Session 11 – Introduction to Production (28.01.16)

The more technical side of the module was introduced to us today as Becky Chilcott, a book production designer, briefed us on the basics of production. For most of the session, Becky went through a slide-show containing various book covers she has been able to produce, as well as other book covers which have unexpected design fronts. For each example, she gave us the blurb of the book and asked us what the design might look like. One that came up was Jacqueline Wilson’s book ‘Opal Plumstead’, which tells the story of a schoolgirl suffragette in a time when war is imminent. We were only told the blurb. The class agreed that the story sounded quite dark and would therefore have a design to depict this. However, when we saw the cover design and author the class were very surprised since the cover did not reflect the nature of the story. However, Jacqueline Wilson’s illustrator Nick Sharratt is an example of how familiar illustrations identifies an author to their readers; without whom, sales plummet.

I learnt that a cover should not give too much of the story’s plot away; But, as Becky said, there is no right answer with cover designs; not everyone will agree that the final cover is the best one.
For the last part of the session, Becky got us to take the book that we brought to the class and come up with an idea for an alternative book cover. The book I brought was The Girl On The Train. I felt that this helped to get me used to thinking about effective designs.


Jacqueline Wilson. (2015). ‘Opal Plumstead’ [accessed 29 January 2016].

Session 12 – Working with imagery (04.02.16)

The importance of imagery within design was discussed in today’s session. The very basic features of images using either RGB (Red, Green, Blue) or CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) format was something I had not heard of before today’s session; it is very important knowledge to keep in mind for my own designs later in the course. Deciding between the two is decided before the design has even started. RGB is traditionally used in digital as the quality and range of colour is not as high as that of printed books. CMYK is used for printing.
Another key part of using imagery in production is that of photography. And with that comes licencing laws which needs to be considered carefully before and during a cover design. There are 3 main types of licencing for using pictures:
Rights Managed (RM) – An exclusive contract meaning only you can use that picture.
* Royalty Free (RF) – The option which allows anyone to use for different things.
Microstock (MS) – Images which are sourced from libraries – for example, Flickr.

A further aspect of using images in cover design which needs to be considered is that of the image quality. For the purposes of cover design, the most important thing to understand is ‘dots per inch’. This is the number of dots per inch printed on the image; the higher the number of dots, the better the quality.

The 72 dpi image above is in low resolution and can be used in digital books, whereas the 300 dpi image is in high resolution and can be used in print books. The latter also means that changing the size of the image will make no difference; the quality of the picture ensures, for example, that the image does not show pixels. This was a very useful piece of information and will be good knowledge going forward when making my own front cover. For the rest of the session we put this knowledge to the test by having some time on Photoshop, and this is something I need more practice with as I am finding it quite confusing.

1. vsellis. (2013) Understanding DPI, Resolution and Print vs. Web Images. [accessed 10 February 2016].

Session 13 – Working with type (11.02.16)

A relatively straight forward concept, but there was information I learnt in today’s session which I had not thought of before when it comes to type. In publishing, even the smallest mistake such as misusing a semi colon is criminal; it is an error which simply should not occur so it was beneficial for me to distinguish all the forms of grammatical errors that can be made in order for me not to make the embarrassing errors myself in the future.
One area which was covered in the session was the impact of font and how even this can say something about the title of a book. Experimenting with font was therefore a useful exercise as I could see some fonts really did suit certain themes more than others. Becky discussed the difference between font, typeface and typography:
* Font – A font is the combination of typeface and other qualities, such as size, pitch, and spacing.
* Typeface – The typeface represents one aspect of a font. The two general forms are serif and sans serif.
* Typography – Typography is the art and technique of arranging type. (Creative Bloq).

Every designer needs to understand typography. All three definitions intertwine and are reliant upon one another when it comes to book design. A good, stand out font for the book in question is essential; titles are often recognised by its font such as Twilight.

I learnt of the impact typography can have on a design. I will take care choosing my fonts for assignments and have an awareness for any future work I may do in production.


Creative Bloq (2014). Typography rules and terms that every designer must know, Creative Bloq, 3 April 2014. [accessed 12 February 2016].

Webopedia. [accessed 12 February 2016].

Webopedia. [accessed 12 February 2016].

Session 14 – Cover Grids (18.02.16)

Cover grids enter into a more mathematical mode of book production. Adhering to specific dimensions is essential when it comes to working out the size of the book’s jacket and cover flaps, if applicable. The reason for this is simply due to the size of a book differing depending on what type of book it is; for example, a picture book will have a very different dimensions compared to a standard fiction book. As Becky explained in the session, to determine the size of the spine you need to know the number of pages in the book.
I learnt today that books are bound in multiples of 16 and are always set with a bleed. This is the extra 5mm used for trimming a book cover when printing. Crucial elements to a cover design should not be less than 5mm to the edge in case it gets cut. Below, these pictures show the basic dimensions a book may have; the front and back flaps are those mainly associated with hardbacks.



