(I exchange) BOOK DESIGN for CONSCIOUSNESS

Can one say that designing a book can change your life?

Certainly.

We often hear that books change people’s lives. I myself have been shaped by the books I’ve read over the years. But that was reading. This time I had the experience of designing the book that would change my life.

Toward the end of last year we received a 4-page manuscript by an author bearing the improbable name, “Calvin Luther Martin.”

Reading the manuscript was not like reading 4 pages of a magazine, or 4 pages of Nietzsche. It was like entering a forest inside oneself to ask, “Who are we?”  Then opening the mind to discover the answer.

The text blew me away. Rich in imagery. The potential was enormous.

 

Color proof

Let me add a footnote, here. Most authors & editors would find it hard to let go of a manuscript and give the designer this flexibility: it changes the book’s shape into a new one, it requires trust. Of course the work is a collaboration. Finding the right image and the right letter size for each word requires flexibility from both parties. Understanding that the voice is the manuscript’s and not anyone else’s is the first rule.


Cutting the text

I was given absolute freedom to design this book and cut the text into the appropriate pages and even paragraphs. After reading the manuscript a few times, the cuts became obvious. The breaks needed to occur every time I had to stop, breathe, reflect, think.

We didn’t have a page count at the beginning of the project (since it depended on where the text was going to be cut). Finally, it came out to a 72 page book printed in 120grm neo matte, full color — quite a beauty!

Text cutting

Layout style

The layout style required breathing space, allowing the mind to wander, reinforcing the line of text with images while not overwhelming the reader. A discourse where white space, letters and images play a part on each page to tell a story. Images can be used as words—and letters can be used as images—to deliver the message to the reader.

Sample double page

Images

The book ended up with about 40 images—photos & illustrations that range from the photograph of a sheet of paper to a painting of “The Wing of a Roller” by Albrecht Dúrer, to Jesus on the cross. Whatever conveyed the message, whatever propelled the mind in the right direction was used.

Sample double page

Images page

Typography

After designing a few pages, I realized we would be changing sizes, spacing, and using the letters as images. For this task I wanted a classic roman family, with clear letterforms, without much contrast between the thin & thick parts, not distracting from the words—or the images formed by the words. From a shortlist of transitional families, I decided to go with ITC New Baskerville.

Typography

Book Cover

Early in the process we agreed on the “missing ‘I’” for the title. Only later, after absorbing the book, does the reader discover the ‘I’  on the back cover, illustrated by the images of the book, just as letters were illustrated in illuminated manuscripts. For, like those, this book is illuminating.

Book cover

Website

Uncluttered, with plenty of white space. The website keeps the essence of the book. A place not only to click to buy the book but to go back after reading it.

The Great Forgetting website

By |September 23rd, 2010|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , , , |6 Comments

BOOK COVER + LAYOUT + BOOK WEBSITE = one & only message for a book

One of my favorite projects of the past year was designing the book Tomorrow May Be Too Late by Thomas Marino. The work included the design of the book cover, page layout, and the book website.

From Rich Merrit’s review:
“Banker by day, stripper by night. Twenty-one year old Tom Marino invites you to be a voyeur on a year of his life, one of youthful exuberance and mistakes, loves and loves lost. Enjoy a sexy romp through the late eighties from Philadelphia to New York. You will cry, laugh and grow angry along with Tom as the man he loves takes advantage of him…. His honesty makes this a compelling read and perhaps you will avoid his mistakes, or if you don’t, perhaps you will have as much fun making those mistakes as he did.”

This is how I love to describe the book: Tom was married, worked in a bank & lived a straight life. When he started stripping & fell in love with a guy, it all changed. The book is a ‘naked account’ of his love story during that first year as a gay man. Oh yes, we had fun working on this book design.

AS A FIRST STEP WE LOOKED FOR THE BOOK CONCEPT:
A LOVE STORY.
This is the concept that every part of the project should carry along.

THE BOOK COVER

I consider memoirs delicate works by definition, so it needed to be treated carefully and at the same time it had to be true to the content, including many stripping nights & hot scenes.  After reading the book and discussing the cover concept with the author we decided to go with a hot-love cover. The challenge was to keep it masculine, because that is also true to the story. Helvetica Neue Caps with strong weight variations was a big part of the answer.

