Archive | May, 2010

The Elements of Typographic Style

30 May
Visit the unaffiliated website The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web.
Consider other interpretations of Bringhurst’s ‘bible’, such as the following by Benjamin K Koh and Kaitlyn Diduck.

Bringhurst’s book is such a bible when it comes to typography that it would be silly not to include it here, or to look at how it is designed itself. I also think it’s worth looking around at how others have interpreted The Elements of Typographic Style in their own work, placing it in different formats (like the web) and playing around with the conventions of typography like the two from designers I have included here. Looking at different interpretations encourages you to think about the rules, and to see how designers are breaking or playing with them.

But, to the details. I think the overall aesthetic of this book is very clean and simple. It definitely plays around with margins, using wider spaces on the edge of pages for extra information and justifying text along the inside closer than might usually be done.

I like the way the red font on the title page is a carry-through from the cover. As I’ve already mentioned for other entries, I really think that using one strong colour (like red) plus black and white can be really effective with little effort, and I think this is a great example. The ‘of’ in italics and slightly smaller font size (I think!) is a really nice touch too.

I like the fact that the dedication is right-justified, in italics and has large enough space between each line to make it legible and attractive on the page. The lines are broken in keeping with the content of the text, as well as how it looks which I think is well done.

It’s interesting that the imprint is done in two columns – I haven’t seen this before and, to be honest, I’m not really sure it’s necessary. I don’t think you need to do anything out of the ordinary with an imprint page as it’s only a place readers will look if they are after specific information and so they’ll be looking for it in a format and layout they’re familiar with. Kind of a case of if it’s not broken …

The chapter headings are made clear by the line rule at the top of the page and the chapter number in the outside margin. The different heading styles are pretty simple to follow and are generally only one or two variations (small caps, italics, font size, etc) away from the body text style. One thing I really like is the use of the space in the margins for extra information and for what would otherwise have been footers or headers.

The index is fairly straightfoward and user-friendly – like the imprint, I don’t think you really need to do anything besides make sure your information is clearly laid-out and accessible which it is here. Again, using the outside margins to indicate where in the index you are is a great idea (kind of like a dictionary).

The appendix exhibits all the same design aspects as the other pages: all text and headings based on the body style with minimal variations where necessary to indicate different information.

Where Your Left Hand Rests

28 May

This little book is the whole package design-wise, which makes it an absolute pleasure to read and even just to look at. For starters it’s the perfect size for a cute little poetry book: just big enough to snuggle into the palms of your hands. The cover under the dust-jacket is embossed (which I was unable to scan because it wouldn’t show up) with little floral details and is also slightly ‘puffy’ which adds to the soft and gently personality of the book in general.

The handmade, hand-stitched theme of the dust-jacket is one that is carried right through the book, from the dedications page to the chapter openings to the detailed spreads interspersed throughout. This attention to detail and to continuity of design makes this book as much of a desirable object as a desirable read, I believe.

I also think the font chosen is perfect – it’s simple and understated so that you don’t really even notice it’s there. I think the layout of the type is similar – there aren’t any fancy tricks (apart from the detailed lines above each poem’s title), just simple and easy-to-flow-with text.

My Little Golden Books

20 May

Look inside The Poky Little Puppy on Amazon.

It seems only right that I should begin my book design scrapbook with those books that very first piqued my interest in reading and, you could say, my appreciation for books in general: My Little Golden Books. Especially The Poky Little Puppy (which I now have to thank for an unhealthy infatuation with strawberry shortcake) and Scuffy the Tugboat.

The reason (aside from pure nostalgia) that I thought it worth including the My Little Golden Books in my book design scrapbook is because they are deliberately designed as a ‘collection’. There are a number of traits that makes them obviously Golden Books, the most obvious of which being the distinctive golden spines and the pattern design on the inside cover with the ‘This Little Golden Book Belongs To’ plaque. By creating a collection, the publisher (or designer) instantly creates a sense of need: a person buying the books won’t want just one, they’ll want the whole set so they can line them up on their bookshelf with all the spines together. (Or at least that’s what I know I did as a kid.)

The individual traits (the illustrations and stories) of each book are then fitted into the wider ‘frame’ of the golden book. You can see with The Poky Little Puppy that the internal design is very simple: it’s just a matter of picture up the top, words down the bottom or vice versa. In fact, I think the edition they’re printing now is exactly the same in terms of design as the one I had when I was little (at least, the typeface looks like it’s even older than I am!).

I think it is worth noting how the My Little Golden Books are designed to be a collection because similar techniques can be seen in play with what Penguin is doing with their Great Ideas Series and Popular Penguins now. I think that, in the face of new technologies, people’s ideas of why they want a book and what they want it to be are changing and book design is necessarily changing too. There is much more emphasis on making a book a commodity, and I think that’s what making it a part of a wider collection does: it makes book as an object just as, if not more, important as the book as a story. Which seems a fairly smart thing to do, given that the book as an object is one obvious characteristic an ereader won’t ever be able to replicate.

Beatrix Potter Books

20 May

As with the My Little Golden Books, these books are a throwback to my childhood. The Tale of Tom Kitten was my favourite book when I was too little to read myself (but I insisted it be read to me so often that I ended up learning it word-for-word by heart anyway) and I still have a Peter Rabbit soft toy on my bed. But that has nothing to do with their design.

I’ve included them for the same reasons (again, aside from nostalgia) as I did the My Little Golden Books. They’re all designed according to a very recognisable template: you look at the cover of one, with its quaint little illustration, times new roman-y font and abundance of white background, and you know who it’s by. You know that it’s one of the Beatrix Potter collection. Each book has its own story, but in appearance and design they are all essentially same … and they haven’t even changed much from their first editions, as you can see with The Tale of Mrs Tiggywinkle I’ve included.

One thing I particularly like about the Beatrix Potter books is their endpapers. They reinforce that collection idea by including characters from all of her books (not just the one in your hands), and they’re the same in each book. They’re very pretty and I can remember enjoying pointing out and naming each character when I used to read these books. I’m a big fan of detail and of putting extra space to good use, so I do like to see interesting endpapers.