Book Design Matters

I finished War in the Boardroom, by Al & Laura Ries, last night. In the reading, I noticed that I found the book a bit more compelling than its content warranted, given that I am not now and will never be a “marketer,” per se. But I kept reading, long past when I should have been asleep. When I logged War into my reading list this morning, I noticed

Designed by Renato Stanisic

on the copyright page. Hmm. You don’t usually see designer credits on the copyright page. I googled Renato, found a Linkedin page, a Facebook page, and then a shout-out from The Waiter (Waiter Rant, vastly entertaining).

That makes two books in three days that I simply flew through, engaged, entertained, and informed, both designed by the same person. Now, I can’t argue that both books had excellent content. But LOTS of books have excellent content. What I know is that I’m reading a dozen books at any one time, and these two drew me in to FINISH. In contrast, I have to WORK to face a book about organizing that crammed far too much content into far too few pages and resorted to 6-point type to make the page count. My eyes hurt every time I see another pull-out quote in that book.

Design matters, even, or perhaps especially? when it comes to book content. I have self-published myself, and many people in the consulting fields are turning to self-publishing, and IMO, they could do well to give a bit more consideration to design than some of them are doing. I know the field is in disarray, with e-books and kindle shaking up the formats. However, I don’t believe an author can “give up” the points that accrue to good design. I don’t know what Mr. Stanisic makes to design a book; it’s not enough and it’s still more than most POD authors can afford. However, a badly designed book will simply NOT garner the same quality of review as something that reads well.

Most of us give a thought to our appearance before we go to a networking event. We should give the presentation of our thoughts the equivalent amount of attention.

See also: Richard Hendel, On Book Design, Yale University Press, 1998.

PS: I wrote a note of fan mail to Renato via Facebook; he replied and provided a list of the books he had designed. I think I’ve read a few.  Since then, I’ve added “designer” to the list of data elements I keep in my “Books Read” list.  More and more books identify the designer on the data page after the Title page.

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