As the graphic design course has now finished for the year, it was time to create the end of year show, and I thought I would highlight the work I showed there, as well as document some of the pieces of work that really caught my eye. The blog post I wrote for last year’s show can be read here.
Looking around the show, there were several pieces of work that really caught my eye, and while some of them I am reasonably familiar with, having seen the design process in progress, some I had not seen before in any form.
Thomas Knapp (BA Graphic Design)
Sam Aylard (BA Graphic Design)
Lizzie Owen (BA Graphic Design)
Ross Sinclair (BA Graphic Design)
Jamie O’Reilly (BA Graphic Design)
Alex Caffrey (BA Graphic Design)
Hayley Eldridge (HND Graphic Design)
Matthew Wyles (HND Graphic Design)
Stephen Whelan (BA Graphic Design)
Josh Dalby (BA Graphic Design)
Alex Sowa (BA Graphic Design)
The show marks the end of a chapter for me as I have finished the course, so I extend a big thanks to the tutors and fellow students that have been around while I’ve been there.
For this blog post, I will be evaluating and reflecting on my Final Major Project, the BBC Stargazing book. I will take an overall look at what did and didn’t go well, thinking on a wider scale how this links into personal development and where I will be heading in the future, as this brings me to the end of my graphic design studies at the University of Kent/K College.
What are the design’s strengths? Why is this the case?
The book conveys through text, photos and illustrations the basics of astronomy, the Solar System as well as stars and constellations in an accessible manner that can be understood easily, but also provide enough knowledge and depth that keeps the readers interested.
The design is suitable for the audience, and I have received lots of positive comments about the book, which I obviously appreciate.
What are the design’s weaknesses? Why is this the case and how could I improve it if I repeated the project?
I would not say the book has a weakness, but as for the content, it was very hard to get the amount and tone of it correct. It would not have been difficult to make this book twice the length. Some may wish for more detail, some may be satisfied. Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of personal opinion.
My working practice
How was my time keeping? When did I work best?
Time keeping has not been acceptable for this project, but then there have been elements out of my control. The majority of time was lost in the earliest stages of the project, I once went 4 weeks behind schedule at the project’s worst point. Since then, it has been a ferocious battle to regain the time and while the quality of the design has not been impaired, I have had to put an unhealthy amount of time into this project.
As usual, for when I needed to really get on and put together the design I worked best at home, but I found it valuable to work at college when I needed feedback as I believe that by asking others what they think can help to progress a design. However, with the exception of the tutors and a couple of other fellow students, everyone at college was so preoccupied with their own tasks that getting suitable feedback was very challenging.
Was my brief realistic in size and focus?
Realistic in size but the focus changed significantly as the project evolved. My brief was realistic as I managed to achieve everything I set out. As for the focus, for much of the project, the plan was to create a book and poster/print, but as the book evolved, it became such a strong design that the poster/print wasn’t needed to fulfil the brief. Then, when the schedule slipped, it became easy to scrap the poster/print idea before it dragged the quality of the book down.
Was my research useful?
It was extremely useful to see how information could be simplified and made enjoyable to take in. There was quite a bit of design that inspired me throughout this project, and whereas usually this influences the design heavily, here I found the project was never aesthetically influenced by much, it was more the content that changed to match.
As for the subject, it took an enormous amount of time to find the information, process it, and write it up in a suitable format for the book. This took a lot of time and was a shame as it took away from the time I had to design.
How did I experiment and create ideas? Was this effective?
There were more sketches than usual for a project now, but the main focus was on experimenting in InDesign, trying different options and constantly refining the designs (think of Kaizen, the Japanese process of continual evolution through many small steps). This was effective for the most part, but was incredibly frustrating while I worked out what was the best design solution.
What parts of the project did I enjoy? Why was this the case?
Once I settled on the layout for the book, I would say I enjoyed placing all the content into it and sorting out the finer details. I also enjoyed making the information suitable to read. I found the subject fascinating and learned a lot aside from the designing phase. Once I had found the right method of illustration, then they were really fun to create, if challenging at times, trying to make something like a goat-fish out of the star patterns… I still don’t quite get how the Ptolemy and the Ancient Greeks came up with what half the constellations looked like!
What parts of the project did I not enjoy? Why was this the case?
Working out the order of the book and editing the text to be concise and fit into the aesthetics of the design was very hard. It was very frustrating to get everything into place. Also the proof-reading was painful to say the least, at over 6 hours with myself and someone simultaneously checking and discussing elements. However, it was worth every minute to iron out any imperfections.
How did you make sure feedback gained was effective?
By finding people who could be bothered to spare me the time, and only asking when strictly necessary. Targeting questions also worked differently depending on whether I was speaking to audience members or tutors/students. For example, when collecting feedback from audience members, I focused on readability and a understanding of the book’s contents, whereas with the other designers I would focus more on aesthetic features of the design and typographic features.
What to think about for the future?
The three years I have had at K College on first the HND course and then the BA course have gone so fast! I can’t believe how much I have learnt and that’s thanks to the tutors. I have also learnt a lot from many of the fellow students on the course. I think in general having such a strong and talented group of people has pushed me to constantly raise my standards, as after all, everyone wants their designs to be the ones people look at and go ‘Wow!’
I will now be using all the experience that I have gained from these three years and using it to get a job in the graphic design sector. I have learnt a lot about design, design history, software as well as how to think about allocating time within a project.
