Posts filed under 'book design'
May 16th, 2013
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.
February 10th, 2013
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.
January 28th, 2013
I am always tempted to see the printed book as having begun with Gutenberg, movable type, and the Bible.
But, of course, the truth is somewhat different. And The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design shows that first book, Buljo Jikji Simche Yojeol, “a collection of essential Zen Buddhist texts” published in South Korea about 80 years before Gutenberg’s Bible.
Without a formal design education, I studied and trained on my own, learning about book design initially as a proofreader, copy editor, and, eventually, just looking at books and then making them. The books in Phaidon’s collection form a great foundation, starting as they do with the first pieces above and including some great examples of books that push the boundaries of book design.
The Bauhaus, Swiss, and Russian influences are, I think, the ones that I find most affecting. Not that I want to make books just like those, but they are the ones that seem so different from what I learned a book to be from my childhood on up to the days I began designing books.
So much typography and book design are displayed in the pieces that are part of the Book section! They provide a virtual survey of book design, and one that it sounds like Phaidon will add to over time. What I can imagine using this particular section of The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design for is to jump start one’s vision for book creation. The idea, of course, is not to steal whole designs, but to use these pieces to stimulate new designs of one’s own.
I recommend the Archive to students and practicing book designers.
November 1st, 2012
I cannot remember exactly when or where I first heard about Red Jumper Studio’s Book Creator for iPad; but it couldn’t be more than a couple of weeks ago and somewhere online. It sounded like a great entry point for me to again try to get stoked about making ebooks, an app for repurposing print files for e-versions.
I have to admit there were some immediate red flags, even while reading about the iPad app. For one thing, even Red Jumper Studio suggests it’s probably best-suited for children’s picture books. It sounds like long docs were not their prime intention. Then, too, text will not flow from page to page or—I guess with ebooks it may be more accurate to say—from screen to screen. And Book Creator’s choice of typefaces is currently limited to fonts native to the iPad.
On the other hand, Book Creator for iPad is made for fixed layout ebooks.
You may all assume this last point won me over to at least explore what Book Creator offers, how it works, and what its end-product looks like.
So with all this in mind, I dug out a copy of Adrienne Ehlert Bashista’s Mishka: An Adoption Tale (Pittsboro, NC: DRT Press, 2007). With really pleasing illustrations by Miranda R. Mueller, this is one of the books I am most proud to be associated with.
If text would flow from page to page until it was all out there, I think that would have been fine. I would have found a new body text face/display face combination to suit this new version of the book. But having both factors forced on me by the program got me to thinking. Since I had to run illustrations on very nearly every page and JPEG files were best suited to this, that would mean downsampling artfiles to screen resolution and resaving as JPEGs.
The method I arrived at was one that could easily be brought into Action/Batch routines in Photoshop for quick, repeated steps for each piece of art. Seeing, however, that there were relatively few pages—compared to something other than a picture storybook for children—I wanted to do them manually, one at a time, to see how each illustration looked before placing them. I decided then to keep the body text and, essentially, make each page—including the text—an illustration. This allowed me to keep the original typefaces as part of those illustrations.
Here is the process I used:
- Open the PDF of all the interior pages of the book in Adobe Acrobat Pro—I currently work in version 10.1.4.
- Create a new folder and name it for the new ebook’s art.
- Select Tools => Pages => Extract and choose Extract Pages As Separate Files. Make sure to choose the new folder to save the Extracted Pages into.
- Open the first extracted PDF file in Photoshop as a Photoshop PDF.
- Select Image => Mode => RGB … if Mode is not already RGB.
- Resample at screen resolution by selecting Image => Image Size … and entering 72 for Resolution.
- Select File => Save As. For Format, choose JPEG and leave all other specs as is. Click Save. Enter 12 for Quality. Click OK.
And that was the process. Easy to see how this can be turned into an Action and then applied to the whole folder of individual PDFs in a Batch operation.
After repeating until each individual PDF was a 72 dpi JPEG, I did the same for the front cover.
