A5: Final Overview
About the Project
This is the sixth project of the semester I’ve completed for Communication Design Fundamentals. The central goal of this exercise was to craft a printed booklet on any given topic — including written text, design, and illustrations — and tie together the various components using the principles I had learned over the course of this semester in Communication Design Fundamentals. I would have to use grids, hierarchy, and a whole host of design concepts to complete the book and fulfill its intended purpose of being both informative and aesthetically pleasing.
I completed the project by going through a series of discrete developmental phases; starting small and progressing to more ambitious steps once I had a clearer idea of the direction I wanted to take the project.
I began by thinking about the topic I wanted to pursue. In preparation for beginning my project, I filled out several questionnaires on several potential topic ideas that I’d been considering. Among these ideas were:
- An informational illustrated book about Tuvan Throat-Singing
- A literary, illustrated book of the Stanley Kunitz poem “The Abduction”
- A literary, illustrated book of the David Foster Wallace short story: “Incarnations of Burned Children”
Though I was initially leaning toward the two literary options, I finally decided that I would find the informational book about Tuvan Throat-Singing to be the most compelling and personally rewarding of the 3 options. Below is the questionnaire I filled out that elucidates the intended audience, visual identity, and illustration style.
After fleshing out the idea of the Tuvan Throat-singing book, I created a moodboard which reflected the visual direction I wanted to take the project. The moodboard included some sample illustrations, color schemes, paired typefaces and photographs that I felt would fit the aesthetic of the project. Though I included photographs on the moodboard, I ultimately decided against using photos in the final product. I wanted to use only line-drawings to illustrate the book because they seemed to be both whimsical and versatile; capable of conveying a hand-drawn, almost earthy feeling, which fit with the idea of Tuvan Throat-singing (an utterance that is generated by manipulation of the natural human vocal folds).
To that end, the colors I picked for the project were also earthy and reminiscent of the Tuvan steppe. For the type, I wanted to create an easily readable, clean, and attractive combination. I picked Futura Std Bold to serve as a heading face, and I picked the classic Adobe Caslon Pro to serve as the body type. For subheadings, I used larger, italicized Adobe Caslon Pro. Below is the moodboard I generated for this project
After creating the moodboard, the next step in the process was generating a “Dummy Book” — a very rough, hand drawn model of the final book which would simulate the positioning of elements on the page. In this dummy book, I laid out the foundations of what would become the final book. I placed all text blocks and sketched in all the images I intended to create later on. At the front of the book, I included a colophon and table of contents (with a schematic diagram of the human throat). In each spread of the book, I indicated a particular type or style of Tuvan thoat-singing: Khoomei, Sygyt, Kargyraa, the Additive Styles, and other tuvan instruments. I also decided that I would used a modular/column grid as the basis for the book. Below are a few samples of pages from the Dummy Book.
After getting the full Dummy Book approved, I moved on to creating the first 2-page spread in InDesign. On the master page of the document, I created a modular/column grid system in which I would arrange the content of the book. For the first spread, I chose one of the more complex spreads: the table of contents. For the TOC, I would have to draw the throat diagram, create a colophon, and label the throat diagram with chapters from the book (as a play on the idea of an old medical textbook).
In the original TOC spread, I had each chapter title linked to a specific region of the throat. However, upon further evaluation, I decided that it made sense to only link the chapters that were related to their particular regions of the throat, and leave the rest unlinked. Instead of 5 line-links on the TOC page, I ended up with 3 (Sygyt, Khoomei, Kargyraa).
To create the drawing, I drew with a thin sharpie on a transparency sheet, scanned the sheet, and imported the image into photoshop. I then desaturated the image, altered the levels to produce a crisp black-and-white image, and saved the result. After importing to InDesign, I used a “multiply” blending mode to incorporate the image into the page as if it were drawn there directly.
I also chose to insert a traditional Tuvan textile motif on the colophon page. I decided I would try to subtly incorporate this motif wherever appropriate in the book to sort of link the whole project together around the symbol. Below is my first iteration of the colophon / TOC page.
I then proceeded to flesh out the other pages. After some extensive drawing sessions, and after writing almost all of the content, I was able to produce my first full draft of the book (below).
This draft was certainly rough. I liked the idea of using a color wash over the illustrations (which I had first articulated in the moodboard), and I took it to new heights in this first draft. But the size and extent of the color washes seem arbitrary here; it needed something more to link it together. The page numbers were too bold and needed to be de-emphasized. The cover seemed a little shoddily put-together; it needed rearrangement and a re-drawing of the illustrated throat-singer.
Pages 14-15 seemed disconnected from the other spreads due to the broken nature of the color wash. Some of the text boxes strayed too close to the gutter between the two pages, and in general, there was a lot of “unused” space on the pages opposite from the illustrations, which seemed to not be helping the composition to any great extent.
In my next iteration, I made quite a few changes:
The most obvious change, here, is the slanting of the color washes. I felt as though this would tie the book together a little more strongly (especially the cover, which in the last iteration was a full-bleed-on-all-sides wash, and was not really linked to the interior half-washes).
I also repositioned some of the interior text boxes to increase their intentionality, and I widened the text columns & bumped up the leading slightly. I fixed some of the rag issues present in the first full draft. I increased the size and page presence of some of the images. And perhaps most notably, I added either pullquotes (matching color wash with italicized type) or small illustrations to pages with too much unused space. I think that addition more than anything really helped to flesh out the visual identity of the book.
After getting some final feedback via email, I produced this final version of the book, which I then printed at Kinko’s and bound with saddle stitching:
The most notable final changes: I re-drew the cover image and rearranged cover text, made some final tweaks to the column rags, lightened the green wash to make the caption text more readable, rearranged page 14-15 to emphasize the image of the khomus-player and the khomus (which I also diagrammed in a nod to the TOC design), and moved the throatsinging grid behind the horse’s head on pages 12-13. The final, printed book can be seen at the top of this page.
Overall, I was satisfied by the product I created here. I was able to articulate a vision for this book and then produce it in a way that sticks pretty close to my original vision. I feel as though my ability to recognize and create visually stimulating, informative, and cohesive design has improved over the course of the semester, and the culmination of that improvement can be seen in the process of creating this complex but clean book.
If I’d had more time to invest, I would have tried to re-draw a few more of the images in the book, such as the yurt for the sygyt page, and perhaps the cloud and horse as well. The lines of these images ended up much thicker than I had originally intended (due to the images being enlarged further than I anticipated), and if there is any inconsistency in the book that sticks out to me, it is that one. There was also more I wanted to write about throat-singing that I didn’t get an opportunity to write due to the relatively short length of the book. Overall, though, I think the work I was able to do on this project is the most complete and satisfying of the projects I created this semester, and I will definitely use this book as a portfolio piece and a launchpad for other book design efforts.