Last night the question of quality came up again to my frazzled mind as I idly watched TV (cable, how have I lived without you for so many years?). On BBC America I found to my delight Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares.” I’m not a foodie by any means, though I know a good meal when I eat it.
I find myself fascinated by Ramsay, who comes off as something of a restaurant-industry drill sergeant, not only because of his creative use of the f-word and other — sadly — variously maligned words in the King’s English, but also his understanding of what quality is, from kitchen prep to customer service, and the way he values mental discipline in work and simplicity in the kitchen, even when creating gourmet dishes. The business values he expounds translate well to any kind of business, book publishing included.
And once again, using the associative property of the wandering mind, after seeing the Ramsay show, I thought about comments from freelance book designer Stephen Tiano about last week’s post, which distilled and paraphrased say, Good business comes from consistent quality matched with reasonable prices, and I couldn’t agree more.
Thinking about that comment reminded me that Tiano had produced an “unscientific survey” on his blog, and that reminded me to answer said survey via this week’s post. And now that I’ve rambled about my favorite f-bomb dropping celebrity chef and once again about my evolving theory of the associative property of the wandering mind I present …
Answers to Questions Only a Book Designer Would Ask (from Stephen Tiano)
1. Name the first aspect of designing a book that you give priority to once you accept a project and sit down to start.
Two considerations I’ve been making simultaneously with our books when I first start are how I’m going to apply our styles to the manuscripts we receive — some of the manuscripts have been sort of formatted with random fonts and designs before we get them so we sometimes have to decide even what constitutes a chapter head, a main head, a subhead, etc. — and whether it’s best to copy edit in Word or wait to flow the text to InDesign and then edit. The copy edit is, to me, the first priority, but I really prefer to copy edit once the text is in InDesign, simply because it’s easier to spot errors, most of the time, because I get a better visual sense of the book’s final layout.
2. Has InDesign proven to be the Quark killer for you; and, if so, what was the feature that did it; or do your clients determine which software you use?
I used Quark for seven of the nine years I was at the newspaper. I wasn’t J-school trained and had never used any design program before going to work at the paper, so Quark was my first experience with design and layout software, and from what I can tell quite a few papers still use Quark. I wasn’t fond of Quark, but the problems I had may have been based on our system (pages crashed just before deadline, or became corrupted frequently and were unrecoverable).
When I came here, I got my first taste of InDesign and have really liked it. The simplicity of the tools is a reward, though I find myself sometimes reaching for the Alt key when I want the hand tool (old habits, eh?). I’m big on simplicity. I think if I ever used Quark again, I’d be frustrated with it. I’d be curious to see what an InDesign template for a broadsheet set up in six columns would look like.
I can’t say, however, InDesign is a Quark killer, but InDesign certainly seems simpler.
Of course, with both programs, you use what’s available at your office.
3. What’s the first font comes to mind for body text each time you begin a book design project; and do you usually stick with that choice or say something like, “Yes, I really like that font, but it’s time to work with something else”?
At work most of the time we use Times New Roman for body text. Visually it seems to have a practical, no nonsense quality, perfect for technical books.
Not that you asked, but my sentimental favorite font is Courier, though a hardcopy manuscript page done on a word processor never quite has the bold output of Courier on a manual typewriter. A recent post at freelance editor Deanna Hoak’s site mentions that editors like manuscripts in Courier, because the spacing between letters makes it easier to catch mistakes.
But that’s manuscripts. I’m reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, and it’s set in Bodoni, which seems to really stand out; and, to me, seems reasonably readable.
4. Name one design-related book you highly recommend to book designers—please don’t suggest Tschichold’s The New Typography (Die neue Typographie) as I am just up to here with that book, as much of an earth-shaker as it was.
Ummm… Er… Ummmm …
Th-th-that’s all folks! (to stay with the Looney Toons theme from last week.)