December 28th, 2012 04:14pm
I must say, the experience of viewing and reading The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design leaves me with the uneasy sense that I possessed the capability, after all, to do a whole lot more with my work life. Not that I, in any way, cannot appreciate all of the graphic design work in the Archive. Nor do I mean that just anyone can create such graphic art. Rather the whole package breathes such creativity, I wish I had tried harder earlier. But I digress.
* * *
I came home to find a box, fourteen, maybe sixteen, inches high; a bit more than ten inches wide and eight or so inches deep. It weighed what seemed like fifteen or so pounds. I opened the box, removed some styrofoam packing on top and pulled another box out of the shipping box. I pulled it out by a felt-like, cloth handle that snapped around two loops of an intricate harness. It still felt heavy, substantial. The weight was not packing material.
I unsnapped the handle, took it off, and put it aside. I pulled back the cover and, on the inside of that cover found a sticker with three paragraphs of introduction. The first thing you see in the front of the box is a booklet measuring about 93/8″ × 121/4″. It is only forty pages long, but is stitched rather than stapled. Inside the front cover are Acknowledgements, the roster of authors, a Table of Contents, a Foreword, multiple listings of each piece of art on the 500 cards, an Index, and Picture credits. On the back cover is all the information one would find on the copyright page of a book.
Behind the booklet were divider cards, fifteen of them.
The first one was a dark kind of olive green. From the second divider on, the green got progressively lighter. The last one was much lighter, almost, but not quite white. At the top of the cards, on one side, were letters, for filing the pieces in alphabetical order. Some of the cards had more than a single letter on them. On the other side was a single category per card:
• Book Cover
• Film Graphics
• Information Design
• Magazine and Newspaper
• Magazine Cover
• Packaging Graphics
• Record and CD Cover
The cards that each piece of graphic art has been printed on arrive packed in chronological order. But since each piece carries an ID number, title, designer’s name, year done, client name, and category, there are a host of ways to divide the pieces. The methods that the divider cards encourage are alphabetically by title or designer, or by category. I went with the latter, dropping each card behind the appropriate category as I read.
The breakdown of pieces into each category was not even. I suppose this holds no surprise, as an even breakdown would make one wonder whether some pieces were not included simply to keep the categories even. But perhaps the actual numbers held a little surprise. They ran like this: Advertising, 24; Book, 81; Book Cover, 9; Film Graphics, 5; Identity, 21; Information Design, 25; Logo, 44; Magazine and Newspaper, 77; Magazine Cover, 20; Money, 3; Packaging Graphics, 5; Poster, 116; Record and CD Cover, 6; Symbol, 7; Typeface, 57.
* * *
The individual cards themselves are put together in an interesting, attractive, and occasionally puzzling manner. God help me if I am wrong, but it appeared to me on first blush—and I admit to not double-checking to make sure, but instead deciding to live with my eye, whether or not it is an accurate one for type—that the card text is set in Helvetica in two 23p8 or 9 justified columns. Now, you would not ordinarily think almost 24 picas is too narrow a column for justified text. But, oddly, there is a little bit of inconsistency with the typography. In most every card the wordspacing is fine; every once in a while, however, it is surprisingly wide. I can only imagine that in a project this size, different people were responsible for the typesetting. I bring this up only because it surprised me, given that this whole project is about design and, at least partly, how things look.
But that is just the back of the cards. The card fronts are filled with wonderful shots of the graphics themselves. Large creative pictures, often photographs, always from eye-catching angles or in powerful silhouettes, fill the fronts of the cards.
In a nutshell, the graphics are inspiring. Whether or not I “liked” each and every one, they caught my eye and I can see where this will be an indispensable aid to me in my book design practice when I am stuck or need a jolt toward a design choice on a project.
The beauty of these cards is in how they bring together aesthetics and a sense of history about what was done by whom, when and in what cultural context. They admirably represent a cross-section of the fairly known design universe along with more obscure work that will both surprise and delight the student, the seasoned design professional, and the casual viewer of art. This boxed set is worth the price of admission.
* * *
In future pieces I plan to discuss the individual categories and some of the works themselves. I look forward to discussion with those who have viewed and read through the collection, as well as to any questions raised by those thinking of getting the set.
November 30th, 2012 11:16pm
What a book!
