Saturday, 20 October 2012

I see what you did there

Really? I have to admire the sheer audacity of this cover design. What I find particularly amusing about it is that it's clearly a cash-in on the mega success of Fifty Shades of Grey, but it's invoking Twilight with it's cover art/layout. It seems like both an acknowledgement of Fifty Shades of Grey's fanfiction origins and a dig at the abusive undertones of Twilight.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey Cover Trends

So, design scrapbook is officially over, but I couldn't resist making a post about about this. It's insane. Actually insane. Look at this:
We have books clearly cashing in on the Fifty Shades of Grey craze advertising this through echoing the design of Fifty Shades of Grey, which in turn cashed in on the Twilight craze, blatantly mimicking cover elements from that series. It's like the book cover version of Matryoshka dolls!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Dictionary goodness

Today I decided to see how a physical dictionary compared with the electronic dictionary on my kindle. For this extremely scientific test, I decided to give the hardcopy dictionary the best chances possible, so I recruited my brother to use the kindle (as he's never used one before), and I used the hardcopy dictionary. The only hardcopy dictionary floating around was an old dictionary, this one to be specific:
It has one very handy feature, namely these indented 'steps' that make it easy to quickly find a particular section:
The kindle, in comparison, comes with a built-in dictionary. Once you've opened it, all you need to do is start typing in the word. Like so:

So let's see how the two compare (the times are in seconds):
I've highlighted the winner for each word. Initially my brother's inexperience with the kindle made him slower than the dictionary, but he very quickly became familiar with it, and after that there was no beating him. What's surprising about this result is not that the kindle was faster, but that the physical dictionary is not very much slower (I suspect those in-built indents help a lot). With a larger dictionary, the speed difference would of course increase substantially.

Layout-wise, the hard-copy dictionary is much more aesthetically pleasing, but the kindle layout is less cramped as it doesn't have to fit multiple definitions on each page.

By far the fastest and easiest electronic dictionary to use, however, is the online one. The search box is easy to find, and you can quickly type in words using the keyboard.
Once you've found your word, you get a lot of information, but it's very easy to navigate. To the right a box pops up with related words that you might be interested in.

Textured children's book

Here's a twist on an old classic with Hairy Maclary and Friends: a Touch and Feel Book.

Each page of this book has a textured element, clearly designed to appeal to very young children. This tactile experience is also something that can't be simulated by an ebook.

Because of the extra physical material glued into each page, the pages are very thick and board-like, also suitable for young children who may not have the fine motor skills to be gentle with thin pages.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Another oddly sized book

Here's Awa Press' The Owl that Fell from the Sky. The very first thing I noticed about it was its odd size - it's approximately the height of an A-format paperback, but much wider ( 170 x145mm), giving it an almost square appearance.

Aside from the format, the cover design is lovely with a simple black/white/teal colour palette. The only part I question is what appears to be a strange ligature between 's' and 't' - it distracts from the otherwise clean-cut nature of the cover design.

Looking at a page-spread, the margins have been chosen to create a text panel with relatively traditional proportions, rather than the square-ish proportions of the book. This measure works well, without needing too many hyphens (I can't actually see any on this page-spread). I also note the use of the em rather than en dash - this seems appropriate, as the em dash is slightly more old-fashioned, and this book is about museum specimens.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Unusual running feet

I found this rather charming example of running feet in this book The Calculus Diaries. The arrow design fits with the maths focus of the book, but it's not obtrusive. It also ties in with the heading designs. The page numbers are probably slightly harder to find when casually flicking through the pages, but the arrows mean they're well-connected to the corner of the page where most people would be used to finding them.

Monday, 2 July 2012

A really really big book

There's coffee table books, and then there's this monstrosity:
In Unity Books, The Art Museum has its own stand it's so enormous:
This book is nearly 1000 pages long, 42cm tall, 32cm wide and 7cm thick. And it's heavy - it weighs nearly 8kgs according to the internet. It's so big that its form affects its function - its so unwieldy to flick through that why would anyone bother? It's also a very expensive book, retailing at over $200.

The paper is also really thin, so it's not exactly the kind of book you can easily leaf through - I'd worry about tearing the pages.

An additional note - the designer was clearly keen to show off the grid layout of this book, because even I can see it.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Hyphenation madness

I'm not even sure how I stumbled across this, but I found an extraordinary example of why paying attention to those hyphenation settings when typesetting is important. I've taken a close-up photo of a page from The Better Angels of Our Nature that is fairly representative of the hyphenation problem present throughout the book. It's particularly strange because it shouldn't be a problem based on the measure (which is perfectly adequate for the size of the text).

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Some conventions are there for a reason...

I stumbled across this architecture book Forty-Six Square Metres of Land Doesn't Normally Become a House.
The cover is textured, and the narrow lettering of the title gets somewhat lost because of this. Despite this, I can see what this typeface was trying to achieve - it looks squashed, playing with the book's focus on restricted spaces.

The most shocking thing about this book is that when you open it, here's what the end-paper/first page looks like:
That's right - gasp - the book starts on the endpaper. There's no title page, no imprint page, and no table of contents - it's not at the back of the book either - and the book continues right up onto the last bit of end-paper. Maybe it's to reinforce the impression of 'squashed-ness'? Each page-spread certainly feels very squashed, with extremely narrow margins. The designer also seems to be very keen on showing off their grid, which does allow a great deal of flexibility in layout, but the narrow margins mean every single page feels uncomfortably constrained.
Eventually, I closed the book and spotted this:
Turning to the orange centre of the book, I found the missing imprint page, half-title page, title page, and table of contents. I guess the designer made them orange so they'd be easier to find. But you know what would have made them even easier to find? Yup, putting them at the beginning where everyone expects them to be. I see no reason for breaking this convention in this instance.
Updated 7 July:
The table of contents, although pretty, gives too much weight to the page numbers and not enough to the section headings (the actual information the reader is looking for).
Also, why on earth have a half-title page if it's going to be in the middle of the book and after the title page?

