Designing the layout for a book is an extremely complex operation, as it must ensure satisfactory compliance with all the requirements of the text and, at the same time, make it possible to create an object that meets the buyer’s expectations, also aesthetically speaking.
Choosing the right layout is therefore essential for ensuring that a text is “kitted out” in a valid graphic outfit: making incorrect choices regarding the layout could have a significant negative effect on the sales of the book in question, or on its critical response.
Below we list some tips about the essential points to consider when designing a book layout.
Edition, layout grid, structure, font: the main questions
When planning the publication of a book, one must first ask oneself a few questions. What target group does the book aim to reach? Is it to be a low-cost edition for widespread circulation? Or a valuable edition that mainly focuses on the quality of the graphic design and the materials used?
Layout grid is the name used to describe the blank space that surrounds the text on each page: if the objective is to try and use all the space offered by the paper, the layout grid will be composed of rather small spaces and the text will end a few millimetres from the outer margin of the page. On the other hand, if the spotlight is to fall on the text, a very large grid is a better option, i.e. with more blank space around the text.
The graphic structure of a book depends largely on the type of text to be designed. If it’s an illustrated children’s book, the illustrations will probably follow a rather free pattern and will be the main focus. The grid may even disappear, and blocks of text of various lengths may be inserted, in coherence with the illustrations, but differently from page to page.
Obviously, in the case of a graphic novel, a book on botany or a theoretical architectural book, the quality and size of the images play a fundamental role and the ideal choice in these cases is therefore a large-sized book.
The choice of the font, i.e., the case used when writing the text, must be made carefully: a font suitable for printing books with a classic style, such as novels or poetry collections, will have serifs (i.e. small projections and thicknesses that make the character more elegant), while for children’s publications, or those dealing with technical or very topical subjects, a cleaner, more modern and graphically attractive sans serif font (literally “without serifs”) is a better option, the latter being used often online.
Many other conventions must also be respected when designing the title page, that of the contents and of all the other parts containing text that are not directly included in the actual “body of text” of the book.
It’s easy to see that designing page layouts for printing is an extremely complex operation, which requires a great deal of know-how and expertise in the field of publishing. Obviously, if the text is written in characters other than those of the Latin alphabet, (such as in the case of Cyrillic or Japanese) it is important to consider the graphic and linguistic peculiarities of the alphabet in question, and tailor the layout design to suit these, often with very different end results from those we are used to seeing in the western world.