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What not to do

23 Jul

So far I’ve really only talked about books that have design features I like, so I think it’s about time that I look at a book that does some things that are not so hot. As Margaret Cochrane pointed out when she came to talk to our class, it’s sometimes from seeing how not to do things that you learn what does work.

Which brings me to this gem, brought along to class by Frith. Pretty much everything about the way that this book is designed and set-out is off (in my opinion).

Let me start with the cover and back cover: too many images, placed willy-nilly and interspersed with text that’s weirdly spaced and formatted (I can’t figure out what the logic is behind the caps and the italics here!). The all-over effect is such that you can’t pay any attention to the text or to the pictures, so it’s really self-defeating.

Then the contents page: the image in the background is pretty but it completely drowns out the text which is in a font that’s too light to be clearly read. Also, this is an excellent example of why I’m generally not a fan of centre-alingned contents pages: the lines end up looking really ragged and I think it’s difficult to for your eye to make it to the end of one line without getting snagged on the one above or below. Finally, I don’t know what is going on with the page numbers here but that’s more of an editorial than a design issue.

The glossary is typeset in a way that makes it completely impenetrable. It just looks like a great big intimidating block of text with no indication where to start to look for the  entry you need. It’s almost impossible to differentiate terms from definitions and there’s no space around the text to give it room to breathe.

I don’t particularly like the imprints page centred either, and I’m not sure why it’s put in italics (there’s no need to differentiate imprint text because it’s obvious that it’s an imprint – usually a smaller font size is enough) or why it’s at the end of the book (imprints are usually on one of the first few verso pages, I thought).

This brings me finally to the internal layout. Again, not sure what the logic is behind italicisation and capitalisation in the headings or in the body copy. Far from emphasising the meaning of the text, I think the formatting here distracts from it because it’s jilting to read. There doesn’t seem to be any structure behind how images are placed or how the margins are used and I think the effect is to make the pages seem very cluttered and unfriendly to read.

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