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Designing a Book Layout: The Details

Lesson 12 from: Graphic Design Fundamentals

Timothy Samara

Designing a Book Layout: The Details

Lesson 12 from: Graphic Design Fundamentals

Timothy Samara

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Lesson Info

12. Designing a Book Layout: The Details

Lesson Info

Designing a Book Layout: The Details

Q- Given all of that, while that was going on, I started looking at cover sketches and I didn't really go through that many. The photographer made a selection of five or six and I introduced titling onto all of them. The choice of typeface was really intuitive and I didn't really have to ask questions about it. I knew it wanted to be, I knew. How did you know? I knew it wanted to be a sans serif for its cleanliness, for its geometric and linear quality. I knew that I wanted a contemporary sans serif and not something that carried a time stamp, like Futura, which can appear very dated, very 1930s, 1940s, very quickly. I knew that I wanted a very geometrically-pronounced proportion to the letters, but I wanted to feel the square and the circle and the half square, which are derivative of Old Roman structure, very classical and a type design structure, in order to lend weight and to also emphasize the relationship between the text and the images. So I took some time, but maybe a couple of...

days at a maximum, looking at these configurations. And the further I went along, the more it became clear that, again, just like the interior, it was really going to be the photograph on the cover that created the experience and the type just needed to be quiet, strong but quiet, almost silent. And so, as happens in these, where the text element, because of it's asymmetrical position and the tension that it creates with certain kinds of planar edges or forms or areas of high contrast, or near edge relationships or overlaps, becomes very, very, active relative to the image. It becomes a part of the movement of the sculpture, which is one way of thinking about it. What seemed to make the most sense was to play off the centralized quality of the square image placement and also the typography on the inside, which you'll see shortly, and let it live as as single line, define the horizontal axis, for the most part, whether high or low. And we went back and forth between these two particular images and a third one in which eventually became the cover. It also started to direct us, in terms of color. Initially, the sculptor had really envisioned the black and white cover, such that the coloration of the steel and any surrounding atmospheric material would be totally minimized and the geometry would become very, very pure, almost austere, spiritually quiet and reserved. But there was something about that, that the longer we looked at it, seemed very off-putting. It became almost too cold, a little bit too academic, and lost some of the humanity, or the physicality, of the objects. They just become line and shape compositions, whereas when the image is in color and you can get a sense of the sky against which that structure is juxtaposed in your view, you sense not only the scale of it, but you can also see the color of the steel as it weathers. You can see the surface activity of rust and changes to the surface that were made in the fabrication process, and you get a warmth from it, in contrast to the fact that it is this bold, very rigorous, analytical visual statement. So because the cover was beginning to move towards this warmer situation, I started to look at cloth for the exterior boards because it was going to be hard bound. So these are a selection of colors, mostly playing off of the idea these kinds of sometimes grayed out, fanned colors, some of the deeper rusks and russets, the black. So I looked at a number of relatively subtle kinds of colors. First, in this grouping of four, we were looking at a cool to warm relationship that the steel on the cover was going to carry a lot of warmth with it, being somewhat in the yellow, orange range, even if a little be desaturated or duller in some cases, so I played the cover against a more neutral, cooler gray, and then also wanted to see what would happen against a warmer, topier gray. And then, whether darker or lighter here, beginning to approach black, a deeper charcoal that would correspond to the shadows. And then, what would happen if that became very, very cool. I looked at much more intense colors, where the gray actually began to take on a color identity, where it was no longer just gray, it really started to become a kind of a violet, and as a contrast to the yellow and sand tones. And then also a very derivative colored cloth, looking at the orange and rusk color of the sculpture. As a last of a set, I looked at very, very pale colors in the top, something so close to white that it might as well have been, where it began to feel more like it was part of the inside of the book and not really the covering, where the jacket that wrapped it would be really the thing that you focused on, and that the color play wouldn't really start until you begin to see the images inside. And then, last, a muted, desaturated blue to play off the sky, again, in a temperature contrast to the warmth of the metal. And how would you know how the images would look on the different colored cloths, are there tools? Well, so the hard cover, it's wrapped by the jacket, so generally, it remains hidden unless you take the jacket off and open the book, if you're one of those-- And it wouldn't print a photo on the cloth, that would be under. No, no, no, It's just the outer wrapping, but the coloration, as you traverse the experience of the book as an object from the outside, which is the wrapper, the jacket, to its cover, to its frontispiece, the end papers to the front matter, to whatever color is separating one section from another, is that that color play becomes something that is also you see it in direct juxtaposition. Even when the book is closed, you can see how the photograph of the cover is interacting with the edges of the book cloth that you're seeing. And then most of the photographs inside were