How to design a book
June 21, 2008 6:15 PM   Subscribe

Book design help! I would like to find a good website or blog that can help me learn more about designing the interior of a nonfiction book.

I am working on my fifth or sixth self-published quasi-textbook nonfiction book, all of which have been doing well. I do absolutely everything on my own.

With this new project I am starting to struggle with the finer points of how to stylize the chapter heading, the section headings, and the subheadings. Bold or small caps? Indent or don't indent? How much of a gap between the paragraphs? Italicize a section heading? Whether to use sans serif fonts for headings in serif body text? Whether to use a numbering system (e.g. "2.5.3. Basket weaving" rather than "Basket weaving") for section headings? I want to excel this time around.

For the time being I'm going to try to look at the layouts of some other books and possibly order Elements of Typography or Elements of Graphic Design, though looking at Amazon reviews I'm not completely convinced these will help me since font choice issues and typeface history always seems to steal the show and I'm more interested in layout.

I think what I could use is:

* Personal likes and dislikes about book layout and use of type, comments about style you've seen in such books, things that you've absolutely hated, common "beginner" mistakes with page layout, and so forth.

* Webpages or blogs devoted to page architecture and book design (and which covers nonfiction and textbooks, not just artsy books) so I can keep my skills sharp.

posted by crapmatic to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I think the Chicago Manual of Style deals with these questions exhaustively. It's been a while since I've looked at one, but I think it may be useful to you.
posted by jayder at 7:05 PM on June 21, 2008

Does it have to be a blog? I'm quite fond of Designing Books by Jost Hochuli and Robin Kinross.
posted by j-dawg at 7:05 PM on June 21, 2008

Oh, by the way, the Chicago Manual of Style does have a website.
posted by jayder at 7:14 PM on June 21, 2008

I recommend The Elements of Typographic Style (particularly chapter eight), and also Digital Book Design & Publishing.

I've never read it, but Bookmaking: Editing, Design, Production looks promising.
posted by metabrilliant at 7:30 PM on June 21, 2008

You could do worse than take a look at Edward Tufte's website. He has plenty to say on the subject, and publishes his own books.
posted by jquinby at 7:42 PM on June 21, 2008

Last time I looked at an MLA handbook it had guides to this sort of thing. I imagine the same applies to the other style handbooks out there; they're more than citation formatting, kids.
posted by MadamM at 8:21 PM on June 21, 2008

I believe this is considered a primer on the subject. It is very formal, however. It's a book though, not a web site.
posted by dobbs at 8:50 PM on June 21, 2008

Yep, grab a style book (I have the Aus Government style book, and the APA publications manual.) Also White's Editing by Design gives you thumbnails of different kinds of layouts. Quite useful.

Main thing to remember is be consistent and write your own style sheet so that you treat the same sort of thing the same way.
posted by b33j at 8:58 PM on June 21, 2008

Seconding The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst. When I was studying graphic design in college, we also had The Design of Books by Adrian Wilson.

The first book is a typographer's Bible. The second deals more specifically with book design issues, though it is a little dated.

I wouldn't use a style guide like Chicago to solve a design problem.
posted by Jeff Howard at 10:20 AM on June 22, 2008

Bookmaking: Editing, Design, Production is a good one, though my study of the Design portion hasn't been extensive.

I also have a copy of Book Design: A Comprehensive Guide, by Andrew Haslam, though none of the places I find it online have the same cover, which makes me sort of wonder what the hell is going on. I find it quite, well, comprehensive. This one has the same ISBN though, which is what's important.

As for blogs, I don't have a lot. There's India, Ink, which someone linked for me when I had a question about book design a while back, but I don't know how much it covers the specific how-tos of book design. Worth digging through the archives, though.
posted by Caduceus at 11:19 AM on June 22, 2008

« Older Le song is driving me Le bonkers   |   What does Getty Images care about Lenin? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.