Richard Hendel’s On Book Design

The following references are from Richard Hendel, On Book Design:

If printing is the black art, book design may be the invisible one. (p.1)

The more mundane the object (a pencil, a book), the less we think about its design. The more often we use it, the less we think about how it came to be. But the simplest object often has very complicated specification for making it.

Book design us, indeed, an arcane subject. We need context to understand it. Knowing a technical vocabulary does not provide that context; rather, we need to be aware of the specific problems that book designers must consider as they work. (p.1)

Among the many ways a book can be designed there are three main approaches:

  1. typography that is neutral as possible, suggesting no time or place
  2. allusive typography, which is purposely gives flavor of an earlier time
  3. new typography, which presents a text in a unique way. (p.12)

Although some designers claim to be able to design a book in all its essentials before choosing a typeface, I cannot. The typeface I use influences so many other parts of the page that until I can settle on which to use, I am unable to carry on. It is the basis for everything else. Choosing a typeface can be the most vexing, infuriating, time-consuming, and pleasurable part of designing a book. (p.35–36)

The author’s words are the heart of book design. To solve the design problem for a book, a designer needs to know both what an author is saying (what a book is about) and how it is being said (the actual words being used). (p.33)

Assuming I can understand the subject of the book, I usually read the introduction or first chapter, and I read some of every few pages to get a sense of the author’s style. The author’s vocabulary often dictates the typeface I use. (p.33)