Creating a book or textbook is a production that requires time and patience. In order to make a better book that engages the reader, you need to think about a number of things, such as the visual appeal of the book and making it more readable. Not only is the book design of great importance, but as the graphic designer, you have to be ready to discuss design points with the client and editor to make a book of the highest quality.
In order to publish a book or stunning book design that everyone loves, here are some tips for you:
1. Simple and Clear Numbering
Make sure you are using page numbers and chapter numbers in such a way that people understand where they are in the textbook. Readers should be able to figure out the page they are on easily and navigate without issues. You may also want to consider how you number prologue or introduction pages to separate them from the main text. Some people use Roman numerals (I-X), but Arabic numbers (0-9) may be more clear for certain age groups.
2. Running Heads
A running head is common practice. What this means is that, on the left page, you will see the title of the book; the right page contains the chapter number and/or chapter title. This is more than aesthetic. Readers can use the page number, book title, and chapter title to find information in the book. If the text gets photocopied or split up as a PDF, it’s easy to cite the information, too.
3. Word Spacing
No one wants to read paragraph after paragraph when the text is either smashed together or spaced too far apart. Consider word spacing very carefully. Since nearly every font has its own unique spacing, you will have to adjust accordingly. A general rule of thumb is reducing the word spacing to around 90% for a tight line and less gaps in a single sentence.
4. Make Gutters Right
Think about all those times when you were given a handout or opened a textbook that had been bound so closely together that you couldn’t read the words at the crease. This often happens because the right hand (recto) or left hand (verso) side of the page is too close to the gutter. How do you avoid such an issue?
You make sure that the gutter is wide enough. For a perfectly bound textbook, make the gutters no less than 25mm on either side. The other factor to consider is how the book is being bound. For example, if a book is bound with cold melt glue, the book will lay flat, making text easier to read. A hot melt glue, on the other hand, dries stiff, making it more difficult to open the gutter and read the words.
5. Character Spacing
Similar to word spacing, you also want to think about the proximity of every character in relation to one another. Again, this depends largely on the font you’re working with. Avoid squishing letters too close together, making the words look too dark from a distance. If you’re working with Adobe InDesign, aim for -3%; use 0.6% for QuarkXPress.
6. Easier-to-Read Tables
The best method for creating an easily legible table is to space horizontal columns with about 5mm between them and no less. Doing so makes horizontal tables less confusing to read. People will be able to link the information from one page to another, as well.
7. Paper Choice
Despite being in the age of electronic publications, many people still love the feel of paper pages between their fingers. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to consider how the pages feel. Bright white pages are less appealing than off-white paper. Plus, it is easier for people to focus on the text.
As we started mentioning in the point above, you want less of a contrast between the color of the font and the paper. However, if you plan on targeting the population with visual impairments, the opposite holds true. You will want more contrast to help people see the shapes of the letters.
Yet, this isn’t necessarily true for the dyslexic population. A high contrast makes words look blurry and harder to discern. Because of this, dyslexic individuals often use a colored acetate overlay to read printed text.
9. Make Suggestions to Clients
Any design is a collaboration between the client, the designer, and other team members. Some clients are far more open to suggestions than others, and you may have to develop a relationship with the client before they listen to you. That said, you should openly discuss your thoughts and feelings about the design. If you are unsure of something, ask. It would be disappointing for the book to be published, only for there to be a design problem that hinders its success.
10. Ask for Feedback
Although designers often want to let their creativity go when it comes to books, so many of them are published in a cookie-cutter fashion. Because of that, more books get seen by the editor, designer, and producers but never get discussed or tested by those who matter most—the readers!
If you want to create an amazing book design, you should consider the individuals most likely to pick the book up in the first place. Ask a small test group what they think of the design. What would they change? Have them send you feedback.
You never know how people will respond. Sometimes, you get very detailed and helpful feedback that could make the book all the more successful.
Textbooks—and all books—are just as difficult to construct and publish as works of fiction or poetry. There are many factors to consider when you start designing a book, including readability. You want to make sure that things like wording and kerning are dealt with long before production. Keeping such things in mind will help you create a better book.