Then it was simply a matter of placing all of these JPEGs, beginning with the front cover on the first page, the Cover, in Book Creator for iPad’s landscape layout. The JPEGs had to be sized, of course, to fill out the page; but, essentially, that was it. After placing all 33 PDFs, the ebook—technically an iBook, though not one created with Apple’s proprietary iBooks Author—was complete, as the sample pages below demonstrate.
Now these are just the first few pages of my “test ebook” of Mishka: An Adoption tale. My understanding is that, technically, this is actually a variant of an iBook, although it was not created with Apple’s own iBook Author app. But by opening in still another piece of free software, Adobe’s Digital Editions, it’s possible to view as an ebook on something other than an iPad. And it can be opened in atill another free app, Sigal, and saved in the .mobi format for viewing on the Kindle.
My next thought is to try repurposing a general non-fiction book, something much larger than a 32-page children’s storybook and loaded with text, an adult’s book.
October 27th, 2012
It isn’t all making books and finding paying book-making projects. I really do find myself with an insatiable need to expand on the skills I already have, as well as a need to learn new skills. So as we wind down preparing for the approaching hurricane—preparations which I hope wind up much ado about not so much—I am also thinking about what work I can take with me should we evacuate to a local hotel.
Falling back to a method of organizing my thinking about work that has served me well in the past, I wrote a to-do list:
- blog piece on my Continuing Education
- read The Lost Sigil Ebook Editor Manual
- read Designing for Magazines
- read Magazine Design That Works
- repurpose Burleson Century as an ebook in Book Creator for iPad
- make an epub and then MOBI file of item 5 for Kindle consumption
- blog piece on the repurposing of Mishka as an ebook in Book Creator for iPad
The first item is self-explanatory, so I won’t belabor the point by discussing it … except to say that, about now at 6:55 PM EDT on Saturday, October 27 I am cautiously optimistic—call it a “hunch”—that the storm will somehow not be as bad as the potential thy are predicting. But I am also superstitious enough to worry about being cocky and daring a comeuppance that involves a really horrible weather experience.
Finding the manual I would most like for learning the ins and outs of Sigil—“a WYSIWYG ebook editor,” according to Google—required a stretch. I really wanted a printed book or a PDF that I could print. I suppose I have no complaints about reading it in the Kindle app on either my iPad or my MacBook Pro when al I am doing is reading. But once I get to working and I want it opened to refer to, that means viewing it on the laptop and working on the iPad. Or vice versa. Anyway, I still like print books, even though there’s no quibbling over the appropriateness of a book about making ebooks being an ebook.
The two books on magazine design have been beckoning for awhile. For years I have ignored magazine design in favor of books because so much of magazines are simply advertising … even articles. And years ago, the only in-house design and layout work I ever did was on display ads for a supermarket paper, leaving a bad taste about ad work.
Once I have some sense of what to do with Sigil and how to do it, I plan to plunge in with a project, making an ebook in Red Jumper Studio’s Book Creator for iPad out of the files for the print edition of Burleson Century, a book for which I created the cover and interior design and layout earlier this year.
Lastly, another blog piece, this one about the iPad ebook I already created from the children’s book Mishka: An Adoption Tale, for which I did cover and interior design and layout a few years ago.
If we’re hotel-captive a couple of days, this all this will certainly keep me busy learning some new stuff. If the electricity stays on.
September 8th, 2012
One of the problems for me with many of the forums that self-publishers frequent is that many threads end up discussing rates—that is, how to get one’s book edited, designed, typeset, and marketed for the cheapest possible outlay of cash. Recently, though, a really interesting conversation took place about book covers. Specifically, the issue arose whether an author’s name should be large, larger than the book’s title, and under what circumstances.
The consensus, with which I instinctively agree, is that it is appropriate to sell a book by pumping up the author’s name on the cover when that author is a “name,” a big-time author with a following. Stephen King’s legions of fans only need to see his name to buy without thinking.
I am not faulting readers for their faith in Mr. King. Nor am I suggesting that publishers or designers misplay their cover strategy by not going the same rate for books by authors not nearly as well known or, indeed, unknowns. But I got to wondering whether featuring an unknown’s name large on the cover might not send a message like: You may not have heard of this author, but he or she is not to be missed.
