Books That Beg for Attention
Competition in the book market is often fierce, and many book designers opt for foil, metallic, UV coating, or new or unusual substrates to set their titles apart and attract consumers. The challenges in committing to such innovative techniques are often difficulty, cost and production deadlines—using alternative materials can be more expensive, more complex to produce and more time-consuming.
What it often comes down to is: Will the potential added time and expense translate into additional sales for this specific title?
Some considerations publishers have to weigh before adding extras are the prestige of the author or project, the quality of the project and whether the treatment is worth the added cost. In order to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the production processes of books created using unusual and attention-getting tactics, BookTech Magazine selected two particularly innovative (and effective) examples—one of which won an award for its cover design in the 2004 Annual Gold Ink Awards (BookTech Magazine September/October 2004).
Following a Pattern
Title: "The Hand That Paints the Sky"
Publisher: New Leaf Press
Designed by: Left Coast Design
A title like "The Hand That Paints the Sky" seems to just beckon for a bit of magic on its cover. The book—the third in a series of books that meld majestic natural photography and artwork—was manufactured using a printed end sheet, a gold foil and emboss for the title, and a matte film with a spot UV to add a bit of extra pop to the cover. These printing applications and materials were also used by publisher New Leaf Press on the first two books in the series. Left Coast designers fought for the splashy cover design for the first book in the series, "The Wonder Of It All," published in 2001, arguing that it would add cachet to the series and was worth the added cost.
New Leaf agreed to continue the look with the second book, "How Majestic Is Thy Name," but had the third title not been part of the same series, New Leaf may have opted for more traditional methods for its cover. "We knew what it cost to produce the two other books in this series," says Pat Edmonds, president of Portland, Ore.-based Left Coast Design. "So the concern was [whether we can] get all this done close to a similar price point to what we were able to do on the other books. If so, then we knew we had to go with it."
New Leaf wanted to produce a first-class series from the start, and opted for the extra bells and whistles as opposed to using a plain grain book end sheet, says Brent Spurlock, art director with New Leaf Press in Green Forest, Ark.
By the time series' third book went to press, most of the production challenges were ironed out, but Edmonds says the printer they used for the third book, Phoenix Color Corp., had to take special care to sequence some of the gloss and matte coatings so that the stamping didn't adversely affect the UV coatings.
"It was up to us to have everything layered properly so that when Phoenix created the plates they were going to use to create this, it wasn't going to distort or crack any of those coatings," says Edmonds. But the biggest design challenge was shaping the "S" on the word "Sky," which was given added attention.
"The font has a couple of strokes in it that are pretty fine," says Edmonds, "and it was a challenge on [Phoenix Color's] part to make sure they could produce the lettering without losing it or without having the letter [appear] too thick."
"We had to play with all the embossing so that it was [just] right," says Spurlock. "You have to be careful on the foil that you don't get too thin [where] you tend to lose [the font]. So [the designer] pumped up the width of the "S" to make sure that it showed up. You want to keep the elegance by keeping the thinness, and with a long, thin line, you have to be careful when using foil or you tend to lose [the effect] if it's too thin."
A Special Feel
Title: "Extravagant Crowd"
Publisher: Beinecke Library, Yale University
Designed by: Group C
As with choosing foils, stamping and other effects, the choice of material for a cover is also not taken lightly. Often, the selection is based on the image the publisher aims to convey about the book, as was the case with "Extravagant Crowd."
Winner of a Gold Ink Pewter award in the "Soft Cover" category, the cover was produced using sepia duo tones on a suede-like, rubberized material known as Touché, manufactured by FiberMark, to pick up the tonality of the original photography. The smooth, unusual texture of the material truly begs to be touched, and it adds an apparent depth and sturdiness to the black coloring of the soft-cover book.
The book is a collection of photos of women taken by Carl Van Vechten, an early 20th-century writer and opera critic who became interested in photography. Group C, a book designer based in New Haven, Conn., designed the book for the Beinecke Library, a rare book and manuscript library associated with Yale University.
Creative team members became involved in the editorial process to familiarize themselves better with the book's subject matter and to come up
with ideas that best expressed the photographer's vision.
"Van Vechten was famous for using very unusual material for his backdrops, whether it was cellophane or odd fabrics," says Brad Collins, principal of Group C. "We wanted to do something that suggested his choice of odd materials. Whenever we design a book, we never do something just to be cool or funky. There's a reason behind it."
Group C wanted to create a "modern corollary" of what Van Vechten produced—rather than simply replicating one of Van Vechten's images—while remaining conscious of what it would cost. The group considered paneling the image and tipping it in, which would have required gatefolds, doubling the paper costs and adding scoring in the folding, making the bindery twice as expensive.
"A lot of our decisions were driven by not wanting [to have] the budget grow unnecessarily," says Collins. "And we did want to print something on the inside [cover], so that when the book was opened there was something else that was interesting to look at."
So, in addition to spending time combing through Van Vechten's photographs for the best images to consider for the cover, they examined what production options they had at their disposal.
"We looked at whether or not [we should use] a double hit of silver or opaque white, and [we] ran four-color tests using all flat colors—white, silver, bronze and black," Collins explains. "The curator was on press with us for almost all the proofs."
Having the Curator
on press is one of the advantages that come with working with an academic client, says Collins, because the client is able to get a full understanding of the project and its vision, rather than having to be persuaded.
The front cover was produced using a high-solid bronze metallic ink, supplied by Superior Ink—which also required "an awful lot of testing," says Greg Santini, a sales representative with Andrews Connecticut, an RR Donnelley company, in Manchester, Conn., that printed the book.
"If we get something new or unusual, we'll get some sheets [from the paper manufacturer that are intended for the job], and we'll [tack them on to] another job to see how [the paper] performs and make some adjustments," says Santini. "When we get to the actual production of a job, at least we've seen how the sheet runs in the press or reacts to the ink."