Using grids a means of producing designs for books was first started by Polish freelance designer Romek Marber. He ‘conceived a grid layout for Penguin book covers that became one of the most praised and recognised layouts of all time’ (Book Design Blog). Due to its relevance in book production even now, his relevance to publishing is easily acknowledgeable. Below is a classic Merber grid layout:

Marber Grid Penguin Book Cover Design

Today, Adobe InDesign does most of the leg work for you. However, you still need to set the dimensions in yourself, thus making it mathematical due to the necessity of knowing the dimensions. Therefore, we experimented with basic cover designs using cover grids and after a while I was able to produce a basic front cover with a bleed. Using Photoshop to create the design I wanted, I placed this into InDesign, fitting it within the grids. I now feel more assured having practised this that I can produce a cover design for the assignment and demonstrating my knowledge to potential employers.


Book Design Blog. A Brief History of the ‘Marber Grid’ – The layout that changed book covers forever, Book Design Blog. [accessed: 20.02.16].

Eye Magazine (2004) Penguin Crime, Eye Magazine. [accessed 20.02.16].

Session 15: Guest Speaker (25.02.16)

Today, Ness Wood came in to talk to us about her experiences in book design. What I found particularly interesting is that paperback and hardbacks often have contrasting front covers. She gave the example of supermarkets wanting book cover designs being presented in a certain way in order for them to add their price tags and other promotional stickers without obscuring the text. The example she used was ‘Jampires’ by Sarah McIntyre and David O’Connell (see below). The positioning of the ‘jampires’ were changed for supermarkets. Customising designs to suit different providers definitely intrigued me; I did not think this would be something a publishing company would be willing to do.

Wood went on to discuss illustrators who are prolific in the publishing industry’s eye. Sarah McIntyre, Sue Heap, Mini Grey, and Shirley Hughes. It was beneficial to know who are the biggest figures within the picture book scene. Below are various examples of illustrations of those mentioned above.


After Wood’s talk, we were given the task of designing a new cover for the picture book ‘Lionheart’. This gave me the opportunity to practice cover design for my production assignment. I found this enjoyable and even though I have not finished I feel more comfortable using Photoshop to structure the front cover the way I want it. However, I will aim to do more in order to feel more than just ‘comfortable’, and more confident. In all, it was a very engaging lesson!

Session 16 – Font exercise (03.03.16)

In this session, the class were encouraged to practice and develop their eye for detail and appropriateness when applying suitable fonts to front covers. This was great use of time as part of my preparation for Just So Stories. By searching for fonts using websites such as and, I realised just how important it is to apply the right font to a front cover.

Above, are the front covers we were asked to consider fonts for. We were given the title and left to browse. Below are pictures showing the fonts I chose; for each I gave a brief explanation for my decisions.



I definitely feel like it was worthwhile associating myself with typography and cover design. I have learnt to appreciate the time that is taken in the publishing industry to find the font. It has a huge influence in how well the book stands out on a bookshelf. The wrong font could be enough to jeopardise the sales of that book due to its lack of appeal. This awareness would be essential for any future job I do.  If the text is not clear enough from a distance, or when the image is a thumbnail online, then a great sounding title will be lost on a potential customer. If the font is sloppy, unappealing, illegible, or just unprofessional (such as the overly-used, and some would say abused, Comic Sans or Papyrus fonts), it will immediately turn off the reader (Linsdell).

For next week, I aim to take one of these covers and create a near-finished cover design, including front and back covers and spine.

Linsdell, Jo.(2014) Why Book Covers are So Important, Writers and Authors. [accessed 8 March 2016].

1001freefonts. [accessed 8 March 2016].

Dafont. [accessed: 8 March 2016]


Session 17: Designing interior layouts (Part 1) – 10.03.16

For the first part of this session, Becky primarily discussed the cover designs we did last week, giving us constructive criticism which will be very useful and insightful for future practice. This was the first real cover I had created and I did struggle somewhat to get the effects I wanted to work straight away, but the mistakes I made will be rectified now that Becky has guided and instructed me on how to improve the design. For example, the main mistake I made was setting it to Portrait instead of Landscape without realising. Incidentally, the cover looked odd; more like a map layout than a fiction book. I learnt that sticking to the brief is very important; little mistakes won’t be made that way and will make the design accurate. For future reference too, I will make sure that I am not too close to the bleed like this is below. However, I’m pleased that I am getting better at navigating InDesign and Photoshop.

Cover Task.jpg

For the second part of the lesson, Becky introduced us to typesetting. This involves how the text is laid out and eliminating inconsistencies and punctuation errors, whilst also giving the text an identity. For example, a little illustration that matches the front cover could appear on each chapter title, such as the stars in the later editions of Harry Potter.

