From Manuscript to Finished Art Book in Four Weeks
      The Making of Masters of Bamboo   right reading news service

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Let's start with the half title or bastard title. No matter how tight the space, I'm loath to omit this element because it makes a more elegant opening than jumping right into the title page. This book uses only one Latin typeface (Monotype Bembo Pro, which is darker and less spidery that Adobe Bembo and other earlier digitizations of the classic Venetian font) and one Japanese font (Kozuka Mincho Pro). The half title text here is styled like a chapter opener — more on that later.

There's a top/bottom thing going on in this book, and I decided to put an image on the bottom of this page to signal that. I originally had a detail from a curvy asymmetrical basket here, which I liked, but the curator had reasons for preferring this one. It was a little harder for me to use — it looked really dead when centered, but it worked better once I placed the center near the upper left corner. That's because the book uses left-aligned sprung rhythm (see the discussion of alignment below). The width of the sunflower-like central element is about the same as the half title.

This is a small book (for an art book), 8.5 by 10 inches (it had a modest budget resulting from its original conception as a kind of chapbook). This is a traditional shape known as the "truncated pentagon" — for more, see Robert Bringhurst's Elements of Typographic Style. I've used this size before in a series of contemporary art books, although in those books I used a two-column format, whereas here basic text pages are single-column (although catalogue pages do sort of use two columns of unequal width).

half title page
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If I'd had more time I would probably have tried to dress up the title page spread a little, maybe by screening back some basket detail or perhaps with an photo or painting of bamboo. Instead I went with type only, hoping the mirror effect with the Japanese type would suffice. I smushed the Japanese font in the title, making it wider and shorter so that it looked better with the facing Bembo. The guiding principle of this book's design is simplicity of presentation (although the content is complicated), and the title spread helps to establish that.

title spread
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The TOC is also very basic. Like the rest of the book (and the facing copyright page) it is left-aligned. Notice that titles, authors (where listed), and page numbers are all on the same line. These elements are simply separated with em spaces. (Some people imagine that TOC titles must be on the left and page numbers on the right, with lines of dots connecting them like rows of bullet holes. This is probably about the worst possible way of handling this.) Some subordinate TOC elements are likewise set up with em indents.

Indentation should not be confused with centering (see below). It does not change the basic rhythm of the left-aligned page.

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Since there is entrenched confusion about mixed alignment, I thought I'd show this improper handling of a head. Some people have the notion that you can't govern an entire measure with left-aligned copy. (Word documents from staff nearly always have centered titles, even when nothing else in the document is centered.) That's plain wrong. Below I've centered the TOC page head. Can you see how this is counter to the spirit of the design? Compare it to the version above. (If the copy were justified a centered head would be okay, because both centered and justified alignment have center symmetry.) Since left alignment creates a kind of sprung rhythm, the centered head is inconsistent and illogical. Worst of all, it is ugly.

TOC done wrong

On to the essays ...




navigation for
this article:

0. overview
1. front matter <<
2. essays
3. catalogue section
4. appendices
5. back matter
6. cover


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