(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

INSPIRATION vs INSPIRATION

A few days ago we got a comment that made me think about the concept of inspiration:

“I’m designing a layout for books and need lots of inspiration. It’s hard to find it in google. Any idea where a good place to start?”

THE SHORT ANSWER:
it’s in front of you, in the manuscript.

 

NOW THE LONG ONE: how to find it in the manuscript?

I would start by forgetting about looking for “inspiration” in Google or examples of other book designs.
Why? Simply because nothing you may find there will be done for that particular book. You would have not being hired if the design was out there. Neither should you wait for something magical coming from beyond. But you must work towards finding something that strikes you from the manuscript.

In first place, reading the manuscript will give you a general idea of the kind of design the book needs:

  • is it a manual? Ask yourself how could you make it clear where instructions begin and finish? Explore font weight variations or different typefaces. Think about what kind of indicators could help the users when troubleshooting.
  • is it non-fiction narrative? Help people understand the concept better with a layout that aids the reading of the text. Think of spacing, letter size, white space, clarity, etc.
  • is it a 400-page novel? Make it comfortable to read by using a typeface and layout for optimal reading. Give people space to hold the book in their hands, such as good margins to rest a thumb on the bottom of the page, and on the side to turn the page.
  • a workbook? Allow the readers to breathe between exercises. Think of white space. Help them with simple typefaces, such as sans serifs, and give readers room to think and work their way through the book.
  • an inspirational book? Inspire them with a wonderful harmony between image and text. Consider typographical images, watermarks, and beautiful capital letters.

When you have the general idea, work on each particular aspect. Here the list could be endless, for every book is unique and alive in its own right.

As designers, we must find the best graphical way to present a book for a good understanding and reading. Each book carries within it a unique space, color, and contrast that provides a rhythm. Like music. We designers also need to remember that the best book design is invisible: guiding the reader effortlessly through the book. That can only happen if the design emerges from the manuscript. No other way.

Looking at other people’s work may be inspiring. I am inspired by other designers, but also by writers, by constructors, by a perfect color palette found on a petal, by dairy workers, by calligraphers, by the sun melting the ice in the early morning. By people that love what they do. By seeing dedication. To me, inspiration is the movement that such a sight provokes the desire to improve.

What is inspiration to you?

By |June 4th, 2010|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , , |6 Comments

Working with color

Here’s a sneak peek at one of the major projects we’ve worked on during the first part of this year: The Great Forgetting by Calvin Luther Martin, published by K-Selected Books.

Book design in full color proof

We’ll be discussing this book’s design a lot more but for a look at the cover go to the publisher’s page.

By |May 18th, 2010|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , , |Comments Off on Working with color

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

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 (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