Designing books: practice & theory

A Brief Review

A book that carries the names Jost Hochuli and Robin Kinross on the cover is enough to get just about anyone’s synapses salivating.* Designing books: practice and theory, published by Hyphen Press is the best single volume on the subject of designing books. Why save it for the concluding remarks. Hold this book in your hands, flip through it, take note of the colour of text blocks, the proportions … in these simple acts there are invaluable lessons to be learned.

The book comprises three main sections. The first two are concerned with fundamental principles—symmetry, asymmetry, proportion, form, etc.; the third is a collection of real examples of good (oftentimes, exceptional) book design. The writing is concise and intelligent; the illustrations informative and relevant; and the design of the book itself is a product of Hochuli’s consummate skill.

Learning to design books is not a particularly complicated affair. The fundamentals—all of which are covered in the book—can be learned with little effort. However, the same can be said of, for example, chess: learning the moves is nothing more than filing away the rules in memory. Mastery, however, is a lifetime’s work. And as grandmasters of book design and typography, one is in good hands with Hochuli and Kinross.

What’s inside?

For a pretty short book, a lot of ground is covered: nomenclature, symmetry and asymmetry, proportion, kinds of book, prelims (e.g. half-titles, title pages and contents), end-pages (e.g. bibliography, index), and numerous fine examples of book design, including a section dedicated (in chronological order) to books designed by co-author Jost Hochuli.

Set in Monotype Baskerville roman and italic, with perfect interline spacing and measure, and accompanied by a little Univers 75 Black. I also love the generous inner margins—I hate having to almost fold a book back on itself so that I can read the text closest to the spine.

And the motto that ‘typography serves’ holds true for almost every book, where it serves with special modesty. Modest but not uncaring: even the simplest typography can be decent, appropriate, yes even beautiful.—Designing books, page 48

Should I buy this book?

Yes. If you’re thinking that you never design books, then don’t let that dissuade you from reading it. Even non-designers would come away with a greater appreciation of book design. For designers not involved in book design, many of the principles covered are equally applicable to the design of other printed matter.

In a market saturated with coffee-table pretties, masquearading as instructional books, Designing books by Jost Hochuli and Robin Kinross stands out as an intelligent, well-conceived, and inspiring title.

Win one

I will choose someone at random from the comments. The chosen one will receive a free copy of Designing Books: practice and theory.

You can buy your copy from Amazon, or directly from Hyphen Press in the UK.

* Yes, I’m aware that synapses don’t salivate, but the alliteration was irresistible.


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  1. Filip

    Woohoo! This is perfect. I’ve just started doing some graphic work for a small publisher, and already we’re talking about book designing later this year. This will come in handy!

  2. Wow! This came in the perfect time,it can be very handy! Thanks!

  3. Nice, this could be perfect for my final work at college. Thanks for this!

  4. Morgan

    Oh… must resist urge. Want.

  5. Looks really interesting… and nice.

  6. jquen

    What an awesome concept. Thank you!

  7. Chick Byrd

    Obviously I am commenting because I hope to win a copy. Sounds like a dream book!

    Thanks for all the inspiration and instruction you bring us in this blog.

  8. I think I’ll hold off on buying it just long enough to try and win it :) Sounds great.

  9. Wow, sounds like a really interesting read - and looks beautifully designed too!

    For sure this one is being added to my amazon wishlist :p

  10. That’s a great book – I think I have to buy it. Thank’s for the review!

  11. Good pick. Looks very interesting. Design books are always great to read & flip through.

  12. Wow how do you find these things? I simply can’t wait to add this to my bookshelf!

  13. carol cavaleiro

    owwww!! that’s pretty cool!!!

  14. Looking forward to reading it. Thanks for the review, ILT. Concisely informative overview, which is fitting, given the book’s approach. Well done. (And I’m not just saying that to sway the giveaway. Okay, maybe that’s part. But a very small part.)

  15. andreas

    i want it! ;D

  16. I’d love to get a copy. Count me in!

  17. EJ Fox

    I love books. I love design. I love books about design. I love books about designing books. I think. May I have one?

  18. Jonathan

    Well if I don’t win a copy, I’ll definitely put this on the Amazon wishlist!

  19. Mark Kowarsky

    Looks like an interesting read. I only have a passing interest in typography, but have a friend that would love something like this.

  20. Daisy

    Thanks for the review. I definitely have to pick up a copy.

  21. Glad to see the photos on the publisher’s page; I was quite disappointed when Amazon listing didn’t include the page preview feature.

    As someone who’s never explored book design, the length seems ideal for an introduction to the stimulating subject.

    Thanks, too, for the innumerable references in your posts. I find myself in very happy tangents to my mid-day web browsing!

  22. Sounds like a very interesting read. Actually, I would love to design a book one day, perhaps I’ll start with an e-book.
    Whenever I read a book, I always pay attention to the way the content has been laid out, the fonts that were chosen, the way illustrations accompany the text.

  23. Jorg Agostini

    I like books…

  24. Martin Kuplens-Ewart

    This looks like it’ll be a great companion to the Elements of Typographic Style – great find!

  25. Mmmm, Baskerville. And is that a 2-color diagram? Sold.

  26. Bin

    Well if I don’t win it, I’m buying it!

  27. I would love to win the book! Great article on a very interesting subject. Thanks a lot.

  28. I would like to one :)

  29. This book tickles both the amateur designer and amateur writer inside me. Very, very interesting!

  30. This seems like a great book to help me with my handmade books; thanks for the review!

  31. Johno, you are the mano!

    Didn’t even know this book existed. Can’t wait to check it out.

