One of the first things that the group of presses agreed to keep consistent across all of the books was the page size: 8” x 5”. That’s the largest size one can comfortably get out of a folded 8.5’ x 11” sheet and have a little space to trim the edges of the book. And we wanted to size them for convenient digital printing. So based off of that page size, I started working on layouts. I began with splitting up the space of the page/spread into regular divisions:
(The process for this is explained in more detail here and here.)
Those divisions are then used to determine the margin scheme of the book. When I was working on drawing the schema to divide the pages I was intuitively drawn toward dividing the page into thirteenths. I wasn’t entirely sure why, but it sounded like fun—it’s an odd number, with cultural resonance, it’s prime, etc. So I built a grid, based on the page/spread, that is divided into rectangles that are each 1/13 of the dimension that they are made out of. (Note: all of my divisions are based on the 8 x 5 page, which is then just doubled into the spread.):
And after the grid was built I started playing around with margin schemes, and settled on this “reversed” scheme:
I wanted the text/book to look and feel heavy. Breaking the traditional margin set-up helps to draw the reader’s attention to the book as a made object, to the materiality of the text, and to the overall proportions of the book and how it sits in their hands. That lowered text block gave me an idea for the title page sequence. And it just seemed to “work” with the story and the 1/13 based division.
And speaking of 1/13, as I worked more on the design I realized that the number 13 makes other appearances: the sum of the two dimensions of the page: 8 + 5 = 13. Also, when the phrase “ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ” shows up in the text (which it does a lot) the default number of Z’s is 13. Intuition in design often links up to “real” properties as the design progresses.
Then it was that old, favored question of the typeface, and the proportions of that. After much waffling, I settled on my old friend Palatino Linotype, because it was the only one that seemed dark enough—all of the other standard, serifed text faces just looked weak on the page. After some playing with scale and proportion, I settled on 10 pt. Palatino with 12.4 pt leading. The .4 points on the leading brings the baseline of the bottom line perfectly in sync with the margin scheme. Being able to easily make fractional, minute adjustments like that is one of the nice, expansive things about digital design.
The face on the left is 10/12.4 Adobe Jenson Pro. The face on the left is 10/12.4 Palatino Linotype. And then I think somewhere around this point in the process I decided that I was going to letterpress print the whole thing.