About VJB/Scribe

Book designer, project manager, publishing coach. Publisher of Bookbuilder's Almanac.

Design notes from Merwin’s Garden Time (Copper Canyon Press)

W.S. Merwin’s latest poetry from his palm sanctuary

W.S. Merwin turns 89 on September 30, 2016.

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Garden Time by W.S. Merwin, Copper Canyon Press, 2016, ISBN 978155659-499-1

The cover image, a copperplate photogravure by Gwen Arkin, shows the potting shed on the land where W.S. Merwin lives, writing and tending a forest of palm trees that he planted, turning clear cut land into a forest. Sarah Cavanaugh‘s photographs are on the endsheets and on the back of the jacket. Merwin’s Maui forest is now The Merwin Conservancy. 

Interior

Merwin’s poetry asks for a classic, minimal setting. MVB Verdigris is the text typeface, with display type set in Garamond 3. The Garamond siblings are a nod to Merwin’s years living in France if anyone were to ask me why I picked them. If you listen to that clip under the “living in France” link you’ll hear: warmth and erudition are in Merwin’s voice as well as in Verdigris’ letterforms.

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The real book is better than the pictures. 5.5 x 7.5 inches, soft to the touch, fits well in hand . . .

Cover and Jacket

The cover art led the way to an earthy, organic approach for the whole book package. For the forest photos by Sarah Cavanaugh, printing them in full color seemed too literal, and possibly overwhelming to the space of the poems. Instead those photos are presented in a muted green monotone. I used 4-color process for the green so I could attempt to make both greens match (the one printed on the creamier endsheet stock and the one printed on the white jacket stock). By pulling back the yellow a bit on the endsheet green, the result matches well enough.

The original cover concept was whisper spare. Just the simple author/title. No enhancement. Test prints and common-sense talk* from JB the seasoned marketer convinced me that we had to make it possible to read the author/title from a distance. I used an understated intervention, a brown rectangle made from the image of a palm leaf.

*actually a passionate plea

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Better choice?

Bloodaxe in Britain has released Garden Time in softcover. Their approach to the cover is a bit different, although they use the same image as a starting point.

Reviews:

Purchase directly from Copper Canyon Press.

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Inspirations that still inspire #1

Here’s a treasure from my hoard, a gorgeous type specimen for the Lanston Type Co. printed 25 years ago. Still inspiring!

The Fount, Volume 1, Issue 1, Gerald Giampa designer, The Northland Letterpress Co. Ltd. Publisher, 1991. Tabloid size, newsprint.

From the history on MyFonts.com: “Lanston continued supplying the American market for Monotype casters until January 21, 2000, when the hot-metal component of Lanston was tragically destroyed by a tidal wave. After this time Giampa, who was one of the earliest developers of PostScript fonts, focused much more on digitization.”

From the masthead: “We trust you will accept our efforts to entertain, to appeal to your eye, and to provide you with accurate historical and technical information which will assist with your work in the world of late 20th Century Typography.”

 

 

 

1980s: Problems typesetters had back then

Analog typeface identification

TypeIdentifer, Centennial Graphics Inc., 1986

The number of typefaces available to the typesetting industry was expanding rapidly and the impracticality of committing them to memory was becoming increasingly obvious. This TypeIdentifier [TM] was conceived as a way for anyone to quickly identify and determine the name of an unknown typeface, no matter what their level of training or prior experience.”—TypeIdentifier introduction

The TypeIdentifier listed most of the know typefaces and had columns of letters you could scan to find a match for the unidentified sample your client had provided.

Creating the TypeIdentifier must have been a slog. It sounds straightforward: Set the typeface name and character set for all the typefaces. I seem to remember problems setting too many typefaces in one galley because of memory limitations. The TypeIdentifier involved lots of work in paste-up and proofreading, too.

It was such a great tool that I made a photocopy, and brought it with me to every place I worked (with apologies to Bruce Beck and Centennial Graphics).

 When Wysiwyg spelled WTF

Adobe Type Manager Ad

Once, type on screen was blocky bitmaps

Advertising spread for Adobe Type Manager, 1989 Font & Function

For years, type on screen was 72ppi pixels, and then, Adobe figured out how to anti-alias and render smooth curves on screen. Hard to imagine that we lived for over five years, glad of our blocky screen type, glad we had transcended pure code!

Now this feature is part of the operating system instead of a pricey extension.

Does your front end talk to your back end?

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Once there were mainframes that drove dedicated typesetting systems. Then there were  microcomputers, Aldus Pagemaker and Freehand, Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Halftones, illustrations, and multiple columns of type could be set together.

