Computing baseline rhythm for book design

ensconced's picture

Hello, everyone! I'm on my first book layout project and I'm having trouble setting the baseline rhythm. The manuscript has a lot of blockquotes and footnotes.

Body type is set in 11 pt Minion Pro.

Blockquotes, footnotes and endnotes are also in Minion Pro, though at 9.5 pt. (I've made all three equal in this sort of visual hierarchy advisable?)

These are what I hope to achieve:

  • Leading for body type that is proportional to the one used for blockquotes, etc.
  • Baselines that match up on both sides of the page (this is a developing country and we don't always have good quality paper)

I've tried setting tiny baseline increments I can multiply later, for example, 2 or 3 pts. I don't mind the lines so much, and I'm able to maintain proportionate leading by tweaking font sizes. However, the baselines don't match up on both sides of the page.

Any tips? I've looked through some threads about baselines in this forum, but so far I haven't encountered recommendations specifically for book design.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Try the locking the body copy to the document baseline. I always define this in the paragraph styles. this sort of visual hierarchy advisable?)
You might want to consider upping the blockqoute, but this all depends on the style you are after. If they are more important than the notes they should get more attention. The New Yorker have smaller quotes in text, btw. It works quite nice for them.

Are you using Minion’s optical sizes?

Joshua Langman's picture

Yes, definitely lock the main body text to the baseline grid. Don't drop the point size of block quotes. (I know this is very typical, but it's a Victorian custom with no real benefit; simply indent both sides of the quote to match the paragraph indents, or set in italics or sans serif or something; no need to drop the size.) If you disagree and do end up setting the block quotes smaller, incorporate a blank line as a "space before" option in the style, then manually baseline-shift the whole quote to visually center it between the line above and the line below, the position of which will be determined by the grid.

ensconced's picture

Thanks for helping out a newbie, y'all. :)

@frode frank: Sorry, this is actually the first time I've heard of the term. How do I find out if I can use the optical sizes?

@Frank Adebiaye: Thank you for the recommendation. That's definitely on my to-buy list.

@Joshua Langman: I decided to set the quotes in the same size, though for future projects I'm trying out your other suggestion to see if I interpret your instructions correctly.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

As you can see here Minion comes with a multitude of versions. I’m refering to Capt(ion), Disp(lay), Subh(eader). These are, in addition to the normal version the optical masters. Each version is intended to be used at a specific size. You’ll have do some exploring yourself, but the idea is to have a page of even color across all sizes. A good optical size also take into consideration the typical needs for it’s intended size. This might include changing the cap-height, x-height, ascenders or descenders length, spacing, width, weight, trapping, degree of openness, etc. One size does not really fit all, even though digital makes it possible.

ensconced's picture

@frode frank: Apologies for the late reply. Yes, I'm familiar with those; I've used them on past projects without knowing they were optical masters. Thanks for clarifying that for me!

William Berkson's picture

Block quotes one point smaller than the main text and indented is a standard practice, and will look "normal" to readers. I'm not sure if it's wise to have your baseline grid any finer than 1/2 your normal text line size (point size + leading). You want your bottom lines on facing pages to line up. When I did this recently, I didn't lock the block quotes to the grid, but let them float, and made visually equal space before and after. Maybe there are better ways to do it, but that worked.

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