Page Layout

JCSalomon's picture

 I've been spending some of my spare time writing a Firefly-related book, and I'd like some critique on the page layout. Primarily, I want to be sure I've not done anything typographically stoopid.
• Is 6″×9″ a convenient size for a book, or would folks recommend a different trim?
• To split sections: an asterism (⁂), something custom (e.g., ~‡~), a blank line, or what?
• I'm using Gentium Book (at 10/12) for the main body text, but in one chapter I need to make a distinction between "present", "recent past" (where most of the action takes place), and flashbacks. I'm including two paragraphs in Fontin (9.5/12). The color seems to match; too well, perhaps—is the distinction easily visible? How else to differentiate the "voices"?
• The Chinese headings are there because of the large role the Chinese language and culture have in the Firefly universe (the "'verse"). Is my current placement effective there? Would people recommend a different font than the MS MingLiU I've used—a more calligraphic style, perhaps?

Layout.pdf97.2 KB
Firefly Layout.pdf90.47 KB
Hanging Chinese.pdf57.46 KB
jupiterboy's picture

The font switch isn't dramatic enough. Maybe ital with a shorter measure for the recent past?

Looks like a nice page—maybe a little dark? I wonder about the inside margin when the book is bound—might close in a too much.

The margins are good, possibly more air in the text.

aluminum's picture

Firefly is great. Sounds like a fun book.

Just some quick comments:

The section separator needs more space above and below it.

Hang your punctuation.

I'd maybe consider rag-right. I'm see some rather large gaps on a lot of your lines. Either that or perhaps try turning on hyphenation.

I like the integration of the chinese characters.

I'd small-cap the entire first line.

Finally, the firefly logo on the bottom of every page seems a bit heavy.

JCSalomon's picture

The section separator needs more space above and below it.

So you think I should keep a section mark? Any preference or suggestion?

Hang your punctuation.

That'll wait till I have a real typesetting system to play with; right now I'm using OpenOffice. I'm writing the ConTeXt folks now for help porting the layout there. (Or I could use Scribus, I suppose, but I think I'll stick with a Τεχ-based system.)

On the other hand, "Hang the punctuation!" seems like a good motto sometimes. ☺

I’d small-cap the entire first line.

Got to see if ConTeXt can handle that.

Finally, the firefly logo on the bottom of every page seems a bit heavy.

Seems worse on-screen than on paper, but I'll reduce the size a bit.


agostini's picture

my 2cents:

- For me there is not enough contrast between
the chapter title and the "lorem ipsum" title.

- The leading seems to be a bit tight as well
(havent printed it out, just off screen).

- The paragraph breaker (symbols) are not
centered between the lines.

- The firefly logo needs to go down a bit
(a wee bit)

- As mentioned before...big gaps in the text

JCSalomon's picture

 Is the consensus that 10/12 too cramped? Should I increase the leading or decrease the font size—or both?
 Joer, you're right; there needs to be more contrast between the chapter number and chapter name.
 Right now I'm looking for comments on the "gross" typography; the particulars of kerning or picture placement will be revised when I'm using a program that lets me control them. Anyway, I've made some changes to the font & picture sizes; the current version is Firefly Layout.pdf. Let me know what you think.


jason's picture

[For some strange reason this post got re-ordered in the thread when I edited it...]

  1. As above, turn on hyphenation, or at the very least fine-tune your justification settings; the word-gaps (especially in the third section of page 2) are awful.
  2. While I find far too many books slaughter their margins and ignore proper proportions, I'd be surprised if your client doesn't kill you for all that wasted space (and paper) at the outer edge and bottom; this is, after all, not a 15th century codex -- also, as above, open up your spine margin a bit or it will get swallowed.
  3. I'd give more bottom air to your chapter heading and chapter title (that is, put some space between the chapter title and the small-cap intro-line).
  4. If the Chinese characters only appear on chapter openings (recto pages), I'd hang them outside the text block in that very generous margin.
  5. Letterspace your small-cap strings (the intro lines, but also everywhere you use small caps).
  6. The x-height is too drastically different from the first to the second fonts on page 1.
  7. (This is editorial, but) first lines of new sections should NOT be indented.
JCSalomon's picture

Thanks for the comments Jason, they're what I was looking for when I posted. I'll take your points in order:

  1. Justification & hyphenation &c. will be turned on when I move the layout to ConTeXt. I'm temporarily using OpenOffice to get a general feel for how things will look before trying an unfamiliar software package.
    Besides, what program can hyphenate Lorem ipsum?
  2. I am the client; this is a project for my own ammusement intended to teach myself (an engineering major) something about practical typography. I chose the Van de Graaf canon and 6″×9″ trim as a default; by all means suggest more practical/modern proportions and margins.
  3. How's this corrected version (Hanging Chinese.pdf)?
  4. The Chinese headings are now in the margin; does this really look better, or is it just to "use" the margins somehow?
  5. The small-caps had been letterspaced; I increased the tracking a bit more. Is it better now?
  6. I matched the x-height, but now the color looks very different. Is that a good thing, or should I be looking for a different complementary font?
  7. Fixed.


jason's picture

Glad these bits & pieces are useful; a few more...

  1. Sounds good.
  2. To take a step backwards, 6″×9″ is a gangly page, too wide for its height, but it's also one of the two most standard formats in North American printing, so in terms of economics it's what most publishers would push for. However, as you're your own client, I'd knock the width down to 5.75″. From there, use the Van de Graaf formula to establish your text block, then move it towards the outer edge to allow for creep, then nudge your outer and bottom margins to find a balance between classical proportions and contemporary norms. I use no set formula for this, but, depending on type-size/leading/etc., paper, and, of course, the subject matter of the book itself, I try a variety of measurements until the page is right. Hanging matter (such as if you were to hang the Chinese characters) will also play a role in determining your margins, but generally it's just about finding the right contrast of text-block to white-space, and at the moment, although based on classical proportions, your page looks out of whack.
  3. I'm backtracking, sort of, but I'd either drop the first paragraph more, or less; at the moment the chapter headings are feeling a bit uncertain.
  4. More than just "using" the margin, I found the earlier setting awkward in the way the body copy wrapped around the Chinese characters. Try dropping the Chinese string down so that it begins at the same x-height as the first line of body text.
  5. It's better now with the first font; the second font still needs a bit more tracking.
  6. You're right, the color is a bit off, but the sizing looks much better. Maybe nudge the second font up just slightly in size to draw out the color, or, scrap the second font and find another with a better x-height match.
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