  (Google Images, 2015)

It was definitely worthwhile looking at how to typeset. It looks very effective if done correctly.

Session 18 – Designing interior layouts (part 2) – 17.03.16

Today, we continued on from last week’s session about interior design by taking a piece of text provided on Blackboard and eliminate the errors that had been introduced. This was harder than I first thought since, unlike copy-editing, you are looking for more than just grammatical and publisher-specific setting errors but, more specifically, making the necessary changes such as hyphen, en and em-dash misuses. These inconsistencies can be found by a programme integrated within InDesign by pressing Command F; you can look for all the hyphens that should be en-dashes, for example. However, this only finds the punctuation marks that you have been searching for, it will not distinguish what is correct and what is wrong. That is done manually. Although not being the most exciting part of production, this process is pivotal for a books consistency. As David Moratto explains, a professional interior book design sells your book while/and most importantly delivers what your content is all about. Without interior design, the reader will notice the difference. Layout, as well as content, is critical; it is important to meet these basic requirements. I feel like I have made decent progress doing this and feel ready to tackle the typesetting assignment.


David Moratto. [date accessed: 22 March 2016].

Session 19 – Preparing files for print (07.04.16)

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This session was designed to teach me about how to get files ready for the printers. You want to make sure that what you send to the printers prints what you want to print. Becky taught us how to prepare PDF’s, documents and check that everything is in order. By doing this, I discovered how to apply crop and bleed marks on PDF’s to show where I have applied them. These marks are then used during the printing process, such as where the fold marks are.
Through my own research I discovered a website that went through the different things to check when sending files to the printer. Since InDesign and Photoshop are the main programmes I will be using for my assignments, I looked at what I would need to do if I was wanting to send an InDesign file to print. I learned that if you go File > Package a pop up will come up with different tabs: fonts, links and images, colours and inks, print settings, and External plug-ins. You can then go through each one and check it is the settings you want them. Below is a table which summarises what to do for each application. I found this to be a great source and now I feel like I am in a better position to approach sending files to the printer.

file for print


Design Instruct. (2010). A Guide to Preparing Files for Print. [accessed 8 April 2016].

Session 20 – Designing marketing materials (21.04.16)

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In this session, Becky discussed the role production has with marketing campaigns, such as posters. We were given a set period of time in which to draw up a basic marketing poster for Palgrave about a book on feminism. In production interviews, timed skill assessments are common. This was a really valuable lesson for me to learn from because I did not manage to produce anything that was anywhere near finished. I spent too much time messing around with effects on Photoshop and this was the main reason why I ran out of time. In the future, I will need to make sure that I practice doing similar exercises, giving myself a time limit.

Session 21 – Cover Finishes (28.04.16)

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I was unable to attend this session so I asked my peers after the class to tell me what was discussed. Cover finishes and how to apply cover them, how to cut out book covers, and how to set it up for print in tiles. I need to make sure that I know how to do this so I will make sure that I arrange for one of my peers to show me the basics of what they learnt. I looked online for tutorials of how to do this but I have not found anything that has shown me how to do it.
However, I did learn how to tile a cover ready for printing, which will be extremely useful when it comes to printing off my Just So Stories cover. One of my peers gave me instructions of how to do this and followed their advice independently, and now I know how to print off my JSS book cover full scale over two sheets of A3. This makes me feel reassured knowing I can do this now; it means I can check everything is as it should be when printed on paper, which will ultimately lead to less mistakes further up the printing process if problems have arisen.

Session 22 -Guest Speaker (05.05.16)

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Anna Robinette from Egmont came in today to talk about what she does as a production assistant. On one of her slides, she ran through the various areas of production:
* Editorial
* Design
* Pre press
* Publicity and marketing
* UK and International Sales
* Publishing Services

Even though I knew there was more to production than just producing and printing the book, I was surprised that it included areas such as sales. Robinette made a good point about the cost of covers. She said ‘If it looks better in foil, for example, it may not look that much better to justify the cost’. She called this ‘perceived added value‘. This is something I had not given much thought; that sometimes sacrifices have to be made on the look of a book.
Egmont are ambassadors to the Forest Stewardship Council who are concerned with the sustainability and eco-friendliness. I found this interesting as this is something that has to be considered with the production of their books.


A final point Robinette made which I learnt was that the testing of ‘play-value’ books. If it is a book unsuitable for under 3 year olds such as parts that come out of the book, a safety check has to be made. I had not considered this in the production of children’s books and was worth noting should I need such knowledge going for an interview in a production role. It was an inspiring talk and a great way to conclude the module. A new perspective on production really helped me to appreciate what to expect in the production of books.


Anna Robinette. (2016) Talk. 5 May 2016.


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