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hi martin…

two students from a UK art school mailed me this week with some questions about book design, using paper and inspriration sources, these are the answers is sent back, i generally respond quite quickly to these kinds of mails and usually write down the first things that come into my head, these are my answers as is?

Dear Martin
I am a student, studying Graphic Design and am working on a presentation about book publishing, editorial design and what happens behind the scenes. I was hoping that by contacting you I could get a new perspective on this industry?. I hope that you wouldn’t mind answering some quick questions.

Professional Practice in Graphic Design Presentation Questions.

1.  How does the editorial book design industry differ from other areas of Graphic Design in your view?
books are much more collaborative than say posters or stamps, in those areas you generally get a brief go away and ‘do your thing’ whereas with books there are generally speaking many parties involved, a publisher, a writer (or several) picture editors, photographers/illustrators etc etc.

2.  What led you into editorial design? What experience would you identify as essential to get a job within the industry?
a love of books i suppose, sound typographic skills and patience are two that come to mind

3.  Does editorial work give you enough creative license or is it simply dependent on the client and type of book?
yes, it is very much dependent on the type of book, client and… budget

4.  How do you identify and direct your design output for particular audiences?
by learning to understand how certain types of people consume their information do people like to read, or rather speed scan and see a lot of images, is it a book that you read in a linear way or rather a book you pick up and scan from time to time… understanding people and how they interpret communication is essential (to any aspect of design really) the only real way to learn about this is experience, trial and error, making mistakes and putting in the hours to learn, there is no short cut to gaining experience, especially when it comes to understanding your audience

being curious, feeding your mind, reading a lot, seeing how others have done it before plus never forgetting to have a ‘sense of play’, are some useful qualities to have

5.  Do you work collaboratively with other designers/artists/illustrators creatives?
yes, i often work alone (by choice) but also regularly collaborate with all of the above, other people are a primary source of inspiration so go and meet them as often as possible, they will always teach you something new whoever it is…

6. What compromises and restrictions, if any, arise regularly from client, brief and budget restrictions? How do you maintain a level of quality in your design work?
compromise is a fact of life for a graphic designer, we work for other people, unlike an artist who is generally satisfying his personal needs, designers are paid to solve problems or make things that convey a certain message, therefore we generally have to work to certain constraints and requirements either set by the client or intrinsic to the type of project

i try to maintain a high level in my work by ensuring that i don’t stop until i’m happy that it is as good as it can be (unless time runs out, which it often does) i usually spend more hours on a job than i’m paid for, but that’s part of the deal if you care more about quality than money… clients can sometimes be very difficult, money is almost always a problem and i’m usually never satisfied with a job when it’s finished it can always be better, but that is also a driving force, the better your work, the better the jobs, the better the clients and maybe the better the money will be…

the most important factor is loving what you do, i don’t have a job. i do what i love and that makes me a very lucky person… if you start by doing what your passionate about the rest will follow
hope this helps and good luck…

and here’s the second (mini) interview:

Hi Martin,
I am currently a second year Graphic Design student … We are due to present our questions and responses from companies
we admire, whom will attain honest first hand information, your company being a great example to present. A majority of my questions evolve around the use of paper mechanics in print and I found your work very inspirational.

1. It’s evident in some of your print work that you use paper at it’s full potential, what inspires you to use certain paper mechanics and how do you come up with your ideas?
paper is a fabulous material and it naturally lends itself for experiment i feel, inspiration comes from everywhere, looking at books, playing around and talking to other people, designers, artists, printers etc…
the netherlands (where i live and work) has a very rich tradition in book design and some of the best people in the world so i’m surrounded by designers who are constantly pushing the boundaries, that’s inspiring and very much a motivation to look for original ideas and techniques…

2. When laying information down onto a page, how do you design certain templates? What processes do you go through?
mmm that’s a tough one every book is different, but i suppose that i always start by creating a basic form or layout (sometimes a grid sometimes more a general feel of how it should look, the typefaces, sizes, white space, colour schemes and any graphic elements or recurring themes) once the basics are down and the information is placed in a clear and understandable way then it’s time to start playing around… there is a kind of rhythm to a book (or at least there should be) and i try to keep this in mind when working through a book, varying between large amounts of text and few images to the other way round (assuming the book has imagery of course)

that sounds a bit vague but i suppose it is not really a clear process so therefore difficult to explain, the type of book, the audience, budget and the format etc etc. are never twice all the same…

3. Where within print do you think paper mechanics is most appropriate today?
books… i would guess…. the onset of digital media and the internet has had a rejuvenating effect on book design i believe, like music downloads have caused an increase in music sales, so has the internet caused people to pay more attention to the overall quality and ‘tactile’ side of book design, a lot of information is nowadays better sent via the net, although if something warrants a book then people seem to care more about how that book looks, designers therefore seem to spend more time and attention making book designs that work, read and ‘feel’ better

4. What things do you consider when choosing a particular stock? (Please give examples if possible).
price is always a factor with paper, it’s usually the biggest part of the costs in any print job… i try to use contrasting paper types in books, uncoated and coated, coloured stock and unusual techniques like hot stamping, varnishes, metallic inks etc… on a recent job for an italian artist i used a special paper sort that is actually intended for the packaging industry (bottle labels) this particular paper has a shiny side and an uncoated side which worked very well for a piece of cd packaging i made… but this paper is now unfortunately obsolete

it’s always worth spending time looking around for something unusual or a paper which changes the way your design feels, it can be a very important factor in a design, it’s often a subliminal thing people won’t necessarily notice a special paper itself but do perhaps unconsciously like the feel of it or are aware of the way it enhances the design, for example…

i am currently making a book for which i am using a paper sort called ‘arctic volume’ which has been a favourite of many designers here in the past few years here, the reason is that it has a greater ‘volume’ than regular paper, so it can make a book thicker than it would otherwise be, just because the paper itself is thicker it also feels very nice and is great for printing full colour images… not all clients can afford it though it is expensive

personally i hate glossy white paper, some people interpret ‘gloss’ as expensive or chique but to me it’s the opposite i find shiny generally very cheap and gaudy

5. What advantages does print have over digital media? Do you think print will ever become obsolete?
the obvious advantage is tactility, you can’t feel the internet (not yet anyway) holding a book is an experience in itself, the smell, the feel of the pages, the tempo in which the information is dosed, the general physicality of a book is very special and entirely different to the instant, direct and ‘no frills’ way that we all consume our info online, one is not necessarily better than the other they have different aims and are complimentary to each other, i do not believe that books will disappear, in fact they will become more important and more human than ever before thanks to the internet

for the record: i have a personal preference for offline design, paper and ink are my favourite tools… i spend a lot of time online as a person, but i still feel much more passionate about paper and physical objects as a graphic designer?

m / 23-10-2009 23:02

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