Book Cover Design for Tomorrow May Be Too Late

THE PAGE LAYOUT

For the layout, I gave it good margins for holding the book (ideally, the reader’s thumb will fit in the interior margin to hold the book in your hands) and also for resting the eyes. (The book is about 380 pages). For the text:  Caxton Light, a very readable font that allows the text block to breathe in a normal line-height due to its small ascenders & descenders.
Page Layout

The Helvetica Neue in different weights (from the cover) worked well for the headings and Table of Contents.

Table of Contents

MISC

Using the story told in the book as a theme, I’ve done a set of broken-heart-icons to use in different pieces (back cover, chapter numbers, website & more).
Broken Heart -icon set

THE WEBSITE

The Web site for Tomorrow May Be Too Late has grown quite a bit from the initial idea: we started with a basic book Web site (cover, blurb, reviews, about the author and about the book).

Later we added new features:

  • We integrated an author blog to the Web site.
  • Shopping cart -very important if you are self-publishing!
  • The time frame of the book (’80s) was used to create a soundtrack page with the music mentioned in the book.

Book Website

By |January 8th, 2010|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , , |3 Comments

A BOOK COVER DESIGNER at Work

The primary tool of a book cover designer is Adobe Illustrator, but sometimes the design for a book starts best by hand.

Book Cover Design

Notice the yerba mate to the left (in the top image), just above the jar of ink and plumin: a telltale sign of the Argentine book cover designer at work.

A future post will show the full color concept that arose from this preliminary book cover design.

By |December 28th, 2009|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , |Comments Off on A BOOK COVER DESIGNER at Work

My Book Design Process(ed)

or ‘Letter from a book designer to a writer’ (particularly to those writing non-fiction that integrates text, tables, graphics, & other elements).

We believe that a book’s design should reflect the author’s voice as well as the concept that the author wants to transmit. Cover art & page layout are all parts of the message that the book is attempting to communicate. A book’s design presents the way through which the reader interacts with the text. Done wrong, a book’s design (or lack of design) can turn an engaging text into a boring and monotonous read. Of course, on the other extreme, poorly conceived page layout composition results in a book design that intrudes on the reader’s enjoyment.

As a boutique book design studio we craft each book carefully, dedicating the time that each book needs without rushing into random ideas.

We usually design the cover first since that’s the first contact the potential reader has with the book. Once we have designed the style for the cover, then we start on the interior page layout. In the page composition we purposefully incorporate some elements from the cover design so that the overall result is a book with cover and interior that presents a unified style, making the book a stronger and unique presentation.

When working on page layout, we seek to find a harmonious relationship between the fonts in the different parts of the text. Also, an integral part of book layout is balancing the text with the surrounding white space. We actually think of the white space as containing the text. Certainly, a simpler approach is just to dump the text into a template. But that method doesn’t work well for a non-fiction book that utilizes many elements, e.g., images, tables.

Most importantly we strive to work with the publisher (or author in case of self-publishers) to transmit the spirit of that particular book as a one & only piece that will provide an engaging experience for the reader.

This doesn’t mean that the process is long, sometimes is only a few weeks. We just think this is a good direction and it works for us and our clients.

By |September 26th, 2009|Categories: Book Design, page layout|Tags: , , , |5 Comments

AWAKENING POSSIBILITY · BOOK COVER

Last week’s post was dedicated to the book layout of the book Awakening Possibility. Well… here one on the cover.

This project was quite complicated, and changed concept a few times. And since I started working on the cover long before the layout, as the layout progressed I had to work back and forth on the cover as I wanted cover and layout to be consistent.
To transmit the idea of workbook and implying interaction I used some of the elements from the interior of the book like the dashed lines, Escher drawings, etc.

Book Cover for Awakening Possibility

And here some of the earlier drafts (even one with a change in the title!):

Book Cover -alternatives

By |March 18th, 2009|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , |8 Comments

THE DESIGN PROCESS for a BOOK / Part II

This is the second part of a multi-part post describing the design process of the cover, layout, & website for the book A Worthy Legacy by author Tomi Akinyanmi. You can read the Part I here.

PART II: The Final Cover


The first round of the cover concepts were focused on the uniqueness of the yoruba origins of the author and her grandfather, the focus of the legacy.

For the second round we looked for a more ‘universal’ approach on the topic of the book’s theme “learnings of life”, which would allow more people to relate to it. This was a better approach from a marketing perspective and also conveyed the message that the author was transmitting in a better way since the book is about people and life regardless which culture they are from:

The dark background immediately stood out from the rest. And though we loved the title set in the calligraphic font Affair, we later changed it to Bentley & MrsEaves for improved readability:

Here is the final cover:

When we finished the cover, we sent it over to the talented team of COS Productions to produce the book trailer. I was thrilled to see how the video captured the essence of the book:

Coming soon | Part III: Book Jacket & Interior Pages

By |February 18th, 2009|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , , , , |5 Comments

FINAL COVER for THE IMPERFECT ENJOYMENT

After very few changes we arrived to the final design for the full cover!

