Printing and Design Tips: June 2017, Issue #191

Ideas for Book Design

My fiancee and I love thrift stores. I go for the books and CDs. She goes for the clothes. So you can imagine our field day when we found that our favorite thrift store was having a book sale with each and every book priced at $.99. That meant hardbacks, textbooks, and reference books as well as paperbacks. Needless to say, we now have an array of coffee-table books on our kitchen island to review and then either keep or give to friends. In addition, many of these focus on art projects, so we will have resources for future art classes with our autistic students.

As I was perusing these books last night, I saw many cover and text treatments that I thought might benefit PIE Quick Tips readers: sort of a swipe file, if you will. Here’s a list of design, printing, and finishing options you might want to consider for your own print books:

A Focus on Die Cutting

The first book is a “fan” book in that it resembles a Chinese sandalwood hand-fan when spread open. (It also looks a bit like a PMS swatch book.)

It is long and narrow (2.5” x 10.5”) and approximately 150 pages in length. It is printed in 4-color process ink on 10pt gloss cover stock, and all pages are attached on the right bottom side with a long plastic screw-and-post assembly.

The book is about all the Star Wars film characters. I have seen a similar book about Greek and Roman gods and goddesses and one about insects. This book is entitled Fandex Family Field Guide: Star Wars, and it was produced by Workman Publishing in New York.

There are a number of qualities that make this book memorable to me:

1. Each page includes a die cut image of a Star Wars character at the top of the long, narrow page. The image is large and dramatic. Moreover, due to the “fan book” format, you can jump from one character to another in any order you like, immediately identifying the characters by their portraits. The format is flexible, dramatic, and highly effective.

2. Given the page size, there is ample room for information on each character and even for occasional extra photos. The text is still rendered at a readable size. Here and there you will see type reversed out of solid colors, noting a pithy fact or two about the character. Basically, it’s everything you need to know right now in summary form. If you like what you read and want to know more, then you can do more research online or in books. In short, the format is ideal to give you an overview of the subject. I found this to be true of the mythology book and the insect book as well.

3. The screw-and-post binding holds all the pages tightly together under duress. Like a PMS book, you can fan it open and closed without fear that the book will come apart. Presumably you can also take out the screw and post to remove or add pages. It’s a flexible binding method that you may be able to apply to books that you yourself design.

4. This format can be used for a fashion color book (one of my printing clients, a “fashionista,” has done this), a paint selection book (I have seen these at the local hardware store), a selection of printing papers, printed colors on plastic chips, or sample wood chips. Or, as in the case of the three books mentioned, it can be a way to present a large number of similar items, animals, or people (gods and goddesses, insects, movie characters, perhaps even presidents and dinosaurs).

Holograms on the Book Cover

Wikipedia defines a hologram as follows: “Typically, a hologram is a photographic recording of a light field, rather than of an image formed by a lens, and it is used to display a fully three-dimensional image of the holographed subject, which is seen without the aid of special glasses or other intermediate optics.”

Two of the books my fiancee chose have holograms on their covers. Both books were presumably expensive to manufacture, but since both are aimed at a young audience, the fact that they are so shocking (one is a Ripley’s Believe It or Not book) will make them irresistible to kids.

In both cases the books are hard-cover texts with a gloss printed sheet laminated to the chipboard binder’s boards and then coated for durability. In addition, both have garish colors inside and a “circus” page layout, with all items vying with one another for the reader’s attention.

If you are designing a book like this, a hologram might be in order. It’s kind of kitschy for adults, but if your readers are young—and you have the budget for the hologram (and a vendor that can do this kind of work)--it will definitely make your book stand out and grab the reader’s attention.

Black Paper Throughout the Book

Another children’s book my fiancee chose (she has three grandchildren) is entitled There Was an Old Monster (by Rebecca, Adrain, and Ed Emberley).

This is also a case-bound book with the printed litho paper laminated to the chipboard binder’s boards. What makes it unique is the black paper on the cover and text pages. Actually, I’m sure the paper started out white and was printed primarily in black ink (with some accent colors in the bright green, yellow, and red range). The endsheets and flyleaves are deep red as well. (The printer’s term for such heavy ink coverage on a press sheet is “painting the [press] sheet.”)

What makes this design approach so effective is two-fold. First, black is the perfect color for a book that focuses on monsters: creatures of the night. Moreover, the black background makes the bright, almost fluorescent, highlight colors jump off the cover and text pages.

Two other items of note, and these may be of use to you if you’re designing a children’s book, are that the book is Smyth sewn. You can see the threads when you open the text. For a children’s book this is particularly wise because it strengthens the book immeasurably. Some book printers can do this in-house for very little money (hundreds of dollars). Other vendors who will need to subcontract this binding process will charge much more. The other item of note is a design choice: The book designer chose a dramatic typeface for the text (i.e., a hard-to-read display font), but he or she made the type large, added a lot of extra leading between the lines of type, and chose colors for the type that were in high contrast to the black background. Hence, the book is easy to read at any age.

Embossing and Spot UV Coating

Weird California seems to be part of a series. My fiancee chose this text at the book sale because she has a similar book for Maryland. This book was written by Greg Bishop, Joe Oesterle, and Mike Marinacci.

What makes the book dust jacket unique is the combination of multicolored type for the book title (which is then treated with a high gloss coating: presumably a spot UV coating), a central cover image that is raised and intricately sculpted (i.e., an embossing), and the interplay between the dull black background on the dust jacket cover and the spot-gloss-coated Interstate highways and signs that create a portion of the California road system in a stylized, printed lattice. Everything hangs together and works well, even though it is highly elaborate and was presumably expensive to produce.

In your own book design work, keep in mind that embossing requires metal dies, which cost a lot and take time to fabricate. That said, this book designer kept the artwork for the embossing to an (approximately) 3” x 4” space. Keeping the dies small is a good way to save money.

In addition, in your own design work consider both the design strength and the subtlety of playing a dull coating against a gloss coating. In this case, the book designer used both a gloss and dull coating over a black background. The use of gloss black and matte black side by side is both subtle and intriguing.

[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]