August 5th, 2013 09:37pm
- Using one of the typefaces that come resident on most every computer … like Times New Roman. It’s intellectually lazy to not explore what typefaces are out there for best taking an author’s words to his or her readers.
- Using type at a size that’s more conducive to squeezing more words on the printed page than making for comfortable reading.
- Margins and/or leading that is stingy, leading to less than optimal white space and too many characters per line, something that can tax readers’ eyes and their ability to stay focused on what they are reading.
- Tables of Contents for novel whose chapters do not have titles, only numbers. The word “Chapter,” a number, and then a page number are unnecessary and rather silly looking. Present such a table of contents in a two-column format (when everything else in the book, aside, perhaps for an Index, which a novel wouldn’t have, is single-column) and we have a book that, right at the start, looks ridiculous. The Table of Contents appears to be squeezed in to use the least amount of space. If it’s necessary, it deserves the proper amount of room.
- Opening paragraphs of a chapter that have the first line indented. They should be flush left and, while we’re at it, a conservative initial drop cap (or even a raised initial cap) often presents very nicely.
- Sending art embedded in Microsoft Word—or worse PowerPoint—files. And for the best chance at successful placing of photos, they should be in TIFF format, a lossless filetype (unlike JPEG, which is lossy).
Bonus Choice: Not checking spelling. You don’t have to be a design or editorial pro to get this right. And one that always stands out and drives me crazy is “loose” when an author means “lose.” If I spot one of those in a book when I’m considering it, I will set it down in a New York second.
Note: Although it is tempting to say that readers are responsible for whether they remain focused on what they are reading, those of us involved in making books—publishing companies, self-publishing authors, and book designers alike—should do all we can to help readers stay involved with the books they read.
June 8th, 2013 11:13am
One of the hazards of loving to do book design as much as I do is that I can sometimes be so eager to start a book design and layout project that ideas begin to percolate before an agreement has been reached with a client and a contract signed. This almost inevitably leads to trying out some of these ideas on the page. The obvious drawback, of course, is that I might start working and never actually win the bid and the job.
Nearly as much of a mistake is to begin work before the materials, text or illustrations, are finalized. Sometimes this is unavoidable, as when an author does not realize changes will become necessary. This occurred recently I one project where a self-publishing author quoted from a number of reference works on his subject. After the writing was completed and his book shepherd gave him the word about seeking permission for the quotes, he was shocked to see what all the permissions would cost him.
So he went about paraphrasing the quotes, referencing the source texts in his bibliography but saving the expense of obtaining permissions. He also did painstaking work to make each of the paraphrases occupy pretty much the same space as the quotes he edited out. Without his thorough attention to every word, substituting the new text for the quotes could have been a much more time-intensive task for me than it turned out to be. But I cannot underscore heavily enough the importance of making sure one’s contracts either take into account early work that ends up redone or that you restrain the urge to begin work before there is general agreement that the materials you begin working with have final approval.
May 26th, 2013 09:20pm
I go on a lot about how much I love making books. But there are not-so-happy moments, too. I’ve made enough, the past couple of days, about how badly I think of Adobe’s decision to no longer sell Creative Studio and its components (InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator being the main pieces, or at least the ones that affect me). So I’ll not bore you anymore about that.
But there is the dark magic that computers occasionally bring forth. Happened again yesterday. Or at least I heard about it yesterday. Recently I received a list of a whole batch of corrections and edits for the novel on which I’m working, the one with transliterated Lakota. I assure you I made them all before burning a CD and sending it to my client. This morning my self-publishing author emailed me to say that “[t]he first such fix right out of the box” appeared not to have been done. Now, I know I did that first one, because I had a question about it right at the start and h and I had an exchange of emails to clarify. But, sure enough, the PDF that I copied and sent to him on the CD was missing that correction.
So I went back to my latest InDesign file for the book, the one from which I distilled the PDF. Again, no first correction. But the next twenty or so were done. Then, mysteriously, the a chunk of remaining edits appeared not to be done before they were picked up again until the last one. I have no explanation as to what happened or why. It is, however, making me a little crazy trying to see what the issue is. The simplest explanation is that I sent an older PDF—or, rather, distilled a PDF from an older InDesign file. Except that does not explain why the corrections picked up again after a certain point.
Oh, the joy of freelancing!
May 24th, 2013 09:54pm
A number of years back, working in QuarkXPress 6.5, I created the cover and interior page design and laid out my first children’s book, Mishka: An Adoption Tale. In the process, of course, there were any number of back-and-forths between my client, the author-publisher, and myself. Once the final layout was approved, the PDFs would go to a printer in China.
I don’t remember at what point trouble developed, only that, at one point, the placed art—a full-color illustration on practically every page—no longer showed up in the Quark file after I placed it. Frantic, I called Quark—the company—explained my situation, and just hoped they would be of some help so I could meet the print date.
