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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven 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.

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Custom Printing: A Twist on Concealed Wire-O Bindings

My fiancee just bought an exceptionally cool print book on Pilates physical fitness (Pilates: achieving your potential for health, strength, flexibility, and stamina, by Joyce Gavin). It has a see-through cover that reveals a bright magenta photo underneath. The title is screen printed onto the binder in solid black ink, and the binding is a white, Wire-O coil looped through the plastic folder material.

Considering the Technical Specs and Overall Design

First of all, let’s start with the material of which the folder (or case-binding) has been made. Most of the fully-concealed wire-bound hardback print books I have seen have consisted of chip board (binders boards), a book spine, and an interior text block attached with the parallel wire loops known as Wire-O binding. This print book on Pilates has a more modern air with its flexible “poly” (polyolefin) case.

More specifically, the binder (or case) is a thick transparent plastic with a rough surface (very satisfying to touch and easy to grip due to its rough texture. The plastic bends easily, but it has “memory.” It snaps back to its original shape immediately.

The rough “tooth” of the cover provides a good surface for custom screen printing (which is what this seems to be, when viewed through a printer’s loupe). The ink has thickness and texture. And the design is simple, with just the title in an uppercase, sans serif typeface with generous letterspacing, as well as a smaller subtitle and the author’s name.

The cover is scored three times (vertically, parallel to the spine), and the back cover is punched to accept the white, Wire-O loops. The extra scoring allows the book to open easily and lie flat. Moreover, the nature of Wire-O binding allows facing pages to align perfectly with one another. (In contrast, either a plastic coil or metal spiral book would–due to the nature of a spiral–keep one of the facing pages slightly above the other when the print book is open.)

The white coating on the metal Wire-O loops beautifully complements the light background of the text pages (it looks like a 5 percent screen of black plus a little cyan) and the light clothing of the models performing the Pilates exercises.

The geometric copy blocks, generous white space around the text and silhouetted images of exercising models, letterspaced running headers, and sans serif text and heads, all give the book a simple, spare look that’s right in line with a quiet, introspective exercise program.

And the heavy, interior covers (in front of and behind the text block on–apparently–100# cover with 100# text book pages) give the book a feel of solidity. After all, since the poly binder material adequately protects the interior pages, it was primarily a design decision (rather than a functional decision) to include the heavy paper covers on the interior print book block.

To add to the startling appearance of the magenta halftone gracing the interior cover, the model has been severely cropped, just above the mouth, above the elbows, and above the knees. With arms spread wide and a serene expression on her mouth, she gives the human form an almost sculptural appearance.

What You Can Learn from This Book

In my opinion, this is an excellent example of the design of a print book reflecting the tone, attitude, and approach of its contents. The choice of colors, typefaces, and design grid, as well as the consistent treatment of all images as silhouettes, the binding method, and the unexpected use of clear (frosted, due to the texture) poly for the outer binder material reinforce one another on a tactile level, mechanical level (in terms of the durability of the book as well as its ability to lay flat with facing pages aligned), and design level.

Therefore, in your own design work, consider the physical elements of book design as you decide on the best type treatment, grid structure, and paper choices for your printed product.

A print book is a physical object in space. It has to look good, but it also has to feel comfortable in the hands of the reader. It has to be durable, easy to use, and aesthetically pleasing.

All of these qualities bear careful consideration throughout the design process. When you find a print book (or any other printed product) that you especially like, hold onto it. Put it in your “swipe file” to inspire future projects. Moreover, consider why you like the sample. What do the graphic design, and physical product design, do well? What are their goals, and how do they achieve them?

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