They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I should feel jazzed that a person I used to work with, who at that time did not know InDesign from Address Book, is still using my files as templates for new books today in his busy freelance design business. Being a spiteful, negative, unforgiving person, however, I instead find it just kind of disgusting. Because even though this person is apparently now making a nontrivial chunk of his income by designing and typesetting books (and perhaps double-billing for it, too), he clearly still doesn’t know typography from a hole in the ground.
Look. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m too unimaginative a designer, but, you know, I can still recognize my own H&J settings four years later. I can recognize my endnote styles, and my footnotes, and my chapter heads. If you reuse them for a different book, for a different publisher, and change only a couple of details about them—let’s say, the typeface of the chapter numbers—when I flip through that book I still recognize my own work, and I’m reminded that you’re a lazy, dishonest, passive-aggressive lunk. I’m also reminded that you don’t know how to fit copy, set margins and indents, style running heads, design a table of contents, hang punctuation, clear a numbered list for tens or hundreds, tell the difference between fake and real small caps, kern, fix bad breaks, or check your own work for glaring, obscene, howling errors. A running head that’s so long it actually turns over and crashes against the text block? Come on, man, make a little effort. To call you a hack would be an insult to hacks everywhere.
(And shame on the publishers who hire you, who clearly don’t know how to check page proofs, either.)
If you’re going to steal my work, fine, whatever, knock yourself out. But while you’re at it, could you please also steal a copy of The Elements of Typographic Style, and maybe an InDesign instruction book, too? Steal a ruler. Steal a pair of eyeglasses. Steal a couple of hours from your salaried workday to learn a bit about your lucrative new freelance career. And maybe one day you’ll have stolen enough to learn how to set up your own files from scratch.
And while I’m ranting? Authors who take credit for their own book design—jacket or interior—when all they in fact did was make the actual designer’s life a living hell? Should be brutally remaindered unto death. Major fail.
Why do people suck so much?