I wound up speaking to a young woman in Customer Service who apologized from the start that I was having any difficulty working with her product. This was before she even knew what the problem was. Somewhere along the way she discovered that XPress had somehow corrupted the artfiles and sent new XPress docs back to me that were clean.
She also enclosed a gift, a disk of “Extras” that normally went out with the newest version of Xpress. That would have been version 7 at the time; I was still using 6.5 and the “Extras” could not be used with that older version. So I again contacted my new friend in Customer Service and asked if, under the circumstances, she would like me to return the “Extras” disk. She said “no” and to watch my snail mail again.
A few days later I received a copy of version 7. For free. I was pretty amazed, called her, and thanked her. I still remember her answer, “That’s one of the great things about my job in Customer Service: I get to choose to do nice things like that now and again.”
Up to that point, I had been fighting the urge to switch to InDesign. I had never bought into InDy’s pre-release hype, that it would be the Quark-killer. In fact, the first version of InDesign that I worked with, 2, handled type—in my estimation—rather clumsily and I did not care for it. But I had knocked out a book on managing finances for members of the military on InDesign 2 as more of a learning project and saw its potential.
A month or two after receiving version 7, I tried to contact my friend in Customer Service to tell her how great the children’s book had turned out and to get an address to send her a copy. I found that she had left Quark (the company). At that point I decided that since Adobe always seemed to make it easier and less expensive than Quark to upgrade—I know, I know, except for the freebie—it was impossible to ignore how well Illustrator and Photoshop integrate with InDesign in Adobe’s Creative Studio. And so version 7, the gift, is the last version of QuarkXPress that I’ve installed.
I should interrupt here and veer off to say that I briefly investigated open-source possibilities TeX and LaTeX. The samples of such typesetting I saw, however, while I suppose they were technically adequate, didn’t look special. But things appear to have changed some. I’ve been looking at Scribus—essentially a flavor of TeX with a graphical interface over it—and it seems a lot more like the page layout software I’m used to. The other thing is that I seem to remember the TeX/LaTeX installations didn’t use the all the Postscript fonts I had. Now they quickly load into Scribus.
So Scribus is definitely going to get a try. And perhaps something like GIMP or GIMPshop is worth a look-see as perhaps a replacement for Photoshop. Acorn and Pixelmator, though not quite free, are other possible Photoshop replacements.
That all said, I would prefer to stick with Adobe’s InDesign and Photoshop in Creative Studio, f I could only buy the package one time and upgrade when I feel like it. I’m rather angry that Adobe is trying to hold me up, trap me into paying up in perpetuity for the rental of their software. This infuriates me no end. And I’ll look good and hard for the right combination of replacements. I fully expect to find them and switch.
May 16th, 2013 06:34pm
As much as I am having a really good time designing books for self-publishers, I hear entirely too many of them talk about needing only a cover designer and someone to format their text. It is true that ebooks don’t take as much design as print—unless they are fixed layout ebooks, any design and layout choices can be changed by the reader. (Hence my extremely mixed feeling about ebooks, despite my listing toward being something of a technology junkie.)
That said, and taking ebooks out of the equation, too many self-publishers want the benefit of cutting out a third party as publisher and at the same time want readers to pay for the privilege of owning, essentially, do-it-yourself projects done for nickels and dimes. For the life of me, I do not understand why it is so hard to understand that readers must be given something for his or her hard-earned cash that looks like a book they want to own.
That’s where professional book design enters the frame. Throwing words together artlessly, either on the page or on a screen, misses the opportunity to make a book that is an object of art befitting the writing that makes up the content of that book. And that, like it or not, suggests the writing isn’t worth the investment of time and money to make it look like an object of art.
March 25th, 2013 08:48pm
Something new is happening on this latest job. I am getting paid on a monthly basis before beginning the “meat” of the book project. In other words, like some other professionals, I am on a retainer.
This came up in a fairly uncomplicated way. The client—a small, independent publisher—made it clear from when we first spoke that, although her company is of modest means, she definitely believes in paying freelancers fairly for the work they do. So she proposed paying in monthly installments, starting when we signed our agreement to work together.
It takes a bit of getting used to, receiving checks without doing any real work yet. But it is also very nice to have a regular income. Up until the other day I had hoped the textfiles would be ready and in my possession sooner rather than later. I found out, however, that is could be September or so before editing was completed.
I was told just over the weekend that I am free to begin work with the complete, though yet-to-be-edited textfiles right now if I choose. The expectation is that any editing will not result in large additions or deletions of copy. So there should not be major shifting of text.
On the one hand, I am as leery of working with files that are not final as I have always been. Despite that, I remain eager to plunge into this one, a combination travel book/cookbook. The design was approved some time ago. It’s bright and straightforward.