    Thanks for everything.

    Jason

  32. Heheh, I was just looking at buying that book yesterday, but winning it would be even better! Thanks Johno!

  33. Philip

    Would like to compare it with “The Elements of Typographic Style”. Don’t think that it can goes any better, but who knows?

  34. Great review John! Come at the right time, I started my Master’s degree and need to think about the design of my thesis…

    John, or someone else, you know the “Detail in typography” by Hochuli? What you think, is good too? I thinking about buying this and “Designing books”…

    And, a typo: In the last time you cite Hochuli o->u ^_^’.

    Bye!

  35. Sounds pretty good.

    I’d love to get into book design.

  36. Thanks everyone.

    Philip
    The aims of the two books are different. Elements has a much broader scope. Designing books approaches it’s title’s subject only. Ideally you’d have both.

    Kazuo
    Another excellent title. Perhaps I should review that here too. Thanks for pointing out the typo.

  37. Looks like an interesting book; great layout, although not so sure about the cover…

  38. Looks like an interesting (and really useful) book. Sign me up for this little contest!

    On another note: I’m enjoying your more frequent posts. (I like Sunday Type, but smaller posts are always good, too.)

  39. I am pretty sure my synapses are salivating. Lovely find.

  40. Rafik

    Do you have any books to recommend on newspaper design?

  41. Steven

    Wow, I sure would love to own one of these!

  42. Rafik
    Contemporary Newspaper Design from Mark Batty Publisher looks pretty interesting. I don’t have it though, and have never read it. Will get a copy, and let you know what I think.

  43. I would like to win one. Thanks!

  44. ‘twould be a wonderful addition to help with my typography studies!

  45. rob

    Great, just in time for when my credit card company complained about all my amazon purchases!

  46. Ben

    This looks great. I’d love to win one.

  47. thanks for the review, looks interesting!

  48. Ooooh, I’d love to win a copy!

  49. Steve West

    Awesome, I’ll push this book onto my type students.

  50. I think some saliva just dripped on my keyboard.

  51. doctor

    Really I just want a copy. Also, why didn’t this show up in the RSS feed until just now?

    EDIT: I guess there have just been that many comments in the past two hours. I guess the comment date is determined by GMT, then?

  52. Looks like an amazing book. Thanks for posting John. If I don’t win it I’m definitely going to buy it.

  53. John, I think I mentioned this book to you a long while back. A handful of other must-haves are Rich Hendel’s On Book Design, Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style, The Design of Books by Adrian Wilson. I’ve discussed them all, as well as others, on my blog; but my recommended “big three” are Hochuli/Kinross, Hendel, and Bringhurst.

  54. I would love to give this book a home in between Chip Kidd’s “Book One” and Robert Bringhurst’s “The Elements of Typographic Style” - among my collection of inspirations to aspire to.

  55. Jeff

    I certainly wouldn’t mind winning a copy…

  56. I guess I need this book. I designed my second-to-last book, but my publisher insisted on letting someone else design my last book. The one I designed isn’t perfect, but the last one is far worse.

  57. The part I find most interesting is that presumably the cover is the best design possible (as the ones who designed the book are experts.) I would really like to know what went into that process and do hope they address such items in the book. Sounds like a winner!

  58. André Oliveira

    Luck

  59. I bought this book a few months ago on Steve Tiano’s recommendation — it’s really nice. Someday, I shall design a book. I think that’s pretty attainable goal that can replace one of my more unattainable ones, like becoming a rock star.

  60. Antonio Patriarca

    Wow! That looks great!

  61. My synapses are in high salivation mode. Could have used this a few times in the past for sure; but better late than never, right?!

  62. Love it, great review :)

  63. Rachel

    The only thing I’ve ever won in my life is a dead goldfish from a fair when I was eight. Let’s hope this trumps.

  64. Hollis Ervin

    I’ve got to tell you, you’re wrong. Synapses do indeed salivate, and this book makes it happen.

  65. Long time no post.
    Time to win stuff!! Haha

    I hope all is well Johno

  66. i would so so so love a copy of this book.

  67. Mat Larkin

    This looks fabulous — and I’m delighted to be reading your new short posts Johno!

  68. Great post as usual! will try to get my hand on this!!

  69. Liz

    I would love a copy!

  70. That looks like a gorgeous book. Once upon a time I was a book designer, and it always seems like I’ll do that again one day. And usually it’s gorgeous books on book design that make me want to design more books (maybe design more books on book design).

    —blessings…

  71. MDB

    Thanks for the review. I hadn’t heard of the book until now. I would love to learn more about book design.

  72. Bob Marchman

    mmm…book design. I just got my copy of The Solid Form of Language and I’m still drooling over it. Would love a copy of Designing Books to go along with it!

    Always a joy.

  73. Emily

    Thanks for the contest. This book looks like an interesting read, indeed.

  74. oh gosh… only at amazon or uk? it’s hard to live in south america… hahahaha

  75. LinaBina

    alliteration is my favorite poetic device. ever. ::applaud::

  76. I design books on traditional and ethnic textile skills, especially knitting and spinning. I do it because I love books, love knitting, am fanatic about making the images and the text work together as well as possible.

    Thanks for the book alert (it would be lovely to win a copy: my dedication to craft has impeded my income flow in the past several months) and the connection to Steve Tiano’s blog, via the comments.

    Two nice discoveries to end the day, for which I am grateful. Although before I can close out the day for real, I still have a drawing to place electronically in my latest book design and see if I’ve got the pen weights right. Yes, I know I could do this piece in Illustrator, but it just wouldn’t look right for a book on handcraft… .

