Archive for March, 2011

Win-Win …

2 comments March 21st, 2011

I thought it would be good for me to report on my involvement in the Writers for the Red Cross online auction. My item, the design and layout of a book, wound up bidding up at the top of the week’s proceeds. For that I am truly happy for the Red Cross.

As it turned out, the winner is a new small press run by someone for whom I have done book design and layout work at his “day job” at a college press.

So this resulted in a very definite win-win, as I had yet to work for him at the new outfit and he knows my work. Plus the Red Cross, at this time especially, can really use some support. They happen to be what I call a legitimate non-profit. That’s very important when it comes to performing work for free.

Spec work, crowdsourcing, and contests are—until proven otherwise to me—avenues for profit-making ventures (or those trying desperately to be such) to parasitically suck the blood from people trying very hard to keep their head above water and earn an honest day’s pay. Unlike these entities and individuals who solicit spec work and the rest.

If a person or company seeking to do business cannot or will not afford to pay for goods and services they need to conduct business, they should not be in business. Sports franchises get away with this, as any individual professional sport league in the U.S. seeks to guarantee all its teams a profit; and I have, for some time, found the practice un-American and flying in the face of our capitalist system. And I tend to like capitalism.

All the nonsense about working “for exposure” being good for novices is nonsense when it comes, again, to working for businesses seeking to turn a profit. All that is exposed is the workers desperation and refusal to value their own effort.

If one wants to work for nothing more than exposure, I always suggest finding a pro bono project from a legitimate non-profit. Which brings me back to the Red Cross and the online auction. I cannot recommend highly enough the value of this kind of working for free. In my case, adding this last in, it was a win-win-win.

Interestingly, I was contacted after the auction closed and a winner was announced, by one of the bidders who had not submitted the winning bid. She expressed an interest in contracting my services and, although we have not yet struck a deal—I believe we very possibly will—I think this proves the value of this kind of exposure, instead of working for, essentially, chiselers trying to get something for nothing at the same time they look to make a profit. So this may very well wind up a win-win-win-win sitch.

One Fix for Low Book Design Budgets

2 comments March 16th, 2011

I rail against people who want to self-publish on a dime all the time. At first you might take that for self-interest overcoming my ability to just play nice. Truth is, however, I’m in the corner of self-publishers. I want them to be taken seriously. Further truth is that many readers—certainly professional reviewers—still have reservations about self-published books. And this may directly affect book sales.

So my sense of things dictates that proper attention ought to be paid to design and production values. Templated, one-size-fits-all stylings, I am certain, do nothing to separate any book, especially self-published ones, from the pack.

I also occasionally feel it is my duty to remind self-publishers that they do not simply publish there book. The act of publishing even one book means they now exist as a publishing company. Whether they like it or not, they have chosen to establish a business. I usually go on to conclude that, to survive and, indeed, succeed, a business needs to be properly capitalized so as to afford necessary supplies and services.

That doesn’t often make a difference. Even I realize that if a person doesn’t have money, they simply cannot afford things, whether needs or not.

Well, comes along Writers for the Red Cross. And, sadly, their timing is as right as rain, what with the scary turn of events in Japan. Writers for the Red Cross is holding their online auction to raise money for possibly one of the two greatest, legitimate charitable endeavors (in my estimation). And pro bono work for them is the kind of thing I have in mind when I rant against crowdsourced and spec work.

So for those of you who want to work with a professional book designer, with whom I’ve had initial talks but proven too pricey for your budget, an item on this week’s Writers for the Red Cross online auction that may be of interest is my book interior design and layout item.

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Marginalia

Add comment March 13th, 2011

About twenty years ago, when I was finding my way around graphic design and trying to learn what my chosen area of project work would be, I started by designing and typesetting résumés. They were made up résumés for the most part, even though I used my name and the names of people I knew just to fill out the look.

But I manage to parlay this invented experience into my first real job, a product brochure for a medical lamps company. I got the project from an ad agency in my backyard on Long Island. I still remember the day I got the call from them to come in for an interview. This was pre-Internet, when I still answered newspaper ads, and with old-fashioned printed cover letters and résumés.

The call came to me at my day job, because I always gave that number for contact, so that I would not miss any calls for design work. It was deep in the winter, close to quitting time, 5 pm. I sat facing the window at my desk, trying to keep my voice low. I saw my reflection in the window, as if it were a mirror, the light inside playing on the darkness outside.

“I’m impressed with your use of negative space,” said the man on the telephone.

“Thank you,” I began, launching into an ad hoc speech on the beauty of negative, white, space in print and how nothingness made what is present more precious. And the longer I went on about this, the more I made faces at my reflection in the window, communicating a “Do you believe this?” to myself, as I dug myself in deeper. Fortunately, I had to take a breath and the man on the telephone was able to take control of the conversation again and arrange for me to come in for the interview and to take a look at the design brief.

As full of it as I was during that telephone conversation, I did learn the importance of white space. I like to think I had an instinct for the subject, and that’s why I got so enthusiastic so quickly. But the more books I’ve worked on over the years, the more importance I gave white space.

Initially the most obvious way to give or take away white space is by adjusting the margins surrounding the text area on every page. The first books I worked on, as a layout artist, had fairly equal margins. But as I began to study Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style and Jost Hochuli and Robin Kinross’s Designing books: practice and theory, I got braver and braver with my own book designs and took to applying some of their classically-inspired page proportions to my own work. And these resulted in large areas of white space on the inside and foot of pages. The better for making a note, I thought, not being one who is adverse to writing in a book.

One of the fun things about the Bringhurst and Hochuli/Kinross books is some of the “recipes” they give for page sizes and text area proportions. Many times I look at the number of words a book’s textfiles have and what my client tells me their ideal final page count is. Then I start playing with one of the recipes, often turning it around or adjusting to something that strikes me as ideal.

Although what I am going to say next has nothing to do with margins, but still with white space and readability, I think it deserves some attention.

Leading.

There … I said it.

Leading is the space between lines of type. It gets its name from the lead strips typesetters used to insert to separate those lines, and it is another big determining factor in white space and readability. One of the first things I learned about typography was that leading equals twenty percent of type’s size. For example, typically one would set 10 point type on 12 point leading (indicated by “10/12”), so that 12 point would measure from the baseline of one line of type to the line above it and the line below.

About the time I was experimenting with 10/13, I read something that said it was all the rage for designers and typesetters of long-form text to just keep pushing the envelope on leading. That may be so. I’m finishing a book that’s set 11/15 and I find, if I may say so myself, the typesetting simply elegant. And very, very readable.


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