Since I am writing a book, I thought I would discuss some design choices. This book, _The Soviet Exploration of Venus_ is being set on 8.5″ x 11″, the largest page size that lulu.com supports. I may or may not send it to them, but their color book production is excellent (I ordered some photo books just to check). This is a somewhat odd size for a book, almost big enough to do two-column, but not really.

I read some articles, and most importantly looked at some books I liked, to plan layout. It’s important to relieve the eye by not packing the whole page with dense text, especially with only one column format. I made a good wide 2″ outside margin and 1.5″ lower margin. The book has a ton of photographs, and big margins lets you push them out to 0.5″ from the edge of page, so that space gets used in interesting and varied ways. I calculated a set of standard photo width for inside and outside margins, designed to always leave a full, 2/3, 1/2 or 0 column of text beside them. Keep things simple, only present the reader with a few familiar proportions! I put photo captions in the lower margin, not under the photos. I only saw one example of a book that did that, but I liked it a lot. Finally, photo heights are trimmed to be multiples of 14 points, the line spacing. A lot of books don’t bother, but this keeps an exact 1/4″ boarder around all sides of every photograph, which really looks neat.

I don’t know enough about fonts to be a snob about it, but I did avoid the way-overused Times Roman and Ariel. You want a nice old-fashion readable serifed font for the text. Don’t give in to temptation to use some modernist font, unless you are writing a book about migraine headaches or eye strain! For captions and section titles, I chose Trebuchet MS, which is a fantastic “humanist” sans-serif font. Humanist means the letters are more ornate and old fashion, not just geometrical.

B/W photos have a 5% burgandy tint, almost unnoticeable. I didn’t want to use sepia, giving an impression that Soviet technology was old-fashion. Tinting makes for a smoother print, because it engages all four of the CMYK ink dots. If I could submit full CMYK image files, I might have tried to do black-gray duotone, but that’s a hassle, so I just tinted them.

I’m doing the layout in Microsoft Word 2003. I know that software, and with a few font styles and two macros, the workflow is fast and easy. Don’t even THINK about using an earlier version of Word though, and don’t start a big project like this unless its also on Windows XP. Remember the bad old days of Word crashing, like ersatz Open Office still does! But really, that doesn’t happen anymore, its a pretty solid program. A more important concern is the typography engine, do the paragraphs look nice. Here, Office 2003 seems to also have made a big improvement. Ultimately, if I don’t like it, I will buy Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress and just redo it. Once the text is written, photos are sized and the layout is defined, it would really only take days to do it over again in another program.

Advertisements