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Pretty cover and ragged edges

Presenting Terry Pratchett's Nation:

The author's name and title are clearly displayed in the order of importance, and are very easy to read despite the busy background. The title is eye-catching because it is foil-stamped, with a drop shadow for added emphasis.

The dust-cover shows one continuous scene - which I think is always a nice design touch. The transparent text box used for the blurb is a good way to put text on top of a busy background, whilst still allowing the sense of the image to be conveyed. 

As this is the US hardback, it also has a ragged 'rough cut' edge (something more common in the US). I find it makes it harder to flick through pages, and it makes the book feel less 'perfect', but it also adds an element of interest.

Monday, 25 June 2012

A book that looks low-budget and homemade, but isn't

I wanted to include this very strange book about jewellery, published by a German publisher. Firstly, here's what you assume is the cover:

However, here's the book's actual cover:
click to see dots that make up the image.
The image is made out of lots of little dots and seems to be a knife handle wrapped with wire. The grainy image quality is continued throughout the book. Here's a shot of that shows the general low-resolution quality of the images (this is quite hard to capture in an image displayed on a computer screen):
This low-res image quality is clearly a deliberate design choice, possibly to give the feel of a 'home-made' documentary. The low quality images also tie in with the 'raw' coverboards and 'naked' spine. It's a wee bit pretentious, as I imagine it was much more expensive to have all these 'naked' details than it would have been to produce a more conventional-format book.

Another interesting design choice is the layout of the text panels:
There is a huge top margin, and equally-sized bottom and side margins. The measure is also very wide - 102 characters by my count. The normal 'comfortable' range for reading running text is 45-75 characters per line. This is well outside that - possible the huge top margin is to help balance this out, but it is still hard to read all the way to the end of each line.

Update 27 July
I forgot to add that, although pretentious, I think the unconventional format works for this book. It's targeted at a very niche market - contemporary jewellery designers - and the deliberate pushing of boundaries is likely to appeal to this audience.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Cool cover - Gold by Chris Cleave

This caught my attention the other day:
With all those colours and the stripe of gold foil, it's very eye-catching. This is a novel about Olympic cyclists, and I see the multiple colours receding into the distance as representing the blur of cyclists wearing different colours and moving at speed.
The stripe theme is carried over the whole cover. Here's the spine, with the title located on the stripe of gold foil.
Then there's the back, with the blurb text aligned so each paragraph sits aligned on a stripe. Overall the text is roughly right-aligned, following the curve of the stripes receding into the distance. This makes the blurb more exciting, but it's still pretty easy to read.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Table of Contents Madness

Today I have two illustrated non-fiction books, both with the imprint page on the verso and the table of contents on the recto of a double-page spread. 

The successful example above is from Trees of New Zealand: Stories of Beauty and Character. A beautiful photograph of leaves has been used for the background of the page-spread, but the overlying text is still perfectly readable. This is a simple left-aligned short contents which uses a serif typeface. The hierarchy of information is clear, with the less important sections at the beginning and end of the book shown in italics. I'm not sure why the heading is in a different typeface - it's already larger than the other text and centre-aligned, so changing the typeface as well seems somewhat redundant.

I also like the placement of the imprint information - it's there if you want to read it, but it's in a smaller font and located lower down the page than the contents, so it doesn't distract from the either the photography or the table of contents.

This is an unsuccessful example taken from the book Black Milk. Whilst the black-on-black title is a cool design feature, your eye is drawn to the verso page first, which features the less important imprint information, rather than the recto page featuring the contents. Additionally, the layout of the table of contents is unnecessarily hard to read with page numbers centre-aligned above the chapter titles.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Cool children's book typeface

I found this rather charming children's book Stuck.
I think this is a really successful cover.

  • The title is easy to read because of its size and contrast, even though it is in an uneven typeface with a hand-lettered feel to it. 
  • The title's typeface also suits the illustration style, and the positioning of the letters between the tree branches anchors the title to the cover image. 
  • The typeface for the author's name matches the typeface used for the inside lettering (more on this below).
Here is a page spread from the book:

The typeface used for the text is a child's scribbly pencil handwriting (is it still a typeface if it's hand-written?). This suits the scribbly nature of the illustrations, and makes the narrator seem more authentic. I particularly like how in the photo below, the narrator has had two tries at spelling a difficult word (rhinoceros) and crossed out the first attempt.

This book also has cover flaps, and designs on the inside of the cover, a nice additional touch.

Unconventional cover and binding

I found this book the other day with an unconventional cover.
 It takes you a moment, but eventually you notice that you can lift the paper up directly under the title. And then you keep unfolding, and eventually you unwrap the book entirely and discover this: a poster dust jacket made of luxuriously thick paper.

This is a lovely book, but one thing I noticed about the binding was the distance between stitches. I've circled them in the photo below and you can see that the bottom stitch is significantly farther from the edge of the paper than the top stitch.
What this means is that when you turn the pages, if you're at the beginning of a new signature of pages the bottom right corner catches as you turn. Like so:

An interesting design feature of this book is the location of the barcode. This would usually be located on the outside of the back cover, but in this book it is located inside the back cover, presumably to avoid taking up space on the dust jacket poster.

And yet another interesting design choice is the mixture of paper stocks used in the book. You can see the marked colour variation between the two different paper stocks in the photo below.