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

BOOK DESIGN with FRAMES

I recently finished designing How Tall is the Easter Bunny?, a humorous book for parents about the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, & Santa Claus.

Book CoverFrom the back cover:
This is not your typical parenting book.
“How Tall Is the Easter Bunny?” takes you on a humorous romp through 51 questions that as an adult, you would never think to ask. The authors posed them to parents like you, and came up with some unexpected results:
“The Tooth Fairy sells teeth to dentists, pirates and witch doctors.”
“Santa’s favorite food is beer and enchiladas.”

Hilarious responses such as these, along with “tips from the pros” and actual bitter-sweet personal stories make this truly a one-of-a-kind humor book you won’t want to put down.

The authors Dan & Danielle Morton did research, surveys, and interviews to hundreds of parents to get all sorts of answers to their questions, and I wanted to reflect that in the book.

HIERARCHY

The book has a number of elements interacting in the page, making the separation of elements into different categories important for finding the right style & font:

  • section number & title
  • chapter number & title
  • main text
  • quotes within text
  • charts
  • lists
  • humor illustrations
  • vector illustrations*
  • tips from the pros throughout the text
  • real stories section at the end of each chapter
  • pullquotes

* I suggested to add the vector illustrations later to break the monotony of the grayscale illustrations and text.

Book layout -elements
When working on layout we want to find a harmonious relation between the different elements interacting in a double page: fonts in the different parts of the text, the blocks of text with the images, and these elements with the space that contains it. At the same time we try for it not to be monotonous or boring, but neither noisy. Contrast is the key, and finding the right contrast between the elements is what will make it easier or harder on the eye.

STYLE

The humorous nature of the book made me think of comics and the way each scene in a comic is presented as a frame. Then I started to think of each question (i.e., chapter) as a scene. I tried a few hand-drawn frames but that didn’t work since the beginnings and ends started to bump into each other. Finally, I decided to keep the comic concept but use it in a more simple way: to “frame” the pages.

For the front matter & section dividers I used a thick frame, while in the interior pages the frame was a hairline:

Table of Content

TYPOGRAPHY

I wanted a strong face for the headers, and after trying many geometric possibilities I found Zuzana Licko’s Modula, which different weights & variants made the elements have their own style while maintaining the same style. For the text I used the neo-grotesque Whitney in lightweight.

typography

GRID

For a book with so many elements, the grid is essential: it will define the width of the elements and help distribute the space within the page, which allows the elements to flow in a systematic manner.

Book Layout- Grid

By |August 18th, 2009|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , , |6 Comments

BOOK LAYOUT with WHITE SPACE

Awakening Possibility is a book I designed a few months ago. The author described it as a ‘self-help book (workbook) on career and life planning‘, and the manuscript was about 66-page Word doc and I was asked to make it in about a 150-page book.
After reading the book I realized that it had a lot of ‘visualizing work’, so I thought that having a book with lots of white space fit the purpose of making it to the page count and also went very well to the content by leaving open space as a means for thinking and reflecting.

ELEMENTS OF THE BOOK

Being a workbook, there was not only text but many other elements to design: workbook pages to be completed by the reader, along with diagrams, charts, exercises, etc. Below a little look at the original manuscript. (Several of the textual elements in the manuscript that were converted graphically can be seen in the last two images of this post.)
Manuscript pages

GRID

I proposed a 2 column layout: a wide one for the text and a thin one for full width to be used with the elements mentioned before. Two thin blocks to the sides were used on the right for chapter title and on the left for folios (book title, page number & author).

Grid for 2 column book layout

TEXT ON THE PAGE

The column width is about 70 characters, and the text block is justified to add to the overall ‘clean feel’.

Text on the page

The main typeface was Filosofia by Zuzana Licko: Filosofia Roman 10/15 for the text (yes, generous leading) and Filosofia Unicase for the chapters. Looking for a typeface to combine with Filosofia, I found that ITC Conduit could work, designed by Mark van Bronkhorst. ITC Conduit is the opposite of the contemporary-modern roman Filosofia and with a wide range of variants for all the elements required (headings, diagrams, etc).

Typesetting

FORMATTING THE TEXT

Some of the elements were interesting to reformat, like this list that got formatted as a tag cloud:

List into Tag Cloud

I also added some ornaments to complement a few pages, which relate to the content (Escher’s drawings). Here are some double pages of the final design:

double page layout

double page layout

double page layout

By |March 11th, 2009|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , , |7 Comments

TYPE & LAYOUT for THE IMPERFECT ENJOYMENT

A couple weeks ago we received the copy of a book I’ve designed: The Imperfect Enjoyment by Dewan Gibson.

