The Grid System and International Swiss style design for books.
We’re covering the Grid System, Swiss style design, also called the International Style, and explaining the Big Picture style, as we are getting started on book design. By now you have most of the basic information, even if you are new to book design. In this chapter, tweak InDesign, read about the Grid System, white space, and the InDesign files needed by book binding type, as well as the special features of different types of books.
- Understand grids whether you use them or not. However, always consider the use of alignment.
- White space is invaluable. Do not fill up every last bit of a page.
- Different book files are needed according to binding type and possible options.
- Print out, trim, and view some pages before sending PDFs to press.
The Grid System and Big Picture
An underlying structure behind the type and images on a page layout is a grid. It is limiting in that you cannot place images and type anywhere you like. That is also the benefit.
The “Big Picture” style is another standard way to design, and with good reason, especially with some book styles. Who wants a photography book with tiny thumbnail images?
Neither style is mandatory, but both may be helpful in book design. Placement of margins, type, and images are not random. There is a structure to follow to have unity in form and function.
The Grid and International Swiss style
The International Style is also known as Swiss Style. There are traditionally specific fonts and colors used in Swiss Style Design. It is a distinctive style that has its roots in the 1920s and ’30s and was further developed in Switzerland.
The influence of Swiss Design was prevalent throughout the 1950s and is still seen as a design style today.
Grids are tools
The Grids used in Swiss design can be a tool in page design and unifies the composition in a rational way. However, it is only a framework and does not solve all design problems. A grid is all about the page layout, margins, and space between columns. It is consistent typographic elements arranged to present a unifying layout.
Designing a book can be easier once the grid and stylesheets are established and implemented. Some designers feel it is too constricting, but once you start to work with a grid, it does solve problems. A grid is used to define the page layout in a logical arrangement of columns, type, and
A book should be easy to follow and clear to read. A coffee table book should be especially interesting and pleasing to read or thumb through. Is it necessary to use a grid? No, but a novel for instance, will look more professional with an underlying grid. Understand what the grid system is, whether you use it or not. Always use alignment in page layout.
The grid system is easy to imitate, but for a new self-publisher, it can be daunting because there are go many possibilities and ways to structure a grid on a page. While you may have several versions of a basic page, be consistent and logical, arranging elements to maintain consistency throughout the book design.
There is much that is written about grid systems. The goal of this book is to offer valuable information about book design that is simple and professional. There are a number of books that have been written about grid systems if you want to explore this topic in more detail.
The Big Picture style is clean and uses white space effectively. It is a desired style for large format books. The idea in designing an art book, photography book, and most coffee table books is to display large images. Readers are attracted to big pictures. A prominent headline should be incorporated into the layout, with smaller body text.
When designing a large format book, I sometimes fall back on my years of training, designing, and instructing my staff about advertisement design.
Some suggestions are intertwined in the following points:
- The top of the ad is the focus. A minimum of 40 to 50 percent of the ad should be the big picture. The idea is to attract the reader’s attention so that they read the rest of the copy. Just remember that you only have a few seconds to grab attention and make a favorable impression.
- The headline can be above or below the picture. Depending on the graphic design style, the headline can be large or small, on top or below the picture, or overlay a full-page picture. Coffee table books have fewer headlines of course, but images in a book are usually captioned and credited in small type.
- Even for books, it may be a helpful hint to remember that in advertising, we try to write feature / benefit statements. State the feature followed by the benefit the reader can derive from that feature. This can also be a list of bulleted features and benefits. Okay, not so much for most book content but a valuable tip for back covers and flaps!
- The text copy need not be in large type, as that takes away from the space needed for the big picture. Text should be the same throughout the book unless there is a distinctively different style. It should be 10-, 11-, or at most, 12-point type.
- The back cover of a book might contain a logo and contact information.
- If so, it belongs toward the bottom of a back cover. Contact information should also always be on the copyright page.
If you had an entire photography or art book with large headlines, it would be overwhelming. Back off on the headline size — except for a specific use — just as at the beginning of a chapter.