  77. James

    It’s always weird to read articles like this.

    On one hand, I’m eager to leaf through the book, hear what they have to say. But on the other you have to wonder: When does an art become a science and when is that science… unnecessary? Is it really so complex that we can lecture on it enough to write a book?

    But I’m sure it’ll prove to be interesting, regardless.

  78. brian

    would love to add this to my library of instruction!

  79. James
    That’s one of the strengths of this book. Hochuli in fact warns against dogmatism, and his tone is never condescending, never dogmatic. In fact, he admonishes, via a quote from Kant’s What is Enlightenment?

    Sapere aude! Have the courage to use your own understanding.

  80. PeterG

    Kinross is a great writer and authority on typography. The book is worth every dollar.

  81. Sweet. I’ve been waiting for Hochuli’s Detail in Typography to come to the US for ages now. This looks great as well.

  82. You sure know how to entice comments John! That book looks exquisite.

  83. Nice review. Like everyone else, I’d love to win a copy of the book. But if not, I’ll probably buy it soon.

  84. very interesting book!

  85. bethany

    thanks for blogging this - if I don’t win it (heh) then I will probably also buy it soon :) I am excited to read it.

  86. Wow… thanks, I just found my next design purchase! Unless I win it. :)

  87. Lisa

    Wow! Useful book!

    Pick me?

  88. Les

    Choice!! Maybe what Bringhurst has done for type & typesetting, Hochuli & Kinross can do for book design. Thanks for the critique!

  89. Just to say that I won’t be influenced by the fact that you live in a shoe box and work 23 hours a day for 2 cents an hour ;)

    The winner will be chosen by computer, at random :)

  90. Cameron

    Looks awesome! Buying design books is somewhat of an addiction.

  91. Sounds very useful book. Thanks for sharing this!

  92. Nathan Martella

    Perfect for my publication design assignment coming up… will definitely have to pick this up one day or another. Thanks!

  93. Oh, fantastic! Add to this the fact that I ran across a mysterious book bindery in my friend’s neighborhood yesterday, and you’ve got yourself a bona fide binding fixation!

  94. Viton

    Thanks for sharing! I’ll definitely check it out.

  95. Want want want! I’ve been meaning to get my grubby mitts on some typography and graphic design books, and this looks like it’d be a good way to start such a collection.

  96. Bálint

    Commenting for a chance to win! I already have a book I layed out published but I would definitely like to improve and smooth some bumps in the workflow.

  97. Oliver

    I hope to win a copy. Very interesting! The book looks fine!

  98. mHauken

    What a perfect timing: My next class is about book-design. Would be perfect with a book like this then.

  99. Hartman

    Looks like a goodie !! Be keen check it out.

  100. want one now ! Amazon, where are you ?

  101. I’ve just started on Elements and loving it. Another book worth checking out is Typographic Systems.

  102. Paul van der Heijden

    Sounds good. I wonder what the overlap is with books such as Bringhursts The Manual of Typographic Style.

  103. AAA

    Thanks for pointing out this one. Keep up the good work writing the best typography site on the web!

  104. Gabor

    Now this looks rather interesting. I’ll definitely have to get myself a copy someday. :)

  105. I dream about designing books!
    Thanks for the review and for letting us know about this one!

  106. Per Olav Walmann

    If it’s anyway near Kinross’ «Modern typography: an essay in critical history», it must be great.

  107. Fre

    Oh! Suits you! She wants it sir!

  108. Jake

    ILT rules!

  109. salvatore

    wow, i really need it!

  110. David

    Wow, looks like a great book. I’d love to win the free copy. Keep up the good blog work!

  111. Janine

    Definitely a must have. I love it.
    Thanks a lot for this book review.

  112. this book will move instantly to my to-buy list!

  113. S. Orban

    Book added to my wishlist. It should be fine with The Element of Typographic style.

    Now… Is there a book like those on poster design ?

  114. Cornelius

    **** Wow! Wow! ****

    Did I win the book now? The people that make out that their lives depend on winning this book make me laugh :D

  115. Great way of counting how many people actually read your blog. Well done!

  116. Infrid

    i am going to read this book after Bringhurst’s classic

  117. Wow, this looks great, design (obviously) looks bloody amazing!

  118. Gilles

    I’d love reading that book in the winter near the fireplace. Good design makes me all warm inside!

  119. It seems like the ideal next book to read, for me. I’ve based the design of my website on the book metaphor and it would surely help me improve it!

    Nice book review, by the way!

  120. Looks like a realy nice book. Good review.

  121. Peter

    Do. Want.

  122. I am really looking forward to reading this. It will probably clear the air about alot of practical problems one encounters often when designing a book, or booklet. Thanks for the post, and the book.

  123. Dan

    Wonderful reading. I enjoy reviews. Thanks.

  124. hmmmm… book on book design….
    must have….

    *dribble*

  125. As a future publisher, I just NEED this.

  126. Oh, wow. That looks like a fantastic resource. I’m teaching a senior design class at a small university, and they are designing a series of books for their first project. I would love to have something like this as a supplemental text. Thanks for sharing.

    Jason

  127. edo

    ¡ Want ¡t !!!

  128. kergelant

    Choose me, please!

  129. Its the first time that a book review make me instantanly want to buy it ^__^

    Thanks for your enthusiasm

  130. Zavati Vladimir

    PICK ME FOR THE BOOK :P

  131. Hmmmmm. So many more comments when there is a free book up for grabs :-)
    Count me in too!

  132. MattiaC

    oh well
    cool news

    :)

    ,
    matt

  133. LOL, when I opened this article with 133 comments, and scrolled down I thought iLT was spammed with ‘thank you’ and ‘count me in’ comments. But the opposite is true, thank you John for bringing this book to our attention. Seems like a great guide into designing a book.