From the first page, Erik Spiekermann’s Foreword, The Anatomy of Type spoke to me. Mr. Spiekermann made it clear that this book is for both type geeks and for those who are more focused on the use of type for particular reasons. In fact, he could have been speaking of me, way back in 1989, discovering Avant Garde, one of the resident family of fonts on my first Macintosh, a IIx, when he wrote,
We like best what we see most. … Gimmicks don’t work, as they wear off quickly, and basing a whole alphabet on one idea also doesn’t fly. This is painfully apparent, for example, in a page set in Avant Garde Gothic, whose geometric shapes separate characters from each other rather than combine them into words.
Would that I had known that way back when. But Avant Garde was one of my two favorite types at the start, the other being Palatino. I liked what I saw most, all right.
And Mr. Coles’ book would have gone a long way for me as a textbook and gotten me up to snuff far more quickly than the roundabout trial-and-error fashion in which I wound up learning the things I know now about using type. In little more than a dozen pages, from his Introduction through half-page representations of the various type classifications, Mr. Coles’ creates a foundation for those learning to begin accumulating real type smarts.
And then the fun begins.
Some of the “Good for” comments, particularly about text faces I have used in books, made me smile at first blush, amused. Upon reflection I got more the sense that saying something in a witty manner does not mean the speaker is making light of his subject.
The front cover is a wonder, packing a great deal of information into both its text and the labeled graphic. It pretty neatly displays all the book is about, providing a one-line descriptor after the subtitle, “Examining Shoulders, Spines, and Tails in Detail.”
And really, what more could one ask for in a book for type students and typophiles? I know I discovered a few types that knocked some of my favorites off their pedestals, some that I have added to my list of “text faces I intend to use when the right book arrives,” and one or two sans serifs that I put on a very short list—to this point it had only had Optima on it—of sans serifs I would like to use for body text in a book.
Mr. Coles has written and presents quite a thoughtful collection of insights on typefaces, illustrated by the types themselves and, ultimately, I only wish he had included more, simply because I did not want the book to end so quickly.
November 1st, 2012 06:19pm
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 06:22pm
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.
October 9th, 2012 10:29pm
That is the question.
I mean, not from me. But it is the one I hear more and more from authors.
While you might think that’s a sign that self-publishing is still seen as the ugly stepsister of book publishing, I am here to tell you it is nothing of the sort.
More and more people are not merely considering, but actually taking, the self-publishing route. I really believe that, in large part, self-publishing has lost the stigma of “vanity publishing.” In my experience, this is so much so that, over the last three or so years, aside from the rare academic press book, I have worked exclusively for self-publishing authors.
To a person these self-publishers understood they had chosen to go into business as publishers. And that is the first thing such authors need to grasp. After that, they make the leap to realizing they have gone into business as publishers, and as businesspeople need to put operating capital into their publishing companies. If an author understands that this need exists, I think he or she may be in very good shape to succeed as a publisher. Then comes the difference between publishing and self-publishing.
The principal reason an author self-publishes may be a determinant in whether or not the choice is well-made. I do not necessarily hold out a great deal of hope for success when the self-publishing author tells me their prime motivator is to not share the proceeds from their book sales. Likewise complaints that traditional publishers did not appreciate their work leave me cold.
Give me the author who believes in the book he or she has written and wants control over choosing an editor, designer, and proofreader in order to continue the care they took in writing it. This is the author, the self-publisher, who will appreciate the need to invest not just time but capital in their work. This is an author who ought to self-publish.
September 8th, 2012 11:02pm
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 09:23pm
- 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 06:20pm
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 10:21pm
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.
June 24th, 2012 09:54am
Sad to say, I found out that TSTC Publishing has been shut down by the administration of Texas Sate Technical College. Not surprisingly, according to an article in the Waco Tribune, this is about cost cutting in a time of economic stress.
Unfortunately, casualties of the cost cutting are the benefits of bringing more economically priced textbooks to students and the real-world publishing experience interns from TSTC and Baylor University received.
My heart goes out to all the good folks there, although Mark Long and Sheila Boggess are really the two people I’ve had any regular contact with. I hope they both go on to the bigger and better things of their choosing. More problematic is the loss to countless interns, or would-be interns, who will miss out on training that could lead to a leg up in a still disjointed job-seeking environment.
They all deserve better. It really is too bad the administrator who ultimately made this decision missed what TSTC Publishing added to TSTC and the value it provided Texas taxpayers.