*The ornament on the side of this post is from the font Zapf Dingbats designed in 1977 by Hermann Zapf.

By |October 8th, 2008|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , , |3 Comments

THE (im)PERFECT ENJOYMENT of BOOK DESIGN

AS A BOOK DESIGNER, I BELIEVE I HAVE THE BEST JOB ON EARTH. I love books. I enjoy reading. I love the feeling of the images coming out of my mind while reading a book that I will design. I love the process of the words entering the thought stream, turning on the machine and getting the book translated into images, colors, letterforms.

A few weeks ago we got the manuscript to design the book cover & page layout of The Imperfect Enjoyment: A Bachelor’s Memoir by Dewan W. Gibson. That title lends itself to so many design possibilities.

I printed the manuscript and after non-stop reading & laughing for hours at Dewan’s adventures, I came up with a cover. I actually came up with several more but in the end Dewan chose that first one. Here you see the cover and the spine:

The design of the book cover

The thought that led to the cover was ‘what is an imperfection?‘: maybe something that looks perfect but it is not. At a glance, getting “I’m perfect” instead of “imperfect” is itself an imperfection.

The idea of something sexual behind the title relates to the book and is kind of like a ‘peep show’ as a metaphor for the memoir: the people by reading it are ‘peeping’ into the author’s life.

Last but not least, the typography: I chose Emigre’s Brothers because it has that reminiscence of typical college fonts (where a lot of the action takes place in the book) but it is quite more daring & works great to give that feel of excess that I was looking for.

*The word-logo on the side of this post is from the font Brothers Word Logos by Emigre

By |September 30th, 2008|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , , , |11 Comments

BOOK COVER DESIGN: FEARLESS DECISION

We are working on the cover for FEARLESS BEAUTY -a spiritual path to the true you – by author Kenetia Paige. Having narrowed down to 4 covers, now is time to decide.

Which one would you choose?


& here my fave, wich is out of the race…

> so, what’s next? after choosing a mock-up, we will keep working on it to get to the final cover.
That is, to produce some variations on the same cover until all the elements work -usually some title variants, colors, positioning, even the image may change, we may add or take some element.
And then, the details -image retouch, transparencies, shadows, borders, etc.-
Spine & back are always in mind, but graphically may step in at different times during the process, sometimes earlier, sometimes later.

*The crown ornament on the side of this post is from the free font Crowns & Coronets by Emerald City Fontwerks

By |September 17th, 2008|Categories: Book Design, e-book design|Tags: , , |8 Comments

THE DESIGN PROCESS for a BOOK & more

I find the design process really interesting, maybe more than the finished work.
Why? (just my point of view) Because during that collaborative process between designer & (ideally) author is where the visual personality of the book will be defined.

PART I: The Book Cover


We get the manuscript for the design of the book cover, layout & website for A Worthy Legacy by author Tomi Akinyanmi.

A Worthy Legacy is a story about life and the passing of wisdom from one generation to the next. The author combines the last wise words of her beloved grandfather together, along with a few of her own thoughts to create a compelling story about real life.

Read the manuscript

From just a glance, the overall feel of the book should come out.

Then look for the voice: my starting point for every book is the belief that authors write books because they have something to say. By reading a manuscript, I need to find what it is that they had to say, who says it, how it is said, & from which point of view.

Sooner or later (usually very soon) some details are revealed, and often I find in those little details the key to the cover.

Reading A Worthy Legacy I learned that the author, originally from Nigeria now living in the U.S., tells many insights about the Yoruba Tribe, which totally fascinated me… & gave the book the ‘unique’ factor.
So from the reading I jump to images: search for the graphic elements – images, textures, color palette, etc – that relate to the book:

From there I get the first round of covers to send to the author, and since the first cover was my favorite, I’ve done also an option in a lighter color. Maybe I was trying to persuade? 🙂

Part II: The author’s feedback & second round of covers.

*The miscellanea on the side of this post is from the font Wingdings2 designed in 1992 by Bigelow & Holmes for Microsoft.

By |September 10th, 2008|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , , , |4 Comments