How Do We Design a Banned Books Week Campaign?

Banned Books Week

As we continue to review the questions raised by the controversy regarding the 2015 ALA Banned Books Week poster, we wanted to answer the question about how a poster campaign is selected. We welcome your feedback on this process as we make decisions on the current campaign.

Our design process is as follows:

  1. We contract with an outside design firm to produce 4 or 5 ideas. The vendors we consider are ones who employ a diverse design team, as part of our commitment to diversity within the association. We’ve learned that diverse design teams provide new perspectives on the issue of censorship.
  2. We set a meeting with OIF staff and an outside librarian to review the proposed designs. We also consult with other offices within ALA on the design. The first design concept we review is the poster. Once we reach consensus on the poster, the designers then use that image to create the additional merchandise in the campaign. The merchandise typically used in the campaign includes buttons, bookmarks, and t-shirts.
  3. New to this year is the customizable PSD file where people can use their own image rather than that of the model represented in the 2015 poster.
  4. Once the design has been finalized, we go to print and feature the products in the Spring/Summer catalog.

Like any promotional campaign, there can be unanticipated reactions. OIF is committed to listening to everyone:  the design team who created the image and message; those who object strongly to the design and those who strongly support it; ALA members and non-members who have expressed concern about our commitment to inclusion and diversity. OIF is trying to listen and acknowledge the entire conversation.


  • One thing that jumps out at me is that the review meeting includes an outside librarian, by which I assume just one was included.

    I’m glad that OIF seeks out vendors that hire broadly; a diverse design team can increase the chances that more points of view are considered in the course of generating proposals. Using such a team can presumably also increase the chances that bad ideas aren’t put forward — but I don’t think that should be the primary reason for seeking diversity in the design team. For one thing, it would be tremendously unfair to expect that members of the design team who come from marginalized groups be held responsible for any mistakes that cause offense.

    Consequently, as an ALA member I suggest that following procedural change be considered for the future: that the review meeting include more than one external librarian and that the group of external reviewers be chosen to reflect the diversity of our patrons and our profession. It may also be a good idea to rotate the membership of the external review group frequently.

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