This advertisement expresses the last dying cries of the great Dynasties of Typesetting. Ironically, the smallest conversation bubble says “Hi Mac.” Soon, “Hi Mac,” and “greetings IBM” would be all any imaging device would need to say.

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Typesetter was a job in the 1980s

I began working as a typesetter from 1982 – 1989 and experienced the transition from dedicated mainframe systems to systems based on what were then called microcomputers. Here are two documents among my stuff that show a little about that world.

Typefaces in the 1980s: ITC Type catalog

ITC Type Directory: Alphabet Soups
1984, Mo Lebowitz author and designer, illustrations by Lionel Kalish

We set an awful lot of Cheltenham Condensed back then! Now it has disappeared, although it was digitized early on.

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The cost of doing business

Next, an advertisement from the mid-1980s.

The ad is for Magna, a typesetting system that ran on microcomputers, not mainframes. It used the same coding system as Computer Composition International (CCI) mainframe systems. You could switch your shop to this new maverick and not have to retrain your work force. Magna was breaking up the old single-vendor system.

In the late 1980s, the shop I worked for in San Francisco had about 6 CCI workstations and 2 Magna workstations. Those Magna workstations were used to set MacWorld (then a huge, fat magazine). The copy came to the shop over a modem, passed through a shop-built program that search-and-replaced editorial codes with Magna typesetting codes. Multi-column galleys came out the Linotronic imagesetter.

The personal computer was just starting to change the world.

[This month I’m sorting through my archives and intend to share some of the things I’ve saved over the years. I apologize for my lack of photography technique. I’m trying to sort out and give away and decide what to save, so I’m taking photos as I pack and unpack . . .]

Luxury Matte and color shift

In the photo below, you can see how the color is darker and duller in the finished book  (left) than it is in the press approval proof (right) provided by the printer. The cover was printed offset (10pt C1S, 4/0) and finished with luxury matte coating.

comparison of color in matte lamination cover vs. pressmatch

Printed book with luxury matte coating on the left, matchprint from the printer on the right.

The printer always tells me that matte coatings will make the color darker, and it is useful to consider this side-by-side comparison. The cover stock is not as bright white as the proof stock. The cover stock is warmer (more yellow). So, some color shift is due to the difference in the stock.

On screen the image looks very bright (yes I know the screen doesn’t give an accurate color match). I had already made the image brighter and a bit more saturated to come closer to our expectations from the screen. I’m glad I did as the printed cover stepped it back down again.

Design note to self: Remember to think ahead and account for the likely difference between press proof and actual printed results.

Possible strategies: pull back the yellow 5%-10%, increase brightness and saturation, and in some circumstances pay for a proof on the actual stock for a better proof to begin with.

Box of books from Lightning Source

I received my first box of 4o copies of Bookbuilder’s Almanac: Volume One this week. I ordered these to send out to reviewers.

Up to now, I’ve only seen the book as a single-order printing. As you know, part of my objective with the Bookbuilder’s Almanac is to create a useful sample to show print quality.

Imagine my surprise when I surveyed my books and discovered that 16 were printed with inkjet technology and the remaining 24 were printed with toner-based printers.

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Toner based printing (top) vs. inkjet printing (bottom)

The toner versions are darker and sharper than the inkjet versions. The toner is shiny. The inkjet versions are smoother and not quite black enough. Some typefaces are better in one version than the other. Both versions have similar gray capacity.

[05.11.16: My friend Alan Gilbertson observed that the two versions are printed on different papers, “a fairly opaque bright white for the toner version and a much less opaque, lower-brightness stock for inkjet,” he wrote in an email to me].

I asked my Lightning Source rep if he had any insights as to why I received a shipment printed two different ways. His response echoed the information I had received from an Edwards Bros. digital printer at the Publishing Professional’s Network conference last week: These decisions are made at the manufacturing site based on maximizing resources.

The Bookbuilder’s Almanac has a spine built to show clearly any deviation from the spine width provided by the manufacturer. Don’t design your book this way, especially for a skinny book!

In the photo below you can see where the tan front front cover was pulled on to the blue spine or where the back cover with the bright cyan, magenta, and yellow bars pulls from the back cover.

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Spine variation of a box of books

My assessment is that the problem is not that the cover is mounted incorrectly but that the bulk of the book varies. Some books are clearly fatter than others. Considering, the equipment does a good job of delivering books where the cover is not compromised by showing the spine and where the spines, well, appear on the spine. Take note as you design your spines. I recommend your spine color wrap around to the back, or be the same color as the back cover area.

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Binding variance over 40 books printed via Lightning Source.

