Archive for April, 2011

First Question

Add comment April 16th, 2011

Name the first aspect of designing a book that you give priority to once you accept a project and sit down to start.

For me, after almost twenty years of page design work, the process actually begins when I start to gather information for making a proposal, a bid, on a book project. I begin by gathering the kind of data that helps me picture what the book might look like in the broadest of strokes. My initial aim is to get a sense of page size and number of pages at the outset. Qualitative choices, such as typeface and other design elements can wait; at this stage, I am only thinking quantitative issues, so I can formulate a price to propose.

About now I also start my list of questions for getting a handle on just what I want to propose as a look: What kind of book is it? Do you have a “feel” that any particular typefaces might be right for this book? Who are the ideal, or natural, readers of this book (beyond the captive audience of family and friend who will feel compelled to buy a copy)?

The last question is the one that holds the most sway. Once the natural audience can be identified—engineers, 8-to-10-year olds, mystery lovers—I begin to put that information together with the kind of book and what it is generally about to decide what kind of look best brings the words to those readers, keeping in mind that readability, to borrow from an American auto-maker, is job one and not making everyone who opens the book ooh and ah about exquisite looking dingbats for section breaks or how very original the exceptionally small type size for body text is.

Four Questions for Book Designers

24 comments April 3rd, 2011

In July of 2007, I ran my little survey for the first time, getting the idea from something similar that Smashing Magazine addressed to web designers. Little did I know that I would later find value in running it annually. That is, until my website, blog, and Twitter account were hacked into and I got kind of turned around from anything that called for comments.

But it’s back, primarily because a lot has come and gone since the last time I asked these questions. I won’t give my answers yet, but some comments after each one.

  1. Name the first aspect of designing a book that you give priority to once you accept a project and sit down to start. Originally I was thinking of things like page size and proportion, font choices, and the like. These days a few other things come to mind, such as whether an ebook edition is in the cards.
  2. Has InDesign proven to be the Quark killer for you; and, if so, what was the feature that did it; or do your clients determine which software you use?Again, when I first asked this question, I was not at all pleased with the early InDesign’s handling of type. I was even defensive about the possibility that Quark’s time might be running out. Although I still continue Quark a capable tool, and I know there are plenty of Quark users still out there, I think the fight has passed. InDesign prevails … mostly. The more interesting source of competition for InDesign comes from open source software: there are a number of flavors of TeX and I wonder whether many professional book designers use any of them?
  3. What’s the first font comes to mind for body text each time you begin a book design project; and do you usually stick with that choice or say something like, “Yes, I really like that font, but it’s time to work with something else”?Nowadays, I find myself interested in how you buy your fonts. I mean, do you buy one font family at a time or do you look for collections of type? For instance, the bedrock of my typeface library has been the bundle of fonts Adobe includes with Creative Studio (and before that, Illustrator).
  4. Name one design-related book you highly recommend to book designers—please don’t suggest Tschichold’s The New Typography (Die neue Typographie), as I am just up to here with that book, as much of an earth-shaker as it was.I cannot get over how rudely I put that: up to here with Tschichold. So I will try to be clear.  I have nothing against the books below. I have always regarded them as my core references. But I’m ready to consider some new ones. Five Hundred Years of Book Design proved a little disappointing. And I have high hopes for one I just ordered, Joost Grootens’ I swear I use no art at all. Still, I would rather not hear about the following books for this little questionnaire.

    • The Elements of Typographic Style
    • On Book Design
    • Book design: practice and theory
    • The Design of Books
    • Bookdesign: A comprehensive guide

So … what do you have to say?


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