This book—about how to cope when a loved one dies violently—is not the most uplifting title I’ve worked on, but I’m very happy with how the design came out. It was one of those rare occasions when (a) I liked the type used on the cover, and (b) the editor gave me some direction. In this case, she suggested that some sort of ocean/sailing/nautical theme would be appropriate, as watery metaphors are used throughout the book. Although I might have noticed that on my own1, I almost certainly would not have made such an overt design element of it. Because the editor made the suggestion, however, I felt comfortable using the water motif extensively.
If there’s an art budget for these books, nobody’s ever told me what it is, so I assume that everything has to be not only royalty-free, but free-free. So I pulled from the shelf our huge set of CDs of all the Dover clip art—a great resource, if you can find it. This is not one of those thin little books with a single CD in the back; it’s a red cardboard box containing something like sixteen discs and a big, fat, indexed book of thumbnails. There are probably more than ten thousand images on it. I have no idea how much it cost, but from the wear on the box, it’s clear that it was issued a while ago; I suspect the set is no longer available new, but it would be well worth seeking on eBay.
I wasn’t sure what kind of image I was looking for, and the index to the collection is not very thorough. The pictures tend to be grouped by theme, however, so I knew that if I could find a few water-related images using the index, I was likely to locate others nearby. I ended up flagging five or six drawings of waves, which I copied onto my hard drive. Then I viewed each one in Photoshop, to see what I really had to work with. (The thumbnails in the book are about 0.5″ square, which makes it hard to tell what you’re looking at.) I picked the image that seemed most versatile and then set about trying to make it look less clip-arty. I opened the Filter Gallery in Photoshop and played with the filters and settings until I got a woodcut sort of look that I liked. I think the filter I ended up using was Cutout.
At first I thought I’d use more than one of the Dover images, but in the end I just used different chunks of the same image to highlight various elements. Below are some sample pages.
The body text is Adobe Jenson Pro, which is pretty foofy, but not too foofy to actually use. I’ve set maybe four trade books in it, and I used it to replace Centaur in jubilat. I use OpenType fonts whenever possible, as they save me a lot of fiddly work; I don’t have many to work with, unfortunately. Some day perhaps I’ll work at a place that has a fresh, new copy of the entire Adobe font library . . .
- I’ve heard that some designers actually read the books they’re about to work on, but we never have time to do that in my office. Besides, I’d rather not have some of this stuff in my head. Instead, the first thing I do when starting a design is to scrub almost all formatting from the text in Word and then mark it up again using style sheets. During this process, which takes one or more hours, depending on the complexity of the book, I get a good sense of the structure and an adequate sense of the subject matter and tone. I also read the catalogue copy and, of course, any paperwork that came with the files.