  134. Josef

    I am currently trying to get a copy of Design in Typography and then this happens! My goodness. This will give me a run for my money. ;)

  135. http://www.doverbooks.co.uk/
    They also have some nice books on design etc. I bought one in London earlier this year about general layouting with examples of everything, grids, texts, ratios etc etc!!! It had a bright orange front cover. I cannot find it on the site, but if you like I can give you the name of the book and perhaps a amazon link later. I think it is worth gold!

    This also looks very promising and will have to buy it! I can learn a lot I see!!!

    Thanks for a great blog btw. Am checking it all the time!

  136. If I don’t win the book, I’ll order it.

    Kristian, sounds like you’er talking about Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Muller-Brockmann

  137. Guilherme Pires

    Talvez compre. Parece-me bem.

    Percebes alguma destas palavras?

    Guilherme Pires
    (Portugal)

  138. Gaz Shaw

    I’ve got Book Design by Andrew Haslam, part of Lawrence King’s Portfolio series. Theory-wise, it’s pretty comprehensive. I wonder how this book compares.

  139. hrvojeb

    Pick me! Pick me!

  140. raquel santos

    Looks like a realy nice book.
    it can be very handy! Thanks for posting!

  141. Pierre

    I’d like to read it.

  142. Sveinn> No actually not, because it has a lot of other things that grids. It is the whole deal with font, keerning, spaces, ratios, grids and so forth. More general layout design. I’ll look it up later!

  143. Ric

    Wow, 144th comment. People must really want this book! Count me in!

  144. raquel santos

    hi again

    http://www.felicianotypefoundry.com
    great portuguese type!!!!!!! take a look

  145. James, “unnecessary science”? First, John’s hit the nail right on the head, Hochuli seems more interested—when you get into the book—in getting across the need to think about different elements of a book, rather than think about then in any specific way. Toward that end, he covers the initial book design decision: the physical size and proportion of a book’s page in a full, meaningful way, which—to me—then makes it very easy to continue to other aspects in a sure-minded way.

    There is both an art and—if you don’t like the notion of science in book design—craft to making books. Much like the pursuit of, say, making great architecture, there is first the basic doing it in a complete way so that the building stands (craft); and then there is doing it well, putting up a beautiful building (art). In some ways, the two notions are inseparable.

  146. pick me or i will kill myself!

  147. Pick me… Pick me…

  148. Kiril

    I’d like to have it.

  149. Sye

    this looks great, i’ve designed a few books, but still struggle with it, so this looks really useful. thanks again johno!

  150. This looks like an interesting book. And it there is a little Univers 75 Black in it too!

  151. Kelly

    This seems like it would be a great resource for explaining why and how we read books physical books (as opposed to ebooks and such)!

  152. mcasanova

    Just to be here… (Interesting book)

  153. statto

    This looks great - I have just started producing much longer documents at work.

  154. Marian

    Don’t you agree this book would look gorgeous next to my version of Fully Booked? A match made in heaven!!

    :)

  155. MP

    This is so going in my Amazon Wishlist! Now, if I can just get around to ordering some of those books :)

    -MP

  156. Once again, great post! I’ll most definitely have to check this book out!

  157. Craig

    Nice review…fingers crossed…

  158. I want to win. this would be a nice addition to my library.

  159. Dawn

    I have just begun designing books. I’m almost afraid to read this to discover all I have done incorrectly. It definitely sounds like something to add to my library.

  160. linda

    It’s making me salivate…

  161. Aaron

    I’d love this book.

  162. Sounds like it’s on par with The Elements of Typography Style.

    Book design seems like the ultimate practice of restraint and humility. Hopefully one day I will have the chance!

  163. wow so many comments!

  164. Matt

    Awesome! Will be on my bookshelf very soon…

  165. Aly

    I’d love to get my hands on a copy of this!

  166. Alex

    Thanks for the review! I love book design and want to read more about it.

  167. Vinicius Dias de Lima

    I really wanna get this book. Perfect tip, great review. Thanks.

  168. Is there a section on how to control the urge to redesign a book layout once you’ve already half-filled your book with content? :P

  169. Learning to design books is not a particulaly complicated affair. The fundamentals—all of which are covered in the book—can be learned with little effort. However, the same can be said of, for example, chess: learning the moves is nothing more than filing away the rules in memory. Mastery, however, is a lifetime’s work. And as grandmasters of book design and typography, one is in good hands with Hochuli and Kinross.

    I may just have to quote you in a presentation I’m giving next month. :)

  170. cappy

    Nothing is as satisfying as reading a well designed book.

  171. xants

    Yeah!

  172. Luis Santos

    I love the book´s simple aproach: Designing Books! Just it! I would love to get one of them!

    Best regards,
    Luis Santos

  173. Brian C. Ladd

    I am a struggling artist/designer trapped in the body of a computer scientist (or is that trapped in the mind of a computer scientist). I am currently writing my first book and because it is a niche product I am also down as the text’s designer. Since I know a thing or two about programmer art, this is sometimes daunting.

    Of course, since I aspire to design, I am actually happy to do it. We will see what the finished product becomes. They have given me one color beyond black to play with. I am trying to do my best.

    In any case, I really love this blog. It is one of only a dozen feeds I actually subscribe to. The pictures, the news about typography, all that stuff. It makes me happy.

