(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

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

LAYOUT of a POETRY BOOK for CHILDREN

Working with self-publishers & small presses is a wonderful thing: they are dedicated to each project & open to new ideas. The work turns into a very collaborative process and I can offer new approaches to the book design.

This is a project we’re about to finish for a new customer, a small publisher: a poetry book for children.

Poems are very delicate creatures, and normally I wouldn’t dare manipulate the layout of poetry. However, the client specifically requested a book designer’s approach for the typography and layout.

By reading the poems I realized that each one had its own individual identity within the whole group of poems. I thought it would be interesting to bring out the story of each poem by using the typography to reinforce that unique character or situation.

I envisioned a book that the reader would find engaging & attractive to the eye. So, I mixed text and illustration by allowing the lettering to form parts of the illustration.
poems-layout1

TARGET AUDIENCE & FONT SIZE:

One of the reasons I started looking for alternatives to the more traditional approach was that the publisher wanted her target audience to be children from 6 to 12 years old. Six-year-olds need bigger font than 12-year-olds. Using different font sizes throughout the book opens the book to a broader audience, whereas setting all the text in one size would target a more specific age group.

poems-layout2

B&W

Since the book will be printed in black ink only, a few pages with black background sprinkled throughout the book is a good option for breaking the black on white (caution! you need to discuss this option with your printer).

poems-layout3

By |October 12th, 2009|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , , , |8 Comments

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

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