I cannot wait to start. And since I already receive payment, I may take the early plunge.
March 20th, 2013 06:08pm
The next category in The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design is Identity. To the extent that a book cover, for instance, establishes identity and can be part of a larger “package” that could include ads, posters, websites, etc., I guess I understand the idea of Identity. But a true Identity element is used in those different ways: in print, packaging, video, and so on.
The Archive shows some powerful and effective pieces. They demonstrate some very well-known examples of brand in the twentieth century.
As book design is my area, this category is the first one I viewed a something of an outsider. Even film graphics were something I felt common ground with, as I once wrote film criticism for a couple of arts papers and remain a real movie buff. But from “outside” this category I still see a number of impressive examples of typography and graphics working together.
All the pieces, including ones I have not displayed here, can serve to stimulate both students and practicing graphic artists. And inspiration is almost always worth the price of admission. Even—or perhaps especially—when the identity established is a horror, there is something to be learned about how visuals can move us.
March 6th, 2013 10:44pm
Before I learned to design books, I learned to love books and movies. And film titles were actually some of the first graphics to make an impression on me. So I looked forward to the Film Graphics category from the moment I saw it named on one of the divider cards in the box in which The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design arrived.
Film graphics often find their way onto movie posters, in addition to titles and credits. And this category is about the graphics themselves. It has the smallest number of examples in the categories reviewed to this point.
While not immediately intuitive, the connection I see between film graphics and book design is along the lines of the inspiration many graphic artist get from “found type,” letterforms found out “in the wild,” in real life. The relations between type and the space around it are displayed in a number of ways under this category.
Type as graphics are particularly useful for book covers and title pages. The Archive inspires in yet another way.
February 24th, 2013 09:01pm
The size of type, of an individual letterform in a particular typeface, is measured from the top of the highest ascender to the bottom of the lowest descender. (Note: I originally had some kind of brain freeze and defined this incorrectly. But Michael Brady was kind enough to point this out to me in a LinkedIn group discussion.) But that doesn’t mean different typefaces fall the same way on a page. Some typefaces have larger x-heights (measured from baseline to the top of, say, a lowercase x. Others have longer or shorter ascenders and/or descenders. So there are definite differences in how much space characters in any particular type occupy in comparison to those same characters set in another typeface.
Leading, as indicated by the dotted horizontal lines in the example above, is measured from baseline to baseline. After type size, leading is perhaps the simplest way to exert control over the color of the page—i.e., how dense (light or dark) the page looks.
Rule of thumb says 120% of the type size is a usual leading. So if the type size is 10 point, rule of thumb calls for 12 point leading.
Too little leading—the term originates from strips of lead placed between lines of type when type was set by hand, in metal, during the pre-digital age—and the page will be crowded with type and have a dark look.
Notice how the above example appears blacker than the one above it, which looks grayish in comparison.
Too much leading, on the other hand, distracts the reader’s eye. Such text looks disjointed, and the lines no longer appear to be joined into paragraphs. The page looks lighter still than the previous lighter page.
My sense over the last few years has been to use more and more leading, pulling up way short from too much, but definitely stretching beyond 120% of type size. With the ITC New Baskerville type I’ve used for all my examples, I was able to stretch the leading to 16 point, over 131%. And yet I think it clearly is not too much.
Stretching limits, but not rupturing them, I believe, is a good way to create page designs that are attractive and original, but do not distract readers from the books they read.
February 10th, 2013 10:43pm
A book cover, while part of a book, stands quite distinctly from the interior. That is, I always say that the job of a book cover is to attract potential readers and to make a promise about what readers will find inside. With that in mind, I look at the pieces in the Book Cover category and, not having any of the books in front of me that follow the depicted covers, must look straight past that idea and focus on the covers in kind of a vacuum.
By including the first cover, an example of the Insel-Bücherei (Island Library) collection, Phaidon has done students the service of demonstrating the beauty of a firm but
Similarly (in theory, anyway), the sampling of Penguin Book covers (pre-Tschichold), while not as spectacular to look at as the Insel-Bücherei, reveal how even a simple but uniform cover layout can go a long way toward establishing a publisher’s identity.
These are brilliant building blocks of design knowledge to draw from when a designer starts a new cover design.
As with so many of the categories in this boxed—and, indeed, with so much of contemporary graphic design, the constructivist and Bauhaus influences show up repeatedly.
Then there’s this one from 1936, for the cover to an exhibition titled “Cubism and Abstract Art.”
While not strictly a book, but rather a catalogue, cover, the “Cubism and Abstract Art” piece demonstrates the beauty of art that does not require pure drawing/painting skills. I relate—hell, I rejoice—in this sentiment.
The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design again gets my enthusiastic thumbs up for its value as a foundation work in the graphic design student’s library, as well as a reference for the experienced designer.