The mountains! the mountains! we greet them with a song

The Boys of Everest jacket Here’s a cheerful tale of something I don’t feel like I worked very hard on turning out to be exactly what the client wants. This project was for a publisher that had been tearing up my samples pretty consistently, so I decided to not put much design into it. I copied the jacket comp for the title page, as I usually do, and then echoed the horizontal rules from that on the chapter openers.

Boys of Everest - chapter opener

There are no chapter titles, only numbers (which were roman, not arabic, at that stage), so there wasn’t much else to do. And neither of my trusty font identifying tools (Identifont and WhatTheFont) could tell me what typeface had been used on the jacket, so I went with Sabon, which seemed to be reasonably similar and which I’d handled a lot in other people’s work but never tried using myself.

Photos had been supplied for each part opener, fortunately, and for once they were actually large, high res, and gorgeous. So I ran them full-bleed, with more jacket-rip-off-style text on the facing page. At this point, my boss vetoed the Sabon and asked the client what typeface had been used on the cover, so I could match it (Requiem). I wasn’t thrilled about mixing two serifs on the same page, but what the hell—I was trying not to get too invested in the design anyway, since I was sure it would get BOGSATed all to hell.

Boys of Everest - part opener

And there were other photos to be scattered throughout, some of which were pretty lousy but others of which were beautiful:

Boys of Everest - spread with bitchen photo

Then the client changed the trim size from 6 x 9″ to 5.5 x 8.25″, so I had to rejigger everything. Sent it off. Waited for the inevitable list of drastic changes—“could you just . . . remove all the design, please?”—and instead got a nice note with some rather minor requests—changing the chapter numbers to arabic, adding photo credits, other little stuff. Kept waiting for something bad to happen; it didn’t.

A few days later, our production manager told me people at the publishing house had been talking at the latest meeting about how beautiful this book was. Then the client’s production manager, whom I’d never spoken with before, called me about something unrelated and mentioned how much people there liked the design. Then the managing editor for the book, who’s become a friend of mine, cc’d me on an amusing exchange with the author, who had asked how he could contact me. And then I received a totally lovely e-mail from the author himself, thanking me for making his book look good.

This has never happened before.

Of course, I wrote back and thanked him for going to the trouble of getting fabulous art. And then I said that because everyone had been so in love with this so-called design, I’d used a part opener spread as the first page of my portfolio for a job interview on Wednesday. And I got the job on Thursday.

So, clearly, that should be a lesson to me never to make any effort to design anything, ever again.

The End.

2 thoughts on “The mountains! the mountains! we greet them with a song

  1. Funny how the things you just toss off sometimes wind up being the ones people like the best. This happens to me a lot with things I write. I think it’s a sign that my internal editor is actually completely wrong about most things. It’s probably also true about your internal design review board. So to hell with it, just toss shit together from now on!

    Nice Williams ref, btw

  2. Well, I think this is rather more a case of a stopped clock being right twice a day. Unless I’ve miraculously gotten some particular idea about how a book should look, my default style is a very traditional, old-school presentation, with a lot of elements defined simply by what will make the typesetting and math easy.

    In this case, I just happened to luck out, in that the editor and author turned out to have wanted a traditional, old-school look. I had no way of knowing that before I submitted a sample, and they probably couldn’t have articulated it in such terms if I’d asked, but in retrospect, they liked the design because it’s what they already had in mind. My only hints were the jacket, which was very spare, and the fact that the chapter numbers were originally roman numerals. Well, and the subject matter, which was clearly serious, historical, epic, and tragic. An awful lot of people die in the book, and there’s nothing funny about any of it (which doesn’t necessarily go without saying—I just designed and set another historical book called I’ll Do My Own Damn Killin’, in which a lot more people die, yet which obviously has a very different take on such events; that’ll get its own post). So, stately, conservative, quiet type.

    But otherwise, not much to it.

Leave a Reply