Tag Archives: layout

The changing face of book design

Publishing in the UK is developing rapidly and so it is vital that our workforce develops too. As digital innovation continues to drive growth and as publishers gain access to increasing amounts of data, the skills required are changing and new job functions and departments are springing up across all forms of publishing.

(snippet from The London Book Fair website)



Modern book design dates back to the early 1890s and William Morris’s Kelmscott Press. The books were expensive but beautiful. Morris designed his own typefaces, made his own paper and printed the books by hand. They were designed to be read slowly, to be appreciated and treasured, making an implicit statement about the ideal relationships between reader, text and author.

A century later and the next invention to change the design world so dramatically was the Macintosh computer. Introduced in 1983 it was the first mass market computer specifically made with the creative person in mind. With its graphical user interface, integrated graphics software (MacWrite & MacPaint) and postscript fonts they allowed a designer to not only typeset copy but to lay out pages ready for print, marking the end of Exacto knives, hot wax and galley type. HL Studios was there from these early beginnings and is proud to be amongst the first UK studios to use them as standard.

As the internet evolved from the early 1990’s increased speed and bandwidth has given designers a whole new media platform to create for. The bulk of a professional designer’s work is now either for the web or application UI elements, all of which will be viewed and experienced through a variety of media devices giving designers ever more creative opportunities.

For the millions of people browsing bookshops and websites today in search of the perfect read and the years of research into design and emotional response, the age old adage ‘never judge a book by its cover’ has never been so irrelevant!


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Posted by on May 15, 2014 in design news


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How publishing for different devices impacts design

Guest blog courtesy of Christopher Bladon – Design Oracle, HL Studios for Bookmachine.


Many design companies, like us here at HL Studios, come from a print or web-based background and have had to do some serious upgrading (of software, equipment and especially skills) to keep up with the multitude of digital devices available on the market today. Designing for these devices is quite complex, as each device has different characteristics that impact on the user experience.

Every digital project we undertake has different problems to overcome. In an ideal world we would start from a blank document and produce content for a single digital format, but as no single job is the same we frequently find ourselves dealing with legacy print documents that are required in multiple formats for multi-channel publishing. This situation is unlikely to change anytime soon and may never merge into a single universal standard.

Our starting point is always the format required – ePub, PDF, MOBI/PRC, AZW, IBA (iBooks Author) or stand-alone app. Usually the client dictates this, but in consultation one format may work better for the end user, especially if a more visually attractive media is needed. Thankfully, when multiple formats are required most layout software allows for the export of different formats, with the minimal of changes to any files. IBooks Author is slightly different. At the moment there is no direct way of importing InDesign or Quark files into the program – there are some work-arounds to this, but none of which are entirely satisfactory, as yet. We are working with our programmers to create an InDesign plug-in that can export directly to iBooks – which we hope will make the process of conversion smoother.

The next important thing to think about is the orientation – Landscape or Portrait, Fixed or Fluid – this may have implications on the construction of the document. Re-flowable and re-sizeable text aside, an ePub file has the issue of what to do with design features such as chapter headings and chapter openers. In a print-first workflow where the design features have been commissioned with the printed book in mind, there is an inevitable conflict between preserving the ‘look’ of the book and retaining the usability of the e-book.

Another good practice is to ensure the correct usage of stylesheets. Tags and stylesheets enable efficient single source, multi-channel publishing. And the most effective technology for employing tags and stylesheets is xml. Using an xml workflow or book production smoothes the transition from print to digital.

Size becomes an issue (don’t laugh) if you pack an e-book full of all the exciting interactive features available. Most digital marketplaces have strict guidelines on the maximum size allowed for each document.

There are many other things to take in to account, for instance black backgrounds enhance glare on most devices and font choices become irrelevant when using formats like ePub. We also need to design with the finger in mind. An adult finger is larger, but a young child’s finger is less accurate, so it’s important to ensure that any design works for all potential users. Links need to be large enough to click. Allowing for the navigation features on each device is important, for instance, the iPAD has a pop-up navigation bar at the top (44px) and a toolbar at the bottom (40px); any clickable feature in an e-book needs to be clear of this area. Other devices have similar navigation bars that need to be designed around. We have found that leaving an area of about 50px around all sides usually covers most tablets or smartphones.

The initial construction of a print document has the greatest impact on the conversion into an e-book, so good practice in a workflow is essential. If you would like tips on how to do this successfully, feel free to contact us at HL Studios, be it just for an informal chat or to arrange a full professional presentation.

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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in design news


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