In an earlier post I mentioned using the font Brothers for the cover. So when working on the layout, the idea was (& always is) to relate the layout with the cover to unify the book.

Book Cover & Layout

Having the Brothers font on the cover, I thought that I would like to find a good text font to go with it: something masculine, geometric, but at the same time highly readable. (Remember that usability always must be in mind when designing a book: the book is meant to be read!)
The chapter headings and small ornaments were also set in Brothers, and for the main text, the choice was Melior by Hermann Zapf. After trying some other fonts, Melior fit the bill: the geometric rectangle based font went perfectly with Brothers.

Typesetting

For the front matter I started to incorporate Melior, always combined with Brothers Bold & Regular. (In the image is the horizontal design for the TOC & Dedication page.)

Table of Contents & Dedication page

BTW, The Imperfect Enjoyment has its own website, which I found very amusing… featuring Barack Obama!

Book Website

By |March 2nd, 2009|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , , |2 Comments

e-book DESIGN (some Q & A)

We’vet just finished the e-book guide 4 Perfect Days in Buenos Aires. It was a process full of questioning many things that are, should or could be different from printed books. (Another post will address why PDF and not some other format for this e-book.)
Here I’ll share some of the topics that we came across while working:

ORIENTATION: portrait or landscape?

By thinking that we are designing a ‘book’ the impulse is always to go with a known book format (portrait), but since the screen is landscape, it’d be useful to follow that format if the e-book is intended to be read on screen.
However, when we read a print book we are always looking at a landscape format from the moment we open the book: the double page. So finally, I decided to go landscape, but as double page to keep the book familiarity and avoid the feel of a PowerPoint presentation.

Should we use COLOR or B&W?

Should we do it full color? We can! So why not?

A full color e-book can be done for the same price and will be more attractive since it’s full of graphics… ok, let’s think about the audience: what if the people want to actually print it and take it with them? Remember this is a tourist guide!
WHAT TO DO? We decided to work on 2 versions: a screen version with images & full color for people to enjoy, read and look at while planning the trip; and a print version that is B&W with a simpler layout. So by printing 11 letter-size pages of the print version then the reader can have the complete text to go.
Here an example of the screen version and the print version:

One complicated part we encountered was a double page with an architectural walking tour that included buildings photos: in this case we just left the map in the print version with references (so people could find the buidings) without images and included the text of that section:

To keep the feel of the book, the print version has the same text orientation (landscape), so by slightly modifying the original grid it was ready:

TYPOGRAPHY: screen font or book font?

I wanted a font family that could be used for the whole project, including the print version. The Rotis family was the choice because of the maximum readability and many options to combine the different levels of hierarchies of headings and text. The main text is set in Rotis Sans Serif and the headings are Rotis Serif & Rotis Semi Serif.

With or without LINKS?

I find it useful when a multi-page document (e-book in this case) has anchors from the Table of Contents linking to the corresponding pages in the e-book. Also since this is an e-book all Web sites mentioned in the e-book are actual links embedded in the document.

COVER

To be consistent with the landscape look of the whole project, the cover was done in the same style, so when opening the document all the pages are the same size, including the cover.

By |February 23rd, 2009|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , , |3 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

The future of book design

Book design will diverge down several paths and has a surprisingly healthy future.

1) E-books based on a reflow format (i.e., suitable for small devices) will be based on common style sheets and exhibit a fairly uniform appearance. There will be a set of small (in size) firms that customize and refine these style sheets. Publishers will mostly outsource the format conversion since the ever changing variety of devices requires continual reformating of material. There will be some firms that profit very well from providing this service.

2) E-books based on PDFs also will be very popular due to the variety of light-weight computing devices with large screens. (The whole PDF vs reflow format for e-books is misleading unless one assumes that small, palm-sized devices will completely replace all other forms of desktop, notebook, and tablet-sized computers.)

3) Some material traditionally only published in book format will shift to Web delivery and “book” design for this genre actually is Web design. Many challenges for publishers in this segment who have not yet figured out how to monetize Web sites. (If publishers have not figured that out in the last 15 years, will the next 15 years be much different?) Many opportunities for new publishing firms to emerge to fill the gap for producing and monetizing engaging content using digital media. Many opportunities for designers since elegant Web design is neither simple nor cheap.

