Bookbuilders of Boston is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing together people involved in book publishing and manufacturing throughout New England. Our blog describes industry events that we sponsor or attend.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Panel Recap: New England Book Show Winners' Circle

This week, we gathered in Emerson College's Charles Beard Room to hear from Cate Barr, senior art director at Cengage, and Angela Dombroski, production manager at Candlewick, about the design and production efforts that went into their winning books from this year's New England Book Show. We also welcomed the class of students from Mass Art who will be designing next year's Book Show catalog, along with some familiar and new Bookbuilders faces.

Book Show Winner: Cengage

First up was Cate, who explained the art and design choices and processes that went into the final version of Cengage's winning humanities textbook, Cultures & Values.

Cate Barr, senior art director at Cengage, on winning textbook Cultures & Values 
Although Cultures & Values is a textbook, it's treated essentially as a fine art book because of the art history subject material: it's full of images of paintings, statues, and other kinds of art that need to look good on the page. Cate explained that paper quality has a significant effect on how good the images look once they're printed, so this particular book used the highest-quality paper. This aspect is actually really important to professors who have several options for textbooks to assign to their courses. Professors often look though potential textbooks to see which one reproduces the art the best before making their selections.

How do you check the reproduction quality of the art before the final books are printed? The answer is scatter proofs: a few of the images are printed together on a sheet, rather than where they actually belong in a book.

For choosing the layout, Cate says, she always looks at the competitors and then aims to be better. This book went through three or four rounds of review with the author! Consistent color palettes are also important. This design uses a lot of neutral, earthy colors to support the vibrant art.

Cate shows off the interior layout of Cultures & Values.
And speaking of color, consistent colors are one of the greatest values print can offer for art books--you can't control how the colors will look on the customer's iPad.

Book Show Winner: Candlewick

Zebra Forest cover design
Second, we welcomed Angela Dombroski, production manager at Candlewick. Angela told us all about—all about—the production process, and a bit about how it affected the design, of Candlewick's two winning YA books, Zebra Forest and Kingdom of Little Wounds.

The jacket design for Zebra Forest is a real standout, and it has a special feature: only the small section with the title is glossy; the rest of the jacket is matte. Angela went into a lot of detail explaining how the press achieves this effect (it involves UV!). There are all kinds of other effects books can have, but they tend to be limited by the budget. To opt for a fancy effect in one area, it's common to have to sacrifice something else, like paper quality.

Because color is so important to Candlewick and because lamination has a huge effect on color, even the proofs are laminated in the same way the final jackets will be. There are many different options for laminations.

One of the keys to laminations and coatings, she said, is the scratch test. This was especially relevant for Candlewick's other Book Show winner, Kingdom of Little Wounds. This book has a matte finish, but matte film can scuff very easily, making new books look used right away. It has lots of other effects on the cover, too, but its most noticeable effect might be its stained edges. That is, the edges of the pages are stained red, a process that's expensive and a little tricky because it's done manually.

To show us the immense range of production options for book covers and jackets, Angela brought a whole bag full of samples for the audience to see and feel. There were different kinds of paper, colors, coatings—a lot of options.
The audience got to check out lots of production samples.
We wrapped up with a few questions about the design process. Why might an initial cover design be rejected? At Candlewick, it's often because it doesn't fit the book's age range. It could also be too similar to other current Candlewick books. "We might just have too many covers with pensive-looking girls on them right now," Angela said. And some of the hardest books to design are those about sensitive issues, like disability. It's important to approach those with a lot of tact and sensitivity.

Next Time

We all learned so much from this panel that it was basically a crash-course in book design and production. For even more, you can catch up on our tweets from the event.

In October, we'll be discussing a big topic in the industry right now: innovations in editorial workflows. We'll announce the details soon.

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