Sorry for the lack of posts of late. I’ve been waist deep in typesetters specifications and page layouts. I’m normally more of a cover designer, just because it’s my comfort area, and it’s always easier to stick to what you know. The creative side of my brain works better than the technical side, and I’m sure there’s more technicality than creativity in designing text layouts.
However, after agreeing to do the page designs for a horticultural book, these jobs have increased in volume. I’d like to say this is down to my brilliant designs, but I wonder if it’s because there are fewer designers doing them.
It’s a skill that you might learn if you’re lucky enough to work in-house for a publishing company. It’s something you pick up along the way. To start with, any manuscripts landing in my in-tray were very quickly passed on to the safe hands of the nearest passing freelancer. It was like being given responsibility for a new born baby that you had no idea even which way up to hold. I just knew I could trust the freelancers (ex in-house themselves) to know what to do with them. They would come back packaged up with a beautifully written type spec and marked up pages, all ready to send off to the typesetters. Phew!
But over time I learnt to decipher the specification instructions, like learning a new language. I studied each one that passed under my nose, and came to understand them. When you start out, the simple instruction, 24pts LF to b/l of RH, u&lc, full out, makes as much sense as a modern day teenager’s text message. Even when you work out what all the abbreviations stand for, and what they actually mean, you have to know how to set out a good grid, and how to arrange all of the information in a clear, usable and legible way to fulfil the functions of the book, while still looking attractive. All the usual design principles you would apply to a cover, but allowing for several hundred pages of information of varying complexity.
It took some time for me to have the confidence to tackle my first manuscript (I think I was eventually pushed into the deep end) and even now I have much more confidence in designing the covers of books, and I bow down to those more experienced designers who I learnt from. But I’m privileged to have had the opportunity to learn what I did, and it’s like anything in life, the more you do something, the more you learn and the better you get.
It’s good to step out of your comfort zone once in a while.