    Oh, yeah, if anyone wants a short, sweet, free lesson in book design, look at the documentation for the memoir package for LaTeX. The first half of the documentation is on why the package was needed and each chapter begins with design reasons for the default behavior of the package. Maybe it is my computer science brain that loved it but the presentation was readable and very, very pretty (lots of sample page spreads from books throughout the ages).

  174. Very interesting. I’ve always wondered and kind of figured that there was a definite process and system to book design. I’d love to read this book. If I don’t win I’ll definitely be picking up a copy.

  175. £17.50 or $19.80 - I miss buying books in the US :(

  176. J Nachtigall

    pick me! pick me!

  177. Fantastic! I must look into getting one. I’ve been looking for a good book to help me design a book. This one looks perfect.

    Thanks!

  178. People are still writing and reading and even designing books?

    Paper rules. Thanks for posting this. And please let me win it.

  179. cat

    Another endorsement: I had a professor who LOVED book design. He LOVED this book as well.

    What a wonderful review. If I’m not fortunate enough to win it here, I will be picking it up for my library.

  180. Timm

    Choose me !
    It’s cool having books about type and about books.
    I wish they translate it (good) in french…

  181. I’m always on the catch for books on book design. This one must be kind of paradoxal, judging by it’s cover. (Don’t take me wrong, I’m keen to scale disruption, but this colors and composition are not for me.)

    If I had to find it in a book store, those are definitely not the colors or the design I would expect.

    If I had to find it online, your post would be critic for my choice. Don’t know yet if I buy it or not.

    Great effort though. Thanks.

  182. That is a nice looking book, here it goes.

    Have you read Beautiful Evidence by Edward Tufte? It’s a fantastic resource on design and information presentation. It is by far the most visually appealing book that I’ve read.

  183. emily

    I love book design. Thanks for the recommendation, Johno!

  184. This would make a very nice addition to the shelves.

  185. miha

    Oh, there are sooo many comments, I will write one too :-)

    I like your blog very much! And you post regularly, unlike the most typographic blogs…

  186. Aaron
    Funny that you should mention that book. I have an unpublished review of it somewhere. I have it in both Japanese and English.

    Timm
    I have no idea if they plan to publish a French translation. It’s available in German.

    Jarrard
    No, I haven’t read it. I’m going to ad it to my own wish list. Thanks.

  187. A book on books. I’ll take one!

  188. All I really want to design is books. Web shmeb!

  189. Oooh, I want one, let it be meeeee!

  190. Ooh! Pick me!

  191. we love book design. Actually we are working in a new book collection about colombian photographers. This book would be very helpfull

  192. I’m designing a book right now. This book would be most helpful.

  193. As a font designer who began font design in an effort to get fonts that worked better for my books, this sounds wonderful. I especially liked the quote about Typography serves.

    I continue to fight the fight at my school that typography is not abstract expressionism with character shapes. In fact, though typographic fine art certainly exists and can be extremely beautiful, in many school the idea that typography that works the best is noticed the least.

    Excellent review, I’ll get it at the first opportunity.

  194. Alberto C.

    Wow. I think that’s a good tool to learn how to make a book. I’m 21 years old student of Politecnico of Turin. Although i study Graphic and virtual design there aren’t courses about book’s design. I’m very interested to receive this book to improve my knoledge. Thanks for your time.

  195. Lucas S.

    Very nice.

  196. Johanna

    I don’t have a coffee table and no free shelf space either, but when this book really is as good as you say, it probably wouldn’t wind up in one of those places anyway.

  197. Thanks for the recommendation. This looks like a great book, and as a designer with a love of well-designed book I’m always anxious to see books on the subject, designed by great book designers. Its like application and theory wrapped up in one.

  198. aNDRéS

    three wishes:
    1. I want a free design book
    2. I want a free design book
    3. I want a free design book

    thank you

  199. soo

    [heartfelt] please choose me! [/heartfelt]

  200. Oh this is perfect! I just applied for a book designing job at the University Press and this book would be a great addition to my design library!

    Thanks!!

  201. Shannon

    Thanks for posting this review. It looks like a great book. I’ve been searching for something like this and haven’t come across this one. Looking forward to getting my hands on it. (Hopefully it will be a free one!)

    Thanks again.

  202. Wow 200+ comments already! I hope I win it!

  203. Frances

    oddly enough, i’m working on a book cover, and was wrestling with the type - so i thought, i know… i’ll check out ILT, and whala!

    inspiration around every corner.

  204. SHF

    The chosen one.

  205. Jen

    Nice. My design library is always in need of expansion. Let’s see if I win…

  206. N Mutans

    I was about to buy it by the time I realized there was a contest going on- you certainly make it sound like a necessity! I’m tempted to go the instant gratification route and just buy it now, but the lure of a possible free book wins, so here’s my name in the hat.

    Thank you for the book review!

  207. tobi.

    »Set in Monotype Baskerville roman and italic, with perfect interline spacing and measure, and accompanied by a little Univers 75 Black«.

    Dear Random,
    let me see if it’s true …

  208. FV

    Just ordered a copy from my local bookstore—I figure the chances of being selected as the 211th contender were pretty slim :) Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait six weeks for delivery….

    And synapses may not salivate, but they let you salivate.

  209. Sounds like a great read. Thanks for the heads up!

  210. I’d love it, and check out my website for the hell of it.

  211. Germán

    What a pleasure to a designer’s eyes and brain this book must be!!!

    I’d love to have a copy.

    Saludos desde Argentina!