What do you think?
August 1st, 2012
- Print or ebooks?
- Does the new wave begin and end with self-publishing or is POD the final destination?
- Is interior page design really of little concern to many self-publishers and is it because self-publishers are focused mainly on ebooks, which they consider merely containers for their words?
- What new typefaces do you like for body text; and are any of them open-source or public domain?
- What new books about book design have you added to your reference library?
July 8th, 2012
Without revisiting the reasons why it’s a good idea for a self-publisher to engage a book designer, let’s just move forward and assume that decision has been made. So what, then, are some of the things to look for when you’re deciding on a book designer?
I maintain that the most important thing for a self-publisher to seek in a book designer is the clear signal that the two of you can communicate smoothly. It’s important to be enough on the same wavelength that the designer understands what it is you’re saying you want in your book’s design and layout.
Parenthetically, it’s likewise important to the designer for there to be a good, straight line of communication, To start with, it helps him or her in deciding whether or not the client and material are a good fit with the designer’s skill set, way of working, and temperament.
I’ve only turned down two book projects for reasons other than price. Both times it had to do with what the books were about: the first explored violence as a tactic to get one’s way and the second was pornography. The fact that, in both instances, I was able to discuss clearly with these potential clients what their books were about and what they were looking for me to do helped cut to the chase. I cut to the chase before any serious amount of time was invested.
The prime way I get out my take on book design and and how I approach each book design and layout project is by blogging. I blog right here, as well as by guesting on the blogs of others. So I have a really good feel for the benefits of blogging. I highly recommend it for designers; and I especially recommend that potential buyers of book design services look for blogs by book designers and explore them.
Once you speak with a designer and read what he or she has written about designing books, you should be in a position to understand how that designer uses typefaces, white space, test area proportions, and all the other tools and smarts the book designer can use to make your book special.
July 2nd, 2012
In no particular order …
- To make sure you use proper ellipses … with space around them
- To guard against widows and orphans (If you don’t know, please look it up before you self publish your first book.)
- To see to it that only a single wordspace follows the end of a sentence
- To prevent stacks of more than two hyphens or the same word at the end of a line
- To give a page of type proper leading and margins, so the white space makes reading comfortable, and the wordspacing is never wide enough to drive a truck through
- To choose typefaces that somehow “go with” the text
- To prevent the running of leader dots from the end of chapter titles to page numbers in Tables of Contents
- To make sure the book looks typeset—no extra lines of white space—rather than typewritten
And these are just a few of the things I’ll do to make sure your book doesn’t look like an amateur hour production.
March 4th, 2012
A few weeks ago I was asked by a reader of this blog to write some about the differences between logo design and book design. Never having designed a logo, I thought I might not be the best person to offer an opinion. Thinking longer on it, however, I figured at least a few of my observations might make some sense.
Truth is, logos simply never have been my thing. I started with résumés, product literature, and some local supermarket paper display ads. But pretty quickly I got into books and that was all she wrote. So to speak.
The thing I know about logos are that they are usually meant to last a good, long while. Once the identity of a business is established, the owner pretty much wants that identity to take hold and even become ubiquitous if possible. So the process takes longer. It starts with more research and back-and-forth between client and designer. It is very important that they get straight between them exactly the image the client seeks to project. And that requires a pretty good understanding of what the entity does, makes, or sells.
Designing a book, on the other hand, is more of a hit-and-run kind of activity. And one with a more concrete, or at least quicker, deadline. The designer is presented with a book and is faced with the task of setting up how the content of that book can best be given to readers. The image is temporary in a way that a logo isn’t in that once the book has been read, an individual reader is usually done with the book. Additionally, the story is with the reader while the book is being read, but pretty much goes away after the reading is done, except to the extent that the reader is left with a lasting feeling. A logo continues to exist for a going business unless and until it is changed or redesigned.
The only time I can see a single book’s design being more than this “hit-and-run” deal is when the book is part of a series. Then continuity would matter.
What do you think?