I found only one major printing flaw: a place where the toner had not fused to the paper:

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Flaw in a screened area from a toner printed book from Lightning Source.

I would very much like to hear your stories about books you’ve received from Lightning Source. And, while I am promoting Bookbuilder’s Almanac: Volume One, I am giving away review copies.

Comment your address to me.

 

Design Eye on AWP16 part 2

I know, AWP16 is so #LastWeek.

Want to mention a few more design finds. Two publishers caught my eye because of their great cover programs.

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Open Letter Books

Open Letter Books has a wonderful set of covers, all made with simple illustration type and color. Have to admire the creativity there. Open Letter is a literary translation press out of Rochester University. Ann Zylicz is the designer of at least some of those books.

Broken River Books had a table of great book covers playing off of vintage cover design, often in a weathered grungy treatment.

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Covers by Broken River Press designed by Matt Rivere [?]

AWP16 Broken River Books booth

The folks at Broken River Press

Finally, some striking broadsides caught my eye and led me to conversation with Doncarlos Price about Public Pool. PublicPool.org “One Space for All Poets” has a dynamic visual presence, announces a future podcast and takes video submission along with written submission. Take a look.

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BOY: A Woman Listening to Men and Boys

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Cover photo: Wynn Bullock, “Child on a Forest Road”

New Title

BOY: A Woman Listening to Men and Boys
by Hathaway Barry

7 x 9, softcover, 374 pages
ISBN 978-0-692-59254-0
On sale through author website

Through first-person chapters told by 17 different men and edited sections with short quotes from many men and boys on select topics (see Contents below), this book gives the reader the opportunity to listen closely and deeply along with author, interviewer, and editor Hathaway Barry.

Barry spent several years interviewing over 80 men for this book. These were men and boys from a wide range of ages and circumstances.

How does it feel to be expected to be a man?
This book is a way to find out.

Author Hathaway Barry from the Introduction:

“I’ve listened a lot in my life — working with kids, especially in the outdoors and, for many years, as a mediator. But I am not a social scientist or an anthropologist. I am not a journalist…. I just wanted to listen without blame or judgment to how it is for men, a whole half of the human species I knew less about. I wanted to hear their honest human stories, without gloss or performance.

“I had a freedom as an interviewer. I was no one in particular in relation to these boys and men. Not wife or lover, colleague, boss or employee. I was just curious.

“Sometimes, in the midst of an interview, I was aware how rare this kind of time with another human being is. Like when we first fall in love or when a child is born or a loved one is dying. Clear, uninterrupted time to simply listen.”

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Book design is by Hathaway Barry and VJB/Scribe. Barry had a vision of the cover that kept her going forward over the many years it took her to arrive at today, when the answers men gave to her openhearted questioning are a book. Her vision, including the typography, was a stepping stone to the interior design, where Avant Garde Gothic appears in the part and chapter titles. From there we resolved all the design questions together, in a remarkable collaboration.

The text has several voices: Hathaway Barry’s own voice as author and editor of the interviews, the singular voices of the 17 first-person chapters, and the chorus of men’s voices of all ages as we meet them in brief quotations followed by their age (in parenthesis).

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The main text and the authors voice are set in Scala. After much experiment, and a happenstance type discovery in another book, the very readable sans serif Whitney Book became the typeface for the short quotation sections and running footers.

This is a difficult book to categorize, which is one reason we didn’t list a BISAC code on the cover.

Sociology, Psychology, Compassion Studies, Social History, Gender Studies, Live-With-Your-Man Handbook, Know Your Brothers Manifesto — Whatever you call it: Read and share Boy: A Woman Listening to Men and Boys.

Design Eye on AWP16

Books I brought home from the large book fair at AWP 2016.

Gleanings from AWP 2016 book fair

I traversed the book fair floor with an eye to interesting covers and book forms. I was thrilled to see the beauty, the risks, and the variety of books brought to the AWP16 word party.

From top left to right:

Organic Weapons Arts (OW! Arts) out of Detroit produce 5.5 x 6.5 chapbooks that fall somewhere between trade books and handmade. Kudzu Does Not Bend by Jane Wong has an outsider-arts-and-crafts illustration on the cover.

Yes Yes Books is in the photo twice. Dream with a Glass Chamber by Aricka Foreman is a 5.5 x 6.5 chapbook that is so polished I hardly want to call it a chapbook. I’m a fan of Alban Fischer, the designer at Yes Yes, and he can’t help it but make a miniature jewel.

