This Project From Onion Design Was Inspired By the Humble Library Card

Posted inBranding & Identity Design

As someone who has frequented the library for most of my life, shocking as a millennial, I’m aware, I’ve come to appreciate the nuances and intricacies that libraries hold. Onion Design Associates recently created the “One-Day Pass” for the design library inside the Taiwan Design Research Institute.

The inspiration for the design of the ticket comes from handwritten library cards in a world before the digital age. The analog and personal details of a library card shared from one person to the next are nostalgic and intimate in ways only libraries and the words within can emulate. Furthermore, the cards were created collaboratively with 28 designers from the local creative world. Each designer recommended five books on creativity or design making for an interactive, realistic, beautiful interpretation of real library cards reinvented. 

We were invited to create a “One-Day Pass” for Not Just Library, a design library located inside the Taiwan Design Research Institute (TDRI). Library patrons must purchase the one-day pass in order to enter the library. The library commissions new passes annually, with different designers chosen each year. 

Our design was inspired by the handwritten library cards of days gone by, before computerized systems were in use. The original borrowing process was analog, personal, and intimate: a handwritten signature, rubber-stamped due date, and a paper pocket glued to the back of the book. 

The idea was to draw on a sense of nostalgia and the connection among readers. On the card, you could see the names of all those who had previously borrowed the same book. This aspect of the cards has even been an important plot element in several popular movies, such as the Japanese movie Love Letter and animation Whisper of the Heart. Both movies are love stories in which the characters are connected by a library card.

We extended the library-card concept into a collaborative project with 28 designers from the local creative industry, effectively creating 28 versions of the card. Each designer recommended five books on creativity or design, and their book list was printed onto one side of “their” card, along with their signature. The cards were letterpress printed for a vintage feel, with the list of books and their publication date set in typewriter font.

To add another layer of interaction, the cards were randomly inserted into paper pockets, so visitors couldn’t tell which designer’s card they were getting when purchasing the pass. To collect all the cards, you would need to go to the library repeatedly.
The project is about our collective memories of libraries, the sharing of knowledge, and inspiring others. In the age of the Internet, going to the library can still be a poetic thing.

Project Credits

Onion Design Associates