split, first off, between full color and pure black and white, so there is already a tremendous contrast where really almost anything could've worked, but second, the groups of photos depending on the sculpture itself varied tremendously. Some were very colorful because the sculptures are actually painted. So the steel is turned blue, or red, or violet or orange, really orange. And in other cases, the steel's left natural, in which case, if it's been anodized, it remains kind of black and gray, and if it's allowed to weather, if it's a certain kind of steel, like COR-TEN, it rusts over time and you get all kinds of strange, iridescence and variation. So after that extensive process, we produced it. So this the actually color. We went with a light, neutral sand because the cover, as you'll see shortly is very colorful. And as a simple treatment, the artist name was debossed into the surface, so it creates a slight sheen as the fibers are crushed in the debossing process. This is the cover itself. (coughs) Excuse me. Again, a very, very dramatic composition, which is really the sole work of the photographer. I had nothing to do with cropping and cropping was not allowed. And really, my only interference was having to have the title on the cover. We actually talked about not having any text on the cover at all, which it happens. If the photography or if the image is so powerful that even the slightest conventional application is going to distract from it, something to consider is removing it. But ultimately, we decide that it really ought to have a title. You'll see, even here, but you'll see even more clearly, I chose as a contrast to this particular sans serif a very old style serif, which you see as a supporting element, and we decided, actually, to run the text in that face. This is the frontispiece, this is the jacket wrapping, the interior. It's a riff on the deep, rusted, steel colors, and it has a slight texture to it, which gives it this kind of geometric quality because the pattern is very repetitive, it's not randomized as a texture, and it creates a tactility, like as though it's not just paper anymore. When you've turned that page to the half-title page, the backside of the end paper is a reflective metallic surface. So you get the sense of the steel in its native quality, the steel as though it has yet to be altered, or adulterated, mediated by the artist. To the half title in which we ended up using one of the other photographs that we had considered for the cover. And then to the Table of Contents, again, very, very spare. You can see here all of the material is governed, is organized into one of those leftward groupings of columns where you can feel the leftmost column on this particular page still exists in the margin beyond that. You can feel the square of those rows. So the margins out here, there's one row, two rows, three rows, four rows, five rows, and six, we actually dropped a little bit lower because some of the content expanded. All of the material, all of the text, the listings are aligned flush left, and the page numbers or folios are aligned flush right, directly in front of them, which is a little bit different than one conventionally finds on page numbers which are often grouped out here with some kind of dot leader or a line element that connects them. In doing it that way, we would have supported the sense of the center axis of the page, but it would not have created the internal square that you can almost see here. It would've distracted from the sense that this is the upper left hand corner of that central square focus area. And it would also have brought the page numbers very far away from their listing, so as you're scrolling down and trying to connect the chapter or section project to its page number, it becomes a little bit tricky. So I find often that placing the page numbers to the left of the listing actually makes it much easier to relate the page number and where you're going to find that content, so I do that a lot. This is just the detail of the contents showing a typography, so everything was set in the same weight of the sans serif, the lightweight, there was no bold to medium to light contrast. Again, trying to quiet the typography down and really only using color change to differentiate number from text or heading from text, and it's really just the size change that creates contrast, which is also the same logic that is used to create contrast among images. This is the preface. So here, this is structured across the center axis to two of the other columns. Here is a closeup of the subsequent spread, one of the essays, and you see here the older style serif. That seems to make a lot more sense to introduce that as a contrast just for the text writing, not for headings, not for the folio and running head at the top, which are global, structural kinds of typography, their navigational devices, but initially had looked at, of course, setting all of the text in the same face, but it became, at that point, clear it was just too similar. So here's the basic text layout. So you see the square, it's present. It is set up really as a symmetrical, two column manuscript structure, which is reflective of Medieval or Renaissance book structure, which brings a certain level of authority, or the perception of credibility or of academic rigor to the reading experience. The width of the column, the size of the text within that column, and how many characters you are likely to encounter are all carefully studied variables in order to deliver the most even spacing in the lines of text, which are set justified, that is a lining on both the left and the right side, rather than ragging, again, to reinforce the geometry. That creates some spacing issues as different numbers of words of different length show up in the same measurement, so the spacing changes. So if you ever looked in a newspaper or magazine and you've seen these big holes or rivers in between some of the words and then sometimes, the words are so tight together that you can't tell where one starts and one ends, that's a problem that's very much apart of setting texts in a justified setting. So those kinds of variables became really, really