Shred my typography final (fine art book)

blank's picture

Please crit my typography final, a book about American painter Morris Louis. All text is live text, and I have formatted titles and inserted special characters where necessary. Images relate to the text as much as possible, but captions do not include fig. reference numbers as I was not able to get hi-res versions of all of them. Types used are Iowan Old Style and News Gothic, both for the conservative look—for those who don’t know, Morris worked here in Washington, and it’s a stuffy town—and for their American heritage.

There are two PDFs, one formatted as single pages and one with spreads. In order the spreads are:

Chapter Opener
Four text spreads

File uploads to Typophile appear to be broken today, so I am hosting the files on my server.
PDF with spreads
PDF with single pages

twistedintellect's picture

A few points I'd raise are:

- You seem to be lacking a lot of ligatures, if not all of them. I especially see a lack of fi-ligatures.

- Try to use text figures, especially in the main body.

- I think you mean ‘Foreword’ not ‘Foreward’

- To me the typeface looks like it could really use the good, old slanted hyphen, instead of the straight one it’s maker has provided it. Try replacing the hyphens with some nicer ones. I'd suggest something like Adobe Jenson Pro.

I'm a bit pressed for time right now, so I may come back with more once I get a chance to look more closely at it...

blank's picture

Thanks for pointing out the ligatures. I’m using the Bitstream fonts that came with Coreldraw, so I’ll have to add them manually. Opentype has really spoiled me.

Good catch on “foreward.” My professor supplied the contents text, so I never really noticed the error.

As for the hyphens, they are slanted. Maybe it’s just not so noticeable onscreen.

Miss Tiffany's picture

A few thoughts:

- I wonder if the grid is dramatic enough.
- The artwork is beautiful but in so many instance so tiny.
- The opening title and half-title pages seem to lack something. (A more dramatic grid could help.) The location of the image for instance on the opening spread seems mechanical.
- In the opening you use a condensed sans and then when the text starts you aren't.
- Could there be more scale in the text?
- The use of a drop cap mid-body seems out of place. If you use a drop cap I'd think one would appear at the beginning as well. Or, if it does signal a different kind of text, then the text at the beginning should be treated differently.

Great material to use. But I think you need more spice.

I hope I haven't been too harsh. I mean everything only as crit.

blank's picture

The grid (and the whole piece) is intentionally dull. I wanted to do a big publication project that felt more conservative and didn’t have gigantic headlines, pull-quotes, and images bursting out all over the place (as I usually tend to do). I also felt that understated typography might allow the intense images to pop out more, but I probably need to up the scale to make that work better.

I did fix the sans type on the intro page. As for the drop caps, I left it out of the chapter opener because I felt like there was already a lot happening on that page.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I think you are short-changing the project by doing something intentionally dull. It doesn't have to be dull to be conservative.

I wasn't suggesting massive headlines, and maybe you don't need to play with size contrast, but the spreads need something.

It is ok not to use the drop cap on the opening paragraph if each chapter were to have an opening paragraph that sort of set up what followed. It just needs to be treated differently. I think so anyway.

microspective's picture


Thanks for sharing something like this. Although I agree with much of the above, I must say that the overall aesthetic (grid included) is very attractive. I hope you will post the final draft with whatever revisions you include.

Good luck on your final. I remember the days...


P.S. I say "I remember the days," but I was a music major, not a design major. I did not discover typography as an art for myself until well after I graduated (which wasn't that long ago). To you it might be another drag of a class, but you're lucky to get training like this in school!

Miguelzinho's picture

Does the body typeface you are using have non-aligning numbers and small caps? Check for old style figures, its just those dates look so big in body text, as do the abbreviations.

Abreviations and dates like 1967 often appear to big when set in body text. Thats why we use small caps for abbreviation like : JFK plus.
Numbers like 1967 also look big. Good typefaces take care of this by using non-aligning numbers, much like our good friend Georgia here.

Miguelzinho's picture

Oh and I understand where you are coming from on the books aesthetic. I think you have worded it wrong though – try explaining to a client that you made it deliberately dull (not a good move). What you might want to say is that the typography has been pushed more into the background thus to make the artwork the hero. The book honors the artist and not the designer and thus is designed for legibility. Contrary to Miss Tiffany I think this is perfectly fine, most of the time books are designed very conservatively because the focus is more on the content. However I do think that you could be using your grid better, and could be using your hierarchy better if this is indeed your goal. Keep working at it : fall down seven times stand up eight.

timd's picture

Not that it really affects your design but this copy is poorly edited

>“…effusing paradisiacal mists-transparently clear in process…”
Should the hyphen be an em dash?

>“In this, his first series of Veil paintings, Louis’s pours of thinned acrylic paint soaked into the canvas…”
Where to start?

rather than go through the whole text, I’d get somebody uninvolved with the project to proof it for you.

Page 11 the measure seems a bit broad some of the lines are verging on too loose, this isn't helped by the comparably looser leading.

In the third paragraph of page 12, which runs across the columns there are some short turnovers from the hyphens, in particular “…demonstra-ble—nor…” bothers me.