Siglio Press is in the photo three times because, well I just want to own every book on their table. Siglio books are singular because they are beautifully executed and are all doorways into extraordinary arts and minds. The colorful book peeking out at 12:00 in the photo is the ecstatic You Who Read Me with Passion Now Must Forever Be My Friends by Dorothy Iannone and edited by Lisa Pearson. Beauty beauty beauty!

Copper Canyon Press at 1:00 position, represented by So Much Synth by Brenda Shaugnessy. Love that “synth” image and the rich colors of the jacket front and back. The case is shiny gray. I have to say, Copper Canyon Press treats poetry very well. Hardcover poetry. Wow. Book design by Phil Kovacevich. (Full disclosure, CCP is my client)

Immediately below that is Lotería Huasteca: Woodblock Prints by Alec Dempster, Porcupine’s Quill Press. Every book on this publisher’s table had the same toothy paper and letterpressy feeling covers — and no wonder. Follow the links to see how they do it. The interior designs by Canada’s Tim Inkster.

To the right of the Lotería is Suite Vénitienne by Sophie Calle (Siglio). It has a gorgeous blue case with a die cut shaped like an eye, and reveals part of the photo on the flyleaf that provides the iris to complete the effect. And this isn’t just a cute device, it serves the work perfectly.

Next to the blue Suite, at 3:00 and 4:00 are books by Otis Books, the publishing arm of the Graduate Writing program at Otis College of Art and Design. Traditional typography and photography on the interiors, and always black covers. Propped open is Tlemcen or Places of Writing by Mohammed Dib. Below that, in black is Panic Cure: Poetry from Spain for the 21st Century edited by Forrest Gander. All the books are beautifully traditional, and it is good to know that there is a writing program like this one that show writing students how it’s done. They must chafe against those black covers though! . . . suppose it keeps them focused.

“And now for something completely different . . . ” Saturn, by Simon Jacobs published by Spork Press “Bound with prescriptions, dirt, Vangelis, help, more IPA, and Sander Monson Jr” as noted on the copyright page, the book feels simultaneously like a Little Golden Book (the cardboard binding) and a zine (the art). The people at the Spork table showed me a new, larger format product. This is so good, it has to be from Portland, but it isn’t. It comes from Tucson. Note to self: take another look at Tucson.

At 6 o’clock position is another Yes Yes book, this time 7″ x 9″ with fold-outs no less. Some Planet, by John Mortara

At 7 o’clock is Texas: The Great Theft by Carmen Boullosa published by Deep Vellum Publishing. Support literature in translation!

Finally, The Center is Barbaric, The Periphery is Without Lights by Tim Early, Doublecross Press, printed in daring letterpress, metallic silver on black on the cover and black on craft paper on the interior. Big lovely gothic letterforms. Typeset and printed at The Center for Book Arts, NYC by Anna Gurton-Wachter, MC Hyland, and Jeff Peterson.

Still lots more to digest from the feast of AWP2016. More soon.

Here’s a link to Part 2.

 

 

Design for Finding Them Gone

“The exquisite production quality of the book effectively highlights both his talents as translator and his vision as a travel writer.”—Justin Radland, The Los Angeles Review of Books

Finding Them Gone: Visiting China’s Poets of the Past by Bill Porter / Red Pine
400 pages, over 120 photos, 7 x 9 softcover
Finding Them Gone by Bill Porter/Red Pine

The book is organized around the story of Bill Porter’s Guggenheim award project. He traveled around China, visiting sites related to poets and offering libation to their spirits. It is a combination of travelogue, translation, and commentary where each chapter represents one of thirty days on a whirlwind tour.

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The title page spread suggests the dizzying array of gravestones, pagodas and memorial halls visited during the journey, as well as the impressive list of Bill Porter/Red Pine’s published works.

Pages include poems in English and Chinese, images and captions. Wayfinding consists of running feet that tell the day number of the current page and he poet discussed on the page.

We wanted a book that you could open at random and jump in. Read a poem, take up the story, enjoy a photo.

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From over 400 photos, Bill Porter and I culled down the lot. Layout of the book was done organically as I flowed the text and sized the photos into the five basic photo shapes I established within the design grid. All of the photos were adjusted for at least -10% in the shadow. Most photos required individual attention.

This book was unusual in that the design evolved as we developed first a single-chapter fundraiser and then adjusted that design to fit more lines on the page for the book. The book is printed on antique white rather than bright white stock, a choice that puts the words before the photos, and is consistent with other Copper Canyon Press titles.

fundraising sample and test of color for the cover

Finding Them Gone fundraising sample and 3 color proofs of the cover as I adjusted the final color.

You can order a copy of your own, direct from Copper Canyon Press.