  212. This book (and this website more generally) makes me wish I had gone to design school rather than majoring in Foreign Affairs and French in college. Maybe a career change is in order…

    …and maybe a lovely book like this will provide the necessary kick in the pants to make a big change like that! ;)

  213. Roger Ruiz

    As a design student, I can see myself benefiting from this book greatly. My professor recently asked my class what our ideal job would be. I chose magazine and/or book design. I’ll definitely be picking up this book. Thanks!

  214. Christine

    looks like a great book!!! I would love to have one!

  215. Huh, thanks for the pointer. This is one I’ll have to look into. Text design and layout is part of what I do, though not typically anything longer than a few pages. Still, I’d expect a lot of the same rules apply.

  216. How is ME for random? I just wish I wrote ‘ME’ in FF Meta my new favorite font…

  217. I wish this book had been around when I was hired to design my first book. It was a lot of trial and error and copying past designs.

  218. looks good.

  219. Brad

    /me adds his name to the hat for a free book!

  220. It’s hard to find good design books that teach and show good examples of designing. Most seem to be ego-boosters with little value to the reader. This looks pretty good. I might have to pick it up.

    The cover looks like something straight out of El Lissitsky’s work. That gets my attention.

  221. I’d love a book too!

  222. French guys love books.

  223. free book free book free book free book!

  224. Wow, as I just started my own design studio with some friends, this book will come in handy! I’ll put it on my wishlist.

  225. I’m definitely wanting this book.

  226. Tom Teal

    Sweet!

  227. I don’t normally submit my info for stuff like this, but this one is certainly irresistible. If I don’t win, I must buy it!

  228. Pedro Garro

    I’ve been following your site for so long but this is my first comment hoping to win this book. I love your site, keep up the good work!

  229. hugo

    Would like to win that, looks like a very interesting read

  230. Lulu

    Thanks for the tip! :)

  231. sandy

    This book sounds amazing!

  232. Bonnie

    Ooh, pick me, pick me!

  233. I wish I had something interesting to say… but I don’t. I just want the book. :)

  234. frances

    I am always up for some good book design.

  235. Thank you for the review. Always good to know know great resourceful books. Mind you I got (made my brother buy it for me :)) Ellen Lupton’s “Thinking with with type” and it’s a jewel. Thank you for that too.

  236. Erin Laurence

    This looks like a book I would want to own. I am studying design, and apart from culture jamming, the only other thing I could imagine myself wanting to turn my hand to would be book design. *adds this book to “must-have” list*

    Thanks for an awesome blog!

  237. Man, am I excited! After reading this post, I immediately checked all of the book stores in my area to see if they had a copy (they did not). Maybe I can win one, wink wink.

    I agree that reading books about any design, even if you do not involve yourself in that discipline, can be extremely advantageous. While I enjoy working on print design, typography, and illustration, sometimes I find the most inspiration in reading about subjects like animation, chess, and science. I am gaga for great book design though, so I can’t wait to read this one!

  238. Lailson Bandeira

    Humm… books design!

  239. I like to think I’m a little crafty, but I stink at making cohesive, unmessy books. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  240. Hi, I design children’s books and I would like have a copy of this book
    Nice blog, great resource for my typography class

  241. Andy C

    Blimey! Sounds like what I need to help me now. Always. Eeek! As someone who has graphic design put upon them as part of their work, thank you for a genuinely inspirational/thoughtful blog that perks up my RSS feeds. AC

  242. jolin m

    Wow, sounds like a great book.

  243. Simon

    Must appease my salivating synapses, must win book…

  244. Sounds like a great book to add to the collection :)

  245. Gumboot

    Not only are my synapses salivating, my rasticles are racing!

    But that happens every time I open a new iLT.

  246. Crazy Old Woman

    I don’t just want this book - I lust after it, gimmee, gimmee, gimmee!

    Thanks - it will be nice to add to my library even if I have to buy it myself.

    COW

  247. Alex

    mmm.. i love print

  248. Well, the person who wins Designing books: practice and theory will not be disappointed. But relax, you won’t instantly be a book designer either.

    Not to dampen anyone’s ardor for scoring this book from John, I want to again recommend Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style for the mechanics and details of making book pages, as well as Richard Hendel’s On Book Design for process.

    This last, process, is as important as anything else, as how you work often determines how successful your work will be. How you do can inform what you do with very positive results. A lot of what I’ve learned about book design over the past 15 years I picked up from laying out pages according to others’ designs. So doing the work is as important as studying about it.

    For a brief list—and I do mean a brief blog entry—that may be a halfway decent starting point as to how to approach the design of a book, take a gander at here.

  249. Michael Fortier

    This is definitely going on my wish list!

  250. Matt

    Pick me! Pick me!

  251. Erna Kristin

    I WANT this book, I will GET this book and no matter how.

  252. nic

    spaghetti lawn mower[?]

  253. Gabriel

    I want it! I’ve wanted it for ages!
    And if I don’t win, I’ll buy it.

  254. La

    Wow! This book looks amazing and I need to get my grubby lil handies on it a-SAP!! I am currently re-doing my graphic design portfolio ((in the form of a book)) this would be the perfect assistant. Mmmm what a delight!

  255. The book I was refering to earlier!

    The Layout Book
    Ambrose/Harris

    http://www.amazon.com/Layout-Book-Advanced-Level/dp/2940373531/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1221205842&sr=8-1

    I love this one, it is very useful, also for more then books.

  256. Jonas

    Wow, it looks pretty tasty. I’m in for it.

  257. “I ain’t no joke, so you should get a pen,
    and write yourself a little note
    so you don’t forget again, that when it comes to cash…

    I’ M B R O K E!” :S

    from: Limp Bizkit

  258. Andos

    nice choice of type. looks like a nice read!

