Two Book Design Challenges

Over the past few days I’ve been slowly getting to work on a couple projects for The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. 

The first project is the cover for Sixty Years of Boom and Bust: The Impact of Oil in North Dakota 1958-2018 edited by Kyle Conway. The book was initially to appear in the Spring but with the confusion surrounding the COVID situation, we decided to push its release date to the fall. 

The book is now ready to go, but the cover had continued to trouble me. The cover photo was of Clarence Iverson #1, which was the first producing well of the late-1950s Bakken oil boom, and was taken by James N. Holter and generously provided to us by Janet Zander.

The problem, of course, wasn’t the photograph, but the text. And not the entire text, but the “and” between “Boom” and “Bust.” My first, “final version” used an ampersand in red (the same color red as the truck in the photo!) to link the two words. The result was adequate, but the size and position of the ampersand gave it undo prominence on the cover.

Sixty Years Cover AM1 01

Various other versions of the cover were worse (and I’ll spare you). The challenge is that I wanted to keep “Boom” and “Bust” very prominent on the cover because these two words were synonymous with the Bakken oil patch over the last 60 years and created a kind of narrative drama that shaped the book itself. After endless fiddling, I came up with this compromise solution:

Sixty Years Cover AM3

It’s not perfect, but it does the job.

I also adjusted the image on the back which is by Kyle Conway. The grey sky and muted tones offer a nice contrast to the brighter view on the the front of the book. 

The second little design challenge involves a book titled Visualizing Votive Practice edited by Derek Counts, Erin Averett, and Kevin Garstki. It is scheduled for an early November release that is just entering typesetting. The book will have all sorts of interesting features, from our use of 3D images embedded in the PDF to a robust gaggle of hyperlinks to published data and museums. Because the book will only appear as a digital volume and won’t have a print-on-demand version.

As a result, I wanted to be more attentive to how the book will appear to digital readers. For example, I decided not to include gutters on the inside margins of the pages because the book will never be bound. I also have proposed including the title of the chapter and the page number on the “outside” margin of the page to help the reader know where they are in the digital book without the interruption of a running header. I kept the typical 6×9 page size.

Test Template Chapter pdf 2020 08 05 07 35 52

The text of the book is Miller Text and the chapter title is in the ever-so-stylish Proxima Nova (which is evidently a hybrid of Futura and Akzidenz Grotesk).

I’m pretty happy with how the first drafts of the pages turned out even if they feel a bit like a Bloomsbury book (not to say that’s a bad thing). That is to say that they’re a bit more contemporary than my usual page design. 

As per usual, I’m open to suggestions, criticisms, or insults in the comments!

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