BOOK DESIGN 101
Time reveals patterns. I’ve spent over 30 years working as a graphic designer, and for more than 20 of those years I’ve specialized in designing books. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I’ve noticed that my process is perhaps a little bit different from how book design is often taught. I thought it might be nice to make a record of how I approach it, and to offer you some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
To that end, I collaborated with producer Madi Zins at Skillshare’s Teach Lab. In my mind’s eye, I’d pictured setting up a camera, talking about what I do for a few hours, and then editing that down into a tight class.
Well, Madi wasn’t going to let me get away with that. She gave me the benefit of her experience—and Skillshare’s institutional knowledge—and helped me to draw up a lesson plan, develop a host of supporting materials, and guide me through the filming and editing process.
The end result is a detailed two hour class that gives you my personal take on how to manage a book design project on three different levels—the fundamentals of shaping a subject and your raw sources into a book; working with a client successfully and honorably; and—perhaps most importantly—managing a long-running, labor-intensive project without damaging your body or your soul.
You also get two handy checklists to let you keep track of your process and prep your files for printing. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s a client intake form to get useful information from your client in a non-awkward way, and finally there’s another form to request a price estimate from your printer.
Should you decide to take the class, you’ll pick a sample project that’s near and dear to your heart. I’ll guide you through gathering and preparing materials, and finding a useful and interesting structure for your content. You’ll learn about the advantages and drawbacks of different formats and print processes, and you’ll start making decisions to define the book you want to make.
If you’re working with clients, you’ll learn how to set up a mutually respectful and productive process, and I’ll give you pointers on things to include in your contract to protect yourself. We talk about preparing your files for a smooth press run. We talk pre-press, we talk about managing a great press check, we talk about how to handle the bindery process. How will you cope with receiving and presenting your first sample copies? We talk about that, and we talk about burnout and mental health, too.
In fact, just about the only thing we won’t cover is software. Software changes, and there are lots of other people who can teach you the latest and greatest in software. What I’ll teach you in this class is the stuff that remains constant—developing ideas into useful, beautiful objects; working with people respectfully and productively, and being kind to yourself along the way.
Of course, I also get very, very nerdy about minute details. The good people at Skillshare were kind enough to let me present a sample chapter to you here. This is Lesson 13, where we cover all the fun things you can do on press if you can afford to do them! (I need to give special thanks to Skillshare editor Zachary Buckner, who took hours and hours of me rambling on about all of this stuff and wrangled it into cohesive segments.)
As you may have noticed already, I designed a full set of animated titles for the class. Each chapter starts with a different drop cap, and the “Reviewing the Finished Book” title has seven intentional errors, if you’d like to pause this “Best of” video and check.
This class took nine months from conception to launch, and I’m super proud of it. Whether you’re a professional designer getting into book design or someone who just wants to make a keepsake book as a gift, I think this class will have something useful for you. If you like, you can check it out at this link.