  259. Sandra

    Seems very educational

  260. haracas

    I’m pretty much putting my comment down to stand a chance of winning that =D. This blog has recommended some wonderful titles to me in the past though, pity i’ve had to wait a long time before my school library gets them.

  261. ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME | me please me | ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME

  262. If you go to your local Swiss embassy and ask for ‘Book Design in Switzerland’ by Jost Hochuli it contains a lot of the information that appears in the book you review — and although that was some years ago now — it’s was free!

  263. Boy, would that come in handy. I’m just getting serious about typography and proper guidance is hard to find. This book would help me in the right direction.
    Thanks for a great site.

  264. wes

    As a young designer I would love to have this in my small growing collection:

  265. Jeff

    Interesting. Being a former book binder myself, I am curious just how indepth they get with the design principals that go into book making.

  266. Nice review. Has anyone done a concise review of The Elements of Typographic Style thus far?

  267. Bernd

    As always, great article. Of course, this post is just for the sake of winning the book itself :-)

  268. 270 comments!
    Oh, well… i’ll never win anyway.

  269. I have to say, the cover of that book is absolutely delicious! Inspiration in itself.

  270. Nothing like a free book to bring out the lurkers ;) Well even with this being comment 270+, it’s still a better shot than the lotto, eh?

    Now if it were only done on a letterpress, it would be perfect :P

  271. Thanks everyone for your comments. I will pick a winner this Sunday.

  272. Is there still time to get in on this?

  273. You would be my hero forever if I was able to randomly win this drawing … then again, you’ll be my hero forever even if I dont.

    Please keep up the excellent work!

    Blessings,
    Brian

  274. Rene

    I would love to win it, but rest assured it will end up in my bookshelf regardless!

    Great Review!

    Thanks,
    Rene

  275. Stvn

    Perhaps others would better benefit with this book as I’m still a newbie and all. Of course, not that I would reject it.

    I am still taking out typography books from my local library. It’s a wonder how much I am learning even if at a slow pace. And I have yet to waste a dime. If I did win, I’d pass it on once I finished reading it a few times. I don’t like storing read books as it’s a waste.

    Anyway, cheers mate and good luck to everyone

  276. Edith

    wow! thanks!

  277. Wing

    hi, i love reading your site every week. i’d love to win a book too :)

  278. pelagiya

    { beautiful piece }

  279. this one could come in handy when I’m looking for inspiration.

    love the post!

  280. hcabbos

    Pick me!

  281. Just what I need… more information to make me ever more painfully aware of how badly designed many books are! (Bad type has prevented me from reading quite a few books.) Well, I have already gone pretty far down the curmudgeonly path, might as well keep going…. Wonder how it compares to Adrian Wilson’s book?

  282. Adrian Wilson’s The Design of Books is rather quaint, much like Hugh Williamson’s Methods of Book Design, published, as they were, before computers made it to desktops and virtually revolutionized the publishing game. But both are very good foundation texts when starting the study of book design.

    The Hochuli/Kinross book, much like Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style is very contemporary, even though it doesn’t specifically address computer typesetting at any length.

    All four of these texts are part of my “design library.”

    Again, not just because I’d love as much activity on my blog as John has here, but also because it took me a while to uncover a lot of the elementary things I needed to learn in order to begin designing and laying out books, and I’d like to pay it forward by sharing with others going down the same path, I recommend taking a gander at my blog, Tiano Design.

  283. Nisse

    This certainly comes at an appropriate time for me. My mom is having a book published, and although she’s only giving me the cover to design, perhaps I can use my persuasive efforts to take command of the inside as well. This book is going on my wish list for sure. A free one wouldn’t be all bad either :)

  284. That book looks pretty interesting - I’m planning on writing a couple books - but not until my course is finished.. busy year this year.

    Cheers.

  285. Well lately I’m very busy, but today I take a little break, and i have found this book, actually these kind of books are rare in this times as you said, everyone tells you can do it but no how you can do it. I really apprecciate know about truly educational books and not just candy eyes in the cover and examples without instructions in the content.

    I’m gonna try to get it, cause bring things here is a little expensive but it woth it. Please post more books like this one, with graphics and diagrams in a “Walt Disney style” of dumbs-proof.

  286. ingie

    whoa, you guys in UK have way too much good books about typography while here in Poland it was a really big deal when Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style was translated and published.

  287. Sílvio

    It really seems to be a very very good book. Unfortunately it isn’t available directly here in Brasil. So, if it’s no too late and there’s no geographic restrictions for winning, I’ll try to win the copy before have to go to Amazon.

  288. barbara

    i want one

  289. stefan

    olé

  290. Josef

    Just bought Detail in Typography and The Elements of Typographic Style.

    Now I need to raise money to buy this one (unless I win, of course). :)

  291. Well, I’ve actually bought this book, but I had to offer it to a friend because I didn’t have a birthday present ready. So yes, I recommend this book, it’s a must! And I hope I win this one, heh.

  292. OH PLEASE I so want this book… Let the goddess of fortune shine on me and let the random event halt @ my post….

    Great book… I’ll try and get this one ;-)

  293. Frilli

    Great! I just got my first book design project yesterday.

  294. I’ve had the need back in my old college days that this could’ve come in handy and I believe that this may be put to use today too. These types do really come so useful all the time and I’d like to keep one.

  295. Congratulations, Frilli! It’s a kick, ain’t it, that first one? Doesn’t get any less so, either, if you’re lucky.

  296. mic

    Sounds great!
    I’ll search for it

  297. I’ve just designed a coffee table photo book but wasn’t overly pleased with some of the pages so this book has become essential reading.

