Inside the Kingston MA: hands on design and typesetting

Getting hands on with text is a feature of our Editorial, Production and Design for Publishing module. In our latest guest post, student Francesca Hopwood writes about working on our annual Ripple anthology, an experience that has opened her eyes to new career opportunities.

When I first glanced at the list of names for my Ripple group in our Editorial Production and Design for Publishing module I gulped due to the sheer amount of people involved. The idea that we were to work together within a two-week window on a live project was both daunting and incredibly exciting. Although I had made notes during lectures about the supply and value chain, it was only when given the opportunity to be part of it that everything really came together. Being involved in the production process of Ripple 2012 was a time-consuming role but one which I loved every minute of.

When book designer David Pearson spoke to our class earlier in the year he said  ‘the more time you have, the more you question your design’. Having less than a week to come up with the initial interior-layout style sheet, and only a week to typeset it as a group, was a refreshing and thrilling way to work. With others depending on you within the group, as well as the knowledge that many others will see the final product, you can overthink certain elements; the time constraints squash this idea.

While designing the style sheet for the interior pages I looked through past copies of Ripple as well as other books that I, as a reader, had felt inspired by (Faber and Faber, Vintage and Penguin all offer perfect examples). Asking myself why they were visually appealing and how the design benefitted the end reader was an interesting process. I had to remind myself that the customer may not be me and therefore will not necessarily agree with what I like visually.

Design inspiration: Faber Poetry Hardback Collections

The placement of the running footer in Ripple 2012 is a good example of this audience-focused design. I initially centred the running foot (as I am by fault an alignment geek) but on showing two different versions to the group it was clear that it was more useful to have it at the corner. By ensuring there was a consistent three space gap between the author’s name and the page number on the right hand (recto) page, along with using italics and a smaller font size, readers could easily flick to their author of choice without being distracted when reading. The opportunity to bounce off and work alongside others, where most of the communications were through email and file shares, felt incredibly realistic and gave a real insight into how ideas become a reality in the workplace.

A typeset page from Ripple 2012 showing the final footer layout















When using Adobe InDesign it was tempting to play around and show everything I’d learned. Remembering how distracting this can be, ‘less is more’ was the way to go. An example of this was the amount of lines that I used in my initial style sheet, which due to feedback from the team I was able to amend before sending it out to the editor. The additional lines did not communicate anything so there was no point in using them.

The importance of efficient typesetting was also an eye-opener as I had never realised how much tweaking could be involved to ensure that the reading experience was as unobtrusive as possible. Decreasing the tracking within certain stories to prevent orphans and widows was harder than I thought but also a challenge that I became addicted to. After the InDesign pages had been collated three of us had the mission of getting the layout under 100 pages, which meant looking at spacing in a whole new light. By shrinking the spacing and decreasing the margin we were able to get the text under 100 pages and still obtain an end result that looked like a professional anthology.

Looking at the final product was a weird experience as I kept opening it up to check it was really there. I did voice my concerns on the overuse of the images, as pictures had been added in some places that deviated away from the layout we had handed over. But, I guess, as with a real publishing situation, as soon as you’ve handed your part over you have to trust the next part of the chain to do what they believe is best. As David Pearson said you ‘need to know when to fight your battles’ and as this was a group project, doing so would have clearly undermined how hard we had worked as a team.

Francesca and colleagues talk about their experiences working on Ripple 2012

Working on this assignment has made me see where my strengths lie and how they could be used within a real publishing project. It has made me realise just how much I appreciate design, where the possibility that I might one day typeset and design some beautiful books seems more real than ever. Ripple 2012 is something that I can pick up and look at and say ‘I was part of that’. I cannot wait to do it again.

Francesca Hopwood is a student on Kingston University’s MA Publishing course.


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