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

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For the chapter openers I indulged in some full-page details as frontispieces. The baskets are photogenic, and they offer many opportunities for interesting details. The essay text is rag right on the basic text measure (there is also a wider measure that is used for other sections). I don't use rag a lot in continuous text books, but the unadorned elemental quality of the baskets suggested rag to me. The folios are indented one em from the measure (so they will appear inset on full-width pages and act as a reminder of the text measure).

At first I was using a second typeface for the titles but I abandoned this because using only one typeface throughout the book seemed right for the topic and the design. I usually avoid setting titles in all caps, but it seemed best in this case; small caps (not u/sc) are a design motif elsewhere. The caps are, of course, letterspaced (with an InDesign tracking value of 150, that is, 15% of an em). Bylines are simply italic text. Title and byline are 14/14; text is usually 11.5/14, although for some elements a smaller point size and tighter leading are used (I'm not sure, but I think it's possible that I allowed more variance among the elements than might have been optimal. With complicated elements on a tight schedule complete integration is hard to achieve).

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Below is another essay opening spread. The bamboo detail, which is unusual, has a botanical quality. A subhead is shown on the text page. It's just letterspaced small caps. Some people find all small caps odd (The usual expectation is that they will be combined with full caps. "You mean just tiny caps?" a designer I was working with at Mercury House said to me once in a voice that made it clear she thought I was crazy.) Dave Bullen used to use all small cap elements at North Point Press, so maybe I picked it up from him. True small caps, which are wider and darker than full caps, produce a nice even color as the illustration below (using Adobe Caslon Pro since I'm on press check and forgot to install MT Bembo on my laptop) shows (small caps on left and full caps on right in the top line, and the order reversed in the second line):

small caps vs full caps

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Below is an essay spread with figures. This is the last spread of the main essays, where I had to make a bunch of adjustments for fit. This spread has some special elements — a postscript, an extract, and notes. Because the essay came in very long, I had trouble making it fit while avoiding widows and other layout problems and keeping the numerous illustrations near their text references. I ended up overshooting slightly, so I had some extra space to fill here, and I ran the bottom illustration on the left full measure. I made the text measure narrower on the right to fit the notes without cramping them, but if I was going to do that I should probably have reduced the text block on the facing page to be the same size by cropping the upper left image and running it wider — but maybe that would have made the left page too heavy for the right. With more time I might have tried some different approaches.

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I asked my colleague Jason Jose to turn the author's complicated charts of bamboo artist master-student lineages into something presentable. He did a great job, better than I would have done. When I asked for Jason's help I was still using a second font in the book (Univers), which is what he used. Later I decided to use only one font, so I replaced the Univers with Bembo — not an easy matter because of fit issues. I didn't want to use boldface anywhere in the book (it's an anachronism with Bembo) but I ended up having to use it for the artists' names on the chart for clarity. Jason meant for the charts to go sideways but I didn't want to make the reader turn the book and I wanted to retain my standard design elements, so I let the largest of the charts get perilously close to the gutter and outer edge of the page. Trade-offs.

On to the catalogue section ...




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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