I’m a publisher at Cambridge University Press and I’ve written a blog post on the traditional process of publishing a book. I’ve split this blog post into three parts – planning, designing and developing. This is part two.
Designing a book
There are books devoted to book design, and I’m not about to write another. Also, as a non-designer, this short introduction to designing a book is very un-designery with a focus more on product design.
Now that’s out the way, let’s look at how we use a book design, or design spec as we call it in the publishing industry, and at what point it feeds into the book publishing process. The spec provides all the information needed on the final layout of the book – the colours used, the font sizes, the font type, paragraph styles and character styles. The publisher would generally provide a detailed brief to the designer on the intended target market for the book, suggestions on colour and font use, and all components needed in the book. The spec is also where the publisher develops out all the book’s features. For example, if you need an activity box, a table showing currency or some way to display dialogue or poetry, this is all designed as part of the spec. It is good to be as specific as possible with these components as it is a hassle to go back to a designer for a new feature once the spec design process is over. I’ll go into the details around textbook components in another post but see sample styles for various features in the gallery below. This type of detail is less relevant for novel publishing as opposed to publishing educational or children’s books.
There are three primary audiences for a design spec – the publishing team (publisher, author and editor), the typesetter and then finally the reader.