  298. Megan Fildes

    A friend an instructor, Rod McDonald, lent this book to me a year or two ago, it’s an absolutely beautiful book, though the mat finish scared the hell out of me (being someone elses book and all). Love your blog, check it frequently.

  299. I hope it isn’t too late :-)

  300. I’ve always wanted to tackle a book project, but I fear that the well-designed book, for the designer would be like the concentric O for the sign painter. Simple and unforgiving.

  301. Angie

    I want this book so much I am willing to pay for it. Thanks!

  302. This sounds like an awesome book. I am hoping to design a family living history book/recipe for this holiday season.

    Thanks for sharing!

    -Becca

  303. I will buy one. It could be a nice present to myself for a New Year’s eve!

  304. Rodrigo

    We need more books like this, here in Mexico!

  305. Wow, I’m about to start designing my first book and could REALLY use this!!! Please pick me!

  306. Balistix

    hmm, I may never know if I might get lucky but its worth trying. thanks!

  307. Jonas Thyssen

    Now i known what to give myself for my birthday :D

  308. Jeff M

    I’ve been reading a lot of Edward Tufte recently, and I was wondering how to include my designs based on his ideas in a book. This will certainly help!

  309. Randy

    Have to get a copy. I’ve been reading Book design by Andrew Haslam and notes on book design by Derek Birdsall. The more the merry.

  310. ()

    Winning a copy, would be great for class.

  311. Opps double post.

  312. Remy

    This looks incredible! Can’t wait to check it out.

  313. opeter

    Hello, does anybody know if they UK bookshop does send such a book to Slovenia (EU)? I would buy a copy, but can nowhere find any reference, to what the postage would be. Thanks for your answers.

    Best regards,
    PEeter

  314. Jarek

    Hello,
    yup, I’d like the book, too.

    By the way, could anyone recommend a good book about designing grids? I am looking for something for beginners, something that would show me the process of designing a grid for a given purpose. So far, I found Type Primer by John Kane (excellent but a bit too short and simple!) and ‘Making and Breaking the Grid’ (disappointing, a coffee table book rather than a guide…).

    cheers,
    jarek

  315. Sounds like an interesting book.

    A related book which I’d highly recommend is ‘BOOK TYPOGRAPHY: A DESIGNER’S MANUAL’ by Michael Mitchell and Susan Wightman.

    Jarek, try old favourite ‘GRID SYSTEMS IN GRAPHIC DESIGN’ by Josef Müller-Brockman, and for a more challenging read, “ELEMENTS OF TYPOGRAPHIC STYLE’ by Robert Bringhurst.

  316. Tania Raposo

    This book is really good, i already have one, so i wouldn’t ask for it. :)

    Thanks for the good advices you give in this blog it’s always a pleasure to come here and discover something new or to see something i know, makes me feel special to know it to. I receive a email for each post, but i always like to came here to check it, feels better.

  317. Fernando

    Beautiful.

  318. Jarek

    @Mark
    Thanks for the info. I know Bringhurst and don’t find it challenging at all :-) And I’ve heard about Brockman, and I may give it a try now.

    cheers!

  319. Catherine Arnold

    I’d order it in a minute, but it’s not available at Amazon.

  320. OK, so thanks to you and the commenters, we now know how to design books and newspapers. I would suggest this book about designing magazines: Rantanen, Lasse: Mistä on hyvät lehdet tehty? – if only it wasn’t written in Finnish! Can any of you recommend others?

  321. Tatu, have a look at Magazine Design That Works by Stacey King.

  322. Oh, i wonder if that book will be available for german readers, too. Is there any chance to import it to Germany?

  323. That’s certainly one jolly original cover (not that a book should be judged by that), and a fascinating-sounding read overall too. When my depressing pile of unread books shrinks a bit, I’ll certainly consider buying a copy.

  324. Petar

    Wow! That’s a great book!

  325. It’ll be me! :P

  326. Another book to add to the “To get list”. Thanks for sharing.

  327. zukimo

    Undoubtedly great book! Need it!

  328. Cheryl

    my prof just showed this in class today…seems like a great book to have!

  329. Barbara

    Gosh, what perfect timing! Thanks to you (and the other posters) for sharing resource references.

    I do notice though, as I look up these books online and see a sales pitch for an e-reader, how we are at an interesting crossroad. Seems that good book design should be like a proper frame for a painting — to support and enhance the text. At least there are a good group of us here who appreciate that aesthetic : )

  330. Vitor Lopes

    Wow, I can’t believe I’ve almost lost the chance to get in! I hope this book will very helpful for my graduating project. :)

  331. That’s a very, very nice tip! Good first post to read on ILT when getting back from a period of away-from-keyboardness. :)

  332. Looks like a good read and an interesting book to keep around for reference.

  333. AW

    You’re right that good books should come with great design. For me it doesn’t matter how nice jacket designs are because I don’t keep them (some find them important to catch reader’s attention). More importantly, the body should be made easier to read (heading, sub-heading, body of content should be clearly shown) and enough space reserved for note taking especially if it’s non-fiction.

    I never won a giveaway before but maybe this will be the first. Eager to read & understand more about designing a book. Cheers.

  334. Hi, John. I once reviewed the re-issue of Designing books for Typographica. You can find the text here:

    http://typographica.org/001027.php

    I understand that Hyphen Press has now published an English version of another book by Jost Hochuli, Detail in typography.

  335. Emmanuel Portillo

    Pick me Pick me! this book looks very intrigiung.

  336. A winner has now been chosen. Thanks to everyone who participated.
    Comments on this article are now closed.

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