Making a book #6 Starting my Indesign Course

As you know books are designed. It is an absolutely crucial part of the process, almost as important as writing it. It makes it possible to read comfortably.

If you have ever printed out a book or even a long pamphlet and tried to read it I am sure you will agree that it is a depressing experience! I have paid good money for a proper book rather than downloading some horrible un-designed Project Gutenberg free book.Books without proper chapter headings, attractive readable text, sufficient white space and properly organised footnotes are work of the devil. I think this would be one way to drive me mad – to make me read badly designed books for a living. Books need to be designed to be read, to be as easy as possible to assimilate without effort. Some of this of course is the writing, which I will reflect on in a future post. But the design is as important as the writing, in my view.

Witness the incredible interest in the book cover! 

What strong feelings were released. How something looks – think of food, a bed or your own appearance – makes all the difference to how you feel about something. An idea to bear in mind when people say it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter how you dress. I always laugh at these critiques of style guidelines. Of course it matters how you dress, just as it matters what your lunch looks like. Presentation and context is as important as content. If you were really hungry and someone ripped the liver out of a deer in the forest I expect you might eat it. But the same ingredient, delicately cooked and laid on a plate with other colours and ingredients might be more appetising. I know you get this.

It’s my body…


Books look lovely. You pick them up and the designed to be read. The organisation of a book helps you navigate it. A real book, compared to an e-book, is something you can handle, and flick through and dart around in, if you please. But the best thing about books – from children’s stories to technical manuals -is the pictures. I love this aspect. It cannot be achieved electronically, yet. Not very well. Kindle is monochrome.

Actually I love Kindle. I have one in my bag at all times and I devour novels at any opportunity (when I not knitting). I don’t mind a paper novel but I am not that bothered. These go from front to back and lack illustrations and a physical book is heavy and a little unwieldy. A Kindle can be read in bed at night without disturbing the Other. For travel and holidays a Kindle is ideal and will fit in the back pocket of my jeans.

But for pre-readers, and definately for any visual/presentation/instructional manual we need illustration. For  style and craft book we need pictures and colour. I think there are some options for electronic coloured books but they are not entirely satisfactory, although I understand things are changing and over the next few years what I want will exist. But not, in a satisfactory form, yet.

So I am going to produce a colourful book and to do that it needs designing.

You know my step daughter Charlotte works book publishing as a designer, and she has given me some of the books she has designed. They are known as “bricks” as they are big, heavy, glossy and colourful. Packed with lots of double page spreads they are completely sumptuous and beautiful. These books don’t have “authors” as the writing is fairly limited. They are mainly made up of check lists or ingredient lists or tips. The photographs are highly stylised and while I think these books provide good inspiration they produce an unrealistic approach to how you actually organise a wedding. You might say these books are so “aspirational” that they have limited use for the people who buy them.

My own book will look good, and I really want to design it to make it easy to read and accessible. The mood is not aspirational but achievable, real not superficial, understanding that how things look is very important but not a slave to style. Char tells me that these books take six months to design and I can believe it. And a whole army of photographers, stylists and designers to create the look that DK loves and is known for. I am not knocking them and I have so much to learn but my book will have more words and less pictures. And the pictures will be of beautiful people and gorgeous clothes, but they will also be real and you will get to know them.

So in order to learn more about book design I have started two courses this term. One is photography (with Nick) and the other is InDesign.

The Indesign course is six weeks (18 hours) and I hope it will be sufficient for me to actually make my own book. Maybe it will still need a professional eye at the end but I am going to give it a go. I have attended three lessons so far and have designed

a) a CD cover

b) a double sided flyer for an exhibition at the V&A

and c) a business card, and two leaflets (we are getting quicker!).

Working with Indesign
InDesign projects

My work to date is  rudimentary. I learnt the techniques. I didn’t make something terribly artistic. But the punch line is that this technology is very accessible. InDesign is part of the Adobe package (which Nick bought years ago at Student rates) and for me it is much easier to use that Illustrator and Photoshop. Which is a relief as I found them both very trying. I am enjoying using the programme and I believe with more practice I will be able to make my book.

4 Responses

  1. Ellen

    So exciting! Styles (paragraph and character) will be the key to establishing a consistent visual framework. Do you know which typefaces youbplan to use?

  2. Jennifer Miller

    Oh this is an exciting adventure! And you’re sharing it with all of us! I think you’ll love InDesign. I used it for creating proposals and reports in my last position and really enjoyed working with it, quirks and all. Your book will be beautiful; lovely and colorful.

    • fabrickated

      Thanks Jen. I am very impressed with people who just take to it as if it were Word or Power point, because it is quite difficult to learn. You are so much more competent with photography and design than I am. It is all rather daunting for a complete beginner. But it is very exciting and I can see that it may be good for the blog too.

Leave a Reply