It would be grossly premature to add “book designer” to my LinkedIn profile, but I appear to have successfully defined the styles for all the elements in my upcoming collection of blog posts. My husband, a graphic designer who is “acutely aware of typography in use across all media” (his words), suggested two typefaces for me to use—one text and one display—and gave me a crash course in InDesign in an airport lounge. I took it from there!
I was not completely unfamiliar with the components of book design—margins, font sizes, line spacing, indents, page numbers, chapter openers. In my role as an in-house editor for a publishing company almost half a lifetime ago, one of my tasks was to create “design memos” identifying and describing the items in a manuscript that needed to be prettified (by a hired professional) for publication. I don’t mean to brag, but one designer said my design memo was the best she had ever received.
Still, during the process of laying out Determined to Be Visible, I experienced both pros and cons, presented below (with the cons listed first, since I’m a bad-news-first kind of person):
Con: I didn’t really know what I was doing.
Pro: I had the power to make all the mistakes I wanted.
Con: I lacked a working knowledge of InDesign.
Pro: I had the satisfaction of struggling clumsily and then figuring it out.
Con: I wasn’t aware of best practices in book design.
Pro: I had the freedom to try things that didn’t work.
Con: I couldn’t draw on prior experience.
Pro: My next design will be much better.
Con: I had to study already published books to see what looked good.
Pro: This is a totally legit thing to do.
The biggest pro about book designing? It isn’t writing!