important in terms of determining what really is the point size and is it legible for this particular typeface for this older serif. I have a question, is the left and right, I guess it's margin, from the right side of the text to the right side of the-- Here to here? Yes. They are mathematically the same. What you're seeing is a little bit lift of the fold of the book into the valley. Yeah, so here, you even see a little bit of the page sort of dropping away towards the edge. And here, I was able to get a little bit of what I wanted, which is to be able to insert an image on occasion, simply to break up this wall of endless gray to provide a moment of punctuation in that space without really disturbing the overall simplicity. And that ping-ponging that I like so much, I was able to introduce for the caption for the image. Since there's only one image on the page and there's no question as to what that caption refers to, the caption could really be placed anywhere and it would stand out as being something of note simply because all the text is constrained inside this box. So anything that's outside of that that's different takes on a certain kind of importance, a certain kind of presence. Varying that kind of set up, again, from spread to spread so that there's a little bounce from high and small to low and big, back to the text all by itself again. So you return to seeing the basic structure. And then, the ending of that particular essay culminates with the text running out, where it runs, text ends. And then, finishing off with a photograph, full bleed. So these are just additional pages. This is the beginning of a project, always in orange, full bleed page on the left. The title set in the orange on the right. And then, the opening description, and you'll just see variation on these as we go through. So there's a closeup, looking at the caption relative to the title of the work and being able to see the textural difference between the serif and its warmer, rounder, more organic, brush-like quality and the clean, etched linearity of the sans serif. This is one of the four page setups, or the four image setups. In a lot of cases, we ended up just bleeding the images to the gutter. In some cases, we cheated the sides either down or outward a little bit so we would get some space, depending on what was really happening in here. So this is a pretty good case where the client, the photographer, was really interested in how this curve flowed into the diagonal of the other image, from left to right. A juxtaposition of a full bleed and an inset. In this case, the photograph was actually not a square and it happened, but in that case, we brought it to the original internal grid line, as had been intended. There's another one, and sometimes, we cheated them a little bit. There's always a cheat somewhere. If you look at anything designed on a grid, there's always something a little bit off and after a while, you no longer care. Here is one of the full horizontals. There were very few of these, so positioning them so that they weren't so close together, which projects were close together that had them, so that you didn't run into this situation like two or three times in a row in the space of 10 pages, and then suddenly, you never saw this again. So where those kinds of unexpected moments occurred from beginning to end became a part of the process of determining what they were. There's just the text for the caption. Here's the biography. So at the end and another point, there are these listing kinds of information, so this is the sculpture's biography and a list of his major exhibitions. Now, rather than focusing on the two central columns, using the same width, but shifting it over so that it begins at the left. Some of these listing elements begin to take up more than one page or one spread, depending on what the specific information was. So in order to conserve page count and paper, we would move the information as far to the left as possible, in case we needed to break it into four columns, and then continue on the next page, so that grid gave us enough options as the information changed. And there's a detail of the bibliography. Again, these little headings, just a little bit of a contrast. Similar size as the serif, but similar texture as the heading so it creates this glue between the two extremes. So there's a transition from one state, so one visual state in the typography to another visual state.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with RSVP

Syllabus - Graphic Design Fundamentals.pdf

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Ad+Poster-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Book+Web--Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Color-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Form+Image-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Identity-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Intro-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Layout-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Typography-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf

Ratings and Reviews


This is more about all of your courses - It would be really nice for instructors to answer questions during break times or even after the class. There a lot a fabulous questions that I see that never get answered. I would like to go back even the next day and see a short note for at least some of those questions. Just an idea to help out this wonderful format that you have going. I am sure to make use of the promote question when I see an interesting one.


I LOVED this class! I learned so much and since I had the foresight to purchase it, I can go back for a refresher anytime I want. Plus, the downloads are spectacular! Almost a book's worth and so helpful! Thank you Timothy, you are great teacher!

a Creativelive Student

This was an outstanding course, would love to see a more in depth typography course from this guy. I'm a proffesional photographer with a formal education in design, I hardly ever use it, so I forget things, this was great both as a review, and to pinpoint things I didn't know or thought I knew. thanks once again! well done!!

Student Work