Pages 14–15 the distances from caption to image vary. When a drop cap A is used I tend to pull the lines back to accommodate the slope. There are footnote numbers with no relating footnote (unless they are endnotes).

You might want to consider small caps for the image titles rather than italic, and on the contents page, depending on the binding, I would rethink the image crossing a spread. I find the coloured drop caps rather gilding the lily.


blank's picture

The gross copy is the result of a somewhat goofy essay being scanned and passed through OCR software.

As for the drop caps, I don’t want them there, but if I don’t do something over the top I’ll get marked down. One of the down sides to studying design at a fine arts school is that most of the professors cannot even begin to comprehend the idea that student might want to make something look good and functional as opposed to going balls-to-the-wall on every project. For example, I guarantee you that no matter how good this looks in the end, it will not get above a B because there aren’t any pull quotes, which my professors always want to see tacked all over everything, appropriate or not. It’s very frustrating.

Miguelzinho's picture

So you won't get anything over a B just cause no pull quotes! sounds like a shit. What class are you doing this assignment? is it a typography class. Effective communication is so much more than just pull quotes. That just sounds really petty.

blank's picture

That just sounds really petty.

Well, it is a fine-arts design department. They aren’t the vipers nests that English departments are, but they’re close ;)

twistedintellect's picture

I remember getting a B on a product design assignment; and when I asked why, I was told it was because "I hadn't used enough Photoshop-filters"… The As that were given – well, let's just say there were enough liquify-filters and horrendous type for all of us…

All professors have their fetishes – the best thing is usually just to deliver what they want. It's a nice way to prepare you for client work... ;)

James Arboghast's picture

James, if it were me I would go to a decent art bookstore and hang around for as long as the staff will let you, flipping thru art books and taking note of layouts and design. You'll encounter more usable ideas there in the same amount of time as posting at typophile. Don't be afraid to borrow as long as borrowing is not the only thing you do.

I would use a bit more leading in the main body; replace the dropped cap with a decorative cap (any decorative font that goes with the material and Iowan Old Style); do the TOC and picture captions in Iowan smallcaps; half-title and title pages in Iowan smallcaps; use hanging figures where appropriate (main body copy for example); use italics for inline quotes.

How about some rubrication? It needn't be red. Try other colors, blue, cyan, orange. Rubrication makes a good alternative to pull quotes if you're averse to those.

Iowan titling font has some nice ornaments you could use as embellishments to spice things up.

Yes the manuscript has some serious problems which need to be rectified before your typography can make it "sing". The whole thing is overwrought, and the author can't handle an apostrophe, eg: Louis's oeuvre should be Louis' oeuvre. Joan Mira probably should be Joan Miro. Quite a few of the hyphens should be emdashes. Convoluted run-on sentences make it a cumbersome read. "Infused with a diaphanous jubilation," no, sorry, that's pure wankshaft, too desperate to be effective.

non-aligning numbers

You mean hanging or "old style" figures? The complete Iowan Old Style set has an OSF roman font and matching smallcaps and titling font.

j a m e s

blank's picture

Thanks for the tips, James. Unfortunately I have to get this entire thing mounted and ready to go by tomorrow, which means a lot of time cutting boards and no more changes.

As for the horrible manuscript, I can’t force myself to read through that garbage again. It’s like having a deranged grad student pouring all the big words he learned (or in this case, made up) into my eyeballs.

James Arboghast's picture

(much laughter) Okay, I understand now about the text.

Try the smallcaps, italics etc, and maybe you will have enough time to find a usable decorative cap for the opening para.

j a m e s

pattyfab's picture

I second much of what Tiffany said (and sorry not to chime in sooner, I only just noticed this thread).

Type aside, I think you are short-changing the art by having it adhere so rigidly to the grid. Those pictures need to sing. There's nothing wrong with having one grid for the text and then letting your margins out for the images. His work is massive in scale, and in your book you get no sense of that, except for the chapter opener. I don't see the purpose of all that dead white space on the outer margin. Don't think the two pix work side by side on the last spread.

Now the design/typography. I haven't given it the sort of close read the others have, here are a few comments in no particular order.

Half title and title: The type looks very cramped, especially the title page. Also, you never really would use the same image for both.

Contents page: you don't need to list "contents" on the contents page. Also it's Foreword (I see someone else pointed that out) and Acknowledgments (no e after the g). I'm also not sure why you guttered the art here. Remember that you're dealing with an actual book here, not spreads on a computer. While it's quite common to run art across the gutter, I can't see why you did it here.

Chapter opener: I don't think the various elements hang together all that well. I'd also make the chapter title consistent with the type on the title page. I'm not wild about the condensed type on the title page but if you're set on it, I think you should use it here too.

Drop caps: I agree with Tiffany that they are distracting. Consider another device for the text breaks like a leadin, that you can also use for the opening paragraph.

Page 14: not sure what the image is lining up with here. Either align the image or the caption with the text in the opposite column.

And I just realized I am way too late on this - you have probably already gotten your crit. Oh well, I already wrote it so here you go.

blank's picture

Thanks anyway, Patty. The final version was very well received and I got an A- for the semester, so everything worked out well. For now I’m letting the book sit for another week or two before I go back and give it a few more passes before churning out a dummy portfolio book.

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