May 4, 2006

Grief floats

Posted in Design, In Print at 12:23 am by India

A Grief Like No Other cover 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.

A Grief Like No Other, p. v A Grief Like No Other, p. xi A Grief Like No Other, p. 1 A Grief Like No Other, p. 3 A Grief Like No Other, p. 55

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 . . .

  1. 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.


  1. […] I can never keep Janson, based on type cut by Nicholas Kis, and Jenson, based on Nicolas Jenson’s roman and Ludovico degli Arrighi’s italic, straight in my head, though I know that one is plain and straightforward, while the other is foofy. I’ve never designed a book in Janson (though I’ve handled it when setting other people’s designs), but I used Adobe Jenson Pro for the subtle jubilat redesign (to replace the PostScript version of Centaur MT, which is based on the same originals). It’s also the face I used for that grief book. […]

  2. I just finished reading all of your book design posts, and I think they provide an entertaining insight into the process of typesetting. As a fan of Dover’s clipart, I was wondering if you could provide anymore details about that red cardboard boxed set of CDs that you have (ISBN, copyright date, UPC, title, anything really). I checked on eBay, Amazon, and the Dover web site (plus I sent an email to the staff), but I haven’t had any luck in finding out what it was called let alone where I could get it.

    If you have the time, feel free to respond via email or a follow-up comment. (I bookmarked your site for weekly visits, so I know I’ll be back.)


  3. India Amos said,

    Hi, Joseph. You know, just the other day I was kicking myself for not writing down the exact name and source of that thing. I’ll have to ask one of my former colleagues to pull it off the shelf and check. I’m sure it’s out of print, and it might not even have been published by Dover. More info TK. . . .

  4. The clipart collection is probably the Deskgallery Mega-Bundle collection (ISBN: 0486999378) published by Dover with help from Zedcor (out of business). It contained 15 CDs–with a red book or box–that had four different sets of clip art (Animals and Plants, Advertising Art, Universal Symbols, and Lifestyles and Occupations) in TIF (or maybe EPS) format along with a hardcover (or perhaps softcover) index. It is out of print. Amazon and eBay don’t have it (at least not with the CDs) at the moment. It is owned by quite a few university libraries, and can be picked up used from rare book dealers for about $300 USD. Buyer beware: many people sell the index without the CDs (see Amazon and eBay).

    Also, India, I noticed you use a lot of Amazon links, but you don’t seem to be using their Associates program like a lot of bloggers. The Associates program gives you a percentage of any purchases made via your links. To enroll, you fill out a simple form at Then, you just add a special /something to your normal links. It may not be worth the effort to join or you may have some philosopical aversion that I’m not aware of, but I thought I’d give you a heads up.

  5. India Amos said,

    Yes, that’s definitely the set I’m talking about. What the hell would a person do with just the book? I mean, the disks are kind of useless without the book, but the book is totally useless without the disks. I guess the thing to do, if you were, you know, totally unethical, would be to copy all the CDs from the library and then buy a used copy of the index. Nobody would ever do that, though.

    The thing about the Amazon Associates is . . . usually I don’t get enough traffic on this site to justify the five seconds’ work of signing up. And I’m not exactly advocating buying books from Amazon (though god knows I get absolutely everything else I ever purchase from there—food, cookware, clothes, . . .); you should be buying from your local independent bookseller, of course. But has completely replaced Bowker’s Books In Print for me—I used to have to spend several hours each week looking stuff up in those stupid books. Now when I need to know about a book, Amazon’s the first place I go. That and Google are by far my most-visited Web sites, and I’ve been using Amazon a lot longer. To me it’s not so much a store as a public utility.

  6. […] What’s been even more surprising, though, is that so far no other designers have dropped in to say, “You’re reading the castoff numbers all wrong.” “I can’t believe you used a typeface called fucking ‘Manticore’ for a fucking fantasy book!” “Trim size is actually determined based on X, Y, and Z.” “Quark is the best piece of software in the universe!” And nobody’s said, “But, the process for designing a cookbook/dictionary/art book/computer book is totally different; your half-assed workflow would never work for that.” I’d like to know more about how others do this stuff. The only formal descriptions I’ve ever read of the process are in Richard Hendel’s On Book Design, about which all I clearly remember is being surprised by how many of the designers profiled in the book claimed to actually read the text they were handling. (As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I skim but make no attempt to read the whole book.) So, if you’re a fellow designer, please put your two cents in. I do subscribe to a lot of design blogs, but rarely do I see anybody else talking about designing book interiors. We can’t all do advertising and jackets and Web sites and packaging, can we? […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: