10 March 2013

designing a book layout / part one

lets start at the very beginning. a screenshot of InDesign, my favorite software for designing books!

this is the part i love about book building. did you know i design books? i rarely mention it (read more about it and the books i've designed right here.)! but that is what i do, or did, before baby number two came along. so here i go. i am starting another big project. i thought i may as well try to capture up some of the process of designing a book right here on my blog while i'm doing it.

here is a screen shot of my current design work. i'm currently playing around with fonts and page design. it looks so simple, yet so much has already begun in this process of designing a book. the beginning is like making a birth plan. you can't begin to birth a baby before having some sort of plan (of course this is not the best metaphor. as most of us mamas know that those birth plans go right out the window by the first contraction. hello surprise c-section!! hello doctor i've never met before! hello baby with red hair!! hello post-baby recovery no one tells you about!!) okay, so by comparison, books do come out a bit more smoothly than screaming red faced babes. but still, it's a big deal and you've got to be prepared for the unknown. here are my tips (and thoughts in general) about building a book.

this is one of my favorite things to do (and a big part of my freelance work as a designer) which is why i want to document it in the blog!

designing a book. / my thoughts.

1. gathering gems. after obtaining all the materials, photographs and text from the client or writer, we discuss their hopes and dreams for their book. usually these books are life histories, which means this book is their legacy that will hold true long after they are gone. (no pressure, right!?) i scan all of their precious papers and photographs (editing out the not-so-great to really spotlight the amazing images is hard for the client to do with so much sentimental value tied into them. it's helpful for an outsider like me to take a look at the images and quickly realize which ones best pack a pow and belong on the page!).

i've held marriage certificates that have traveled across seas in leather trunks and have been folded so tightly they almost crack as i scan them. these clients have a great deal of trust in me and i hold their items with care! i love seeing love letters and saved children's art! of course, scanning a giant pile of documents isn't always fun; it's tedious work. however this part is essential for ME to do (and not be handed off to my imaginary intern) because it is how i come to know (and usually fall in love) with the subjects of these books (my dad, Dee Halverson, is a historian and is typically the author of the books i layout). i thoroughly enjoy browsing old photographs, vintage yearbooks and incredibly dated wedding ensembles!

2. let the pieces fall into place. after i've lived with the tangible pieces of a person's history and read their story–in the text that i'll be formatting next–i start understanding their personalities, their priorities and what they take pride in. i try to see what they hold dear and what they value and what people loved about them. i want the book to 'look like' them. i want the subject's children and friends to recognize their loved one within the pages of the book. (this is no easy task!!) with the subject and his or hers loves and likes and style in mind, i try choosing fonts and design elements to coordinate. this is beyond tricky, yet it's my favorite part. deciding upon the fonts, the spacing, the size and format, the overall look and theme of the pages, picking icons and headings, etc. i start mixing all the right ones in and letting the wrong ones go. it is not unlike ingredients all lined up on a kitchen counter. and then i begin. dabbing a bit here and there and sometimes starting all over (like throwing out salty cookie dough) if it just feels wrong. i maybe shouldn't admit this too freely, but i'll let you in on a little secret. i go by my gut in most of my work. it has to feel right. it has to feel right. it has to feel right. after plenty of practice, trusting my gut has become so much easier.

3. it's not over 'til it's over. this tip should come at the end of the process, but i had to put it out there first and foremost. it's one of the main lessons i've learned. over the ten years i've been designing books, i have come to know that it ain't over til it's printed, bound and in your hands. just because you've finished the designs, created a nearly perfect pdf. and sent it to the printer... does not mean you are off the hook! you are likely not finished! don't breathe a sigh of relief yet! hold your breath until that babe (book) is born!

if you don't take it nice and slow, rookie mistakes can be made! there may be unlinked images (oh no!), a font that hasn't been outlined or a page turned upside down during the printing process! just wait and wait and be patient. and do your best to cross your t's and dot your i's.

wow. i had no idea i had so much to say on the subject. do you have questions? is this completely random? my designing notes, to be continued.


Anonymous said...

I love everything about this. I love your attention to detail, your need to "know" the person to better create a book. I love that your dad loves history and that you can work together to create lasting mementos for others. I just love it all.

apple slice said...

i love this post. i love books and it encourages me to do things that are meaningful and beautiful. well done!! as always. all the best.

adw said...

Hip! Hip! Hooray! for the imminent completion of this project! Thanks for making it real, Marta!

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