the library. Sina said, “The range of people attending the DIY Design class has been noticeably diverse! People with very different backgrounds, professions, ages, and interests have been attending the class. And the activities have been very diverse. There’s been many community as well as personal projects ranging from church publications to community mural projects, self published comic books and house renovation projects!” Sina also pointed out that most people he sees rely on the Info Commons computers in order to access the design software. (Of course, free and open source versions of the proprietary Adobe programs, such as GIMP—which is also on our public computers—and Scribus, are available for those with their own computers to download and use at home.)

The range of people attending the DIY Design class has been noticeably diverse! People with very different backgrounds, professions, ages, and interests have been attending the class. ~Sina Zekavat, DIY Design Assistance leader

I asked Sina and Jeff what participants were especially excited to learn about. Sina answered, “In general, students have been curious to learn about the variety of contexts and projects that creativity software products can be applied to. One of the specific things that most students have been excited to learn about is techniques and methods of mixing handmade art works with digital representation tools, which result in very unique and personal outcomes.” During one DIY Design session I dropped into, there was a man with a cartoon-style drawing of a woman he had done on paper, scanned, and then opened in Photoshop. He wanted to clean up the edges and transform it into a sharp digital image.]

According to Jeff, Adobe Illustrator class attendees “were most excited about using the 3-D tools and the tools for choosing color harmonies. People like the 3-D effects because, with a few keystrokes and a little drawing, Adobe Illustrator does the heavy lifting and creates interesting vase-like shapes. As for the color harmonies, the students were pleasantly surprised that Adobe Illustrator not only gives them the tools for drawing, it gives you tools for artistic choices as well.”

We always want to encourage peer-led learning in the Info Commons, in addition to more traditional classroom-style formats for classes. Sina concluded, “DIY Design class has been an experimental attempt in sharing design skills with people who might not necessarily be interested or have the time to learn these skills initially. In multiple instances, students have been helping each other out by sharing their skills. Individual projects have been shared and discussed within the group and this has led to very interesting open conversations and learning processes that I have equally benefited from.”

 

Want more?

Get in touch with the Info Commons folks here: infocommons@brooklynpubliclibrary.org, and be sure to follow @bpl_infocommons on Twitter!

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