4) Print-on-demand establishes a significant market operating in bookstores, libraries, big-box retail outlets, and direct shipping to consumers. All those books still need designing and the PDF byproduct can feed directly into pathway #2 above as well as #1 with conversion services offered in pathway #1.

5) Print book designers will still flourish as some publishers will realize that a niche audience is willing to pay a premium for a wonderfully designed book, heralding a surprising renaissance in book design. Also, print book designers can design PDF-based e-books with no problem since PDF is usually a byproduct in the print book design process.

By |December 22nd, 2008|Categories: 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

COMPLEX BOOK LAYOUT as a TRANSLATION

The layout of a book determines how information will be received and perceived by the readers and how user-friendly it is. In some cases it is necessary to interpret the information from the manuscript, and translate it into a graphic language so that the reader will get the message the way that the author intends to present it.
I always thought that this is a very interesting process so I put together an example of a book that we’ve worked on earlier this year.

STAGE 1 | identifying what needs graphic translation

Working on the book design of Stand Taller Live Longer by Dr. Steven Weiniger, we found that at the end of each chapter he had a little section with his 7 week Exercise Program and the idea was that the readers will start doing the exercises and progress along with the reading. The program was presented as lines of text, telling the reader which exercises to do, which order to follow and how many of them. The problem was that it didn’t look different than any other part of the text, so the reader wouldn’t realize that they were in front of The Excercise Program, and just read it as another line of text. It needed something to invite the reader to move out of the chair and get onto the exercise ball.

STAGE 2 | understanding the meaning

After talking with Dr.Steven, he came with this idea of a full page at the end of each chapter: Balance, Alignment & Motion with images of the exercises and page reference, and pyramids.

STAGE 3 | The BAM pages

We went from there and came up with the BAM pages that could be pulled out from the book and had a progressive set of exercises using the pyramid as a metaphor for building a Strong Base = a Strong Posture.

Each week would incorporate new exercises, which would be highlighted; while the repetitions from the week before would get a 50% transparency, serving as a remainder.

*The beautiful ornament bird on the side of this post is from the free font Medieval Dingbats by Lord Kyl

By |September 2nd, 2008|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , , |3 Comments

BOOK DESIGN in an E-BOOK WORLD

I’m convinced that e-books eventually will replace printed books as the world’s primary reading material.

And before you say it: just because you don’t want to cuddle up in bed with an e-book, don’t assume, don’t assert, that others share that attitude.

Wide acceptance of e-books largely depends upon functional reading devices but limited distribution of printed books is an even larger issue. Sure, print-on-demand offers a solution but what happens when the quality of e-books are better and more affordable and more accessible than books printed on demand?

I already live in a part of the world where 95% of the English-languages books I want to read are not easily available. That scenario, the lack of printed reading material, really adjusts your perspective about e-books. (Meanwhile, fortunately, I am surrounded by a wealth of Spanish-language books). But I still feel the necessity of an e-book reader. Unfortunately, international shipping to Argentina is not reliable and there’s a huge import tax on electronics. So, my e-book reader will have to wait until some future visit to North America.

What is the future of book design in an e-book world? Very healthy.

Book design, layout, and typography will continue to play the same role in producing e-books as in printed books. Indeed, one could argue that readability may be an even more important factor with e-books. New possibilities with layout and presentation also may be presented through e-book readers. Of course, there will be limitations and some books just will not be as presentable through e-book readers as in their printed counterparts. Essentially, book designers already produce every printed book as an e-book anyway. In all cases, the final production files delivered to the printer are digital files and almost always in PDF. So, there is still plenty need for book designers in an e-book world.

What about book cover design? Very healthy.

The cover image will continue to play an important marketing role in helping people select which e-books to read. Just as with printed books, e-books need some way of standing out in the crowd.

And what about printed books in an e-book world?

People will still want to buy books, but my thinking is that people will be more interested in spending money on specialized books, books not available digitally, books that offer an experience, books that involve a high degree of design.

So, we may be book designers but that doesn’t mean we’re traditionalists. Of course, in a sense, book design is not so much about the book but about the ways that text and images are conveyed to the reader.

By |January 17th, 2008|Categories: Book Design, e-book design, publishing|Tags: , , , |2 Comments