N.B: For some unusual reason, there is a technical glitch with page 34, where none of the headings, sub-headings or star names show up. As of the publishing of this post, the reason is unknown and I will be discussing this with Blurb.
The files I uploaded and the PDF copy I downloaded from them once ordered were perfectly fine with no issue, so there should be no problem with printing. It looks like it is a freak isolated problem with the digital file using Blurb’s BookShow feature.
For this blog post, I will be detailing the process behind finishing the book and sending it off to print.
With the amount of information in this book, it was always going to require a rather amazing level of effort to make sure any mistakes were picked up on along the way. To this, I went to greater efforts than I had done with any other project, asking more people to read it and spending longer myself looking through it.
A few days ago I asked my tutors to read through different sections of the book, and changes were suggested and then made. However, since then, more changes had been made, and I knew I would not feel comfortable if I had not proof-read every single word of the book. So this I did.
But, importantly, I knew that if I read it, especially after spending the last month putting it together, my brain might skip errors subconsciously due to familiarity with the content. So I asked someone to read through it with me and pick up on anything they did not understand or thought was wrong. This made the world of difference, as did their idea of reading sections out aloud to check the flow of the text was correct.
What issues were picked up?
Contents page: Ophiuchus and Orion were placed the wrong way around, a mistake in the alphabetical order. This was fixed.
Incorrect names: A couple of stars in the constellations needed altering, it’s easy to forget when there are so many to list.
Dates: Some were in the American format, some British format. I chose the British format and wanted it consistent throughout.
Text: Very minor kerning adjustments made. Hyphens added where necessary as well as adding hair spaces where required.
Re-wording: Some sections of text were optimised to read better.
Typos: Only a couple were found, so these needed fixing.
I was disappointed that so many issues were found in this stage of the project, but relieved they were found.
Something I had also noticed during the proof-reading was how the illustration for Ophiuchus had a mistake in the blending process, with a couple of bright patches that stood out. This was very annoying, and took quite a bit of time to fix, but it needed doing. The fixed version can be seen below.
I then progressed onto the star chart pages, ensuring that all the constellation names were positioned correctly. I made a few changes to make sure space was best utilised and added a couple of missing names. Now I could say that the book’s pages were complete.
Due to the fact that I did not like the aesthetic of the contents page with the black translucent box positioned behind the text to ensure it remained readable, I decided to edit the image, making it dark enough not to need the box.
I am very pleased with the end result, and it is a good improvement.
I also made some adjustments to the cover of the book to ensure everything was correctly aligned. The areas that needed the most work was the spine, as well as the images on the back cover.
Sending off to print
With everything in place, I decided to upload the book to Blurb. The first step was to check the book’s settings were correct.
After that, I clicked the Upload Book button and let Blurb’s preflight process take over. I was confident that everything would be alright, and no serious problems were found, but it did flag up an advisory message about the quality of an image being too low at 96dpi, meaning it would not print well.
The problematic image was a grainy one of Neptune’s rings as taken by Voyager 2. Because it was an image of poor quality anyway, I had failed noticed the low dpi. It was a simple case of searching around to see if I could find a better image of Neptune’s rings. Thankfully, there was another image, and this was used as a replacement.
It was important that I changed the credit as well on the final page as that was slightly different, and I wanted the right people to be credited, as it was NASA/Voyager 2 Team instead of NASA/JPL.
After that, I ran the preflight process which came back stating there were no serious errors or advisories, so I checked the PDF files that had been created by Blurb during this process, and once I was pleased that all was well, I went on to complete the ordering process. I didn’t take any screenshots as it contained a myriad number of personal details etc. but it went very well.
Conclusion & Reflection
I am very relieved that this book has finally been proof-read and sent off to print, after all the late changes and refinements that have been made, I was starting to wonder if it ever would be finished, a bit like the La Sagrada Família cathedral in Spain!
For this blog post I want to revisit the constellation illustrations.
I had been thinking about if there were any ways I could improve them as I was still not very pleased with the look on the page, but I came up with the solution in an unexpected way.
Thinking about how the images were displayed on the page being stacked upon one another, I felt that it was adding unnecessarily to the file size, which I knew would massively slow down the uploading process so I decided I would be better off conducting the blending modes in Illustrator, then saving to a PNG, and then placing it into the InDesign file.
Interestingly, I found that applying the very same blending modes in Illustrator produced a different result to that in InDesign. I’m not quite sure why that is, but I did notice the colours were brighter, which is something I wanted. In addition to using the blending modes of Soft Light and Screen, I sometimes replaced Soft Light with Hard Light as this made the colours stronger.
Below are the blending modes I used for each colour. The top one is the base layer and the bottom one is the secondary layer on top.
Below I have placed a few spreads that show how the illustrations look when placed on the page. I think I have just about got the right balance between them being too dim and not clearly visible, and too bright, obscuring the stars. I think to conclude, they could be made brighter when the final two pages were placed in, as star charts as that is where you could see the relevant constellations without the illustrations overlaid.
Now that I have refined the illustrations, all that there is left to do is proof-read the book and get it sent off to print.
For this blog post, I will be discussing the work I have been doing for the star charts that form the final two spreads of the book. Since I dropped the third chapter from the book, making the books into two parts, this lessens the amount of work that needs doing, but given the deadline fast approaching, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Limiting it to the northern hemisphere
I decided to limit the star charts just to the northern hemisphere for three reasons. The first was because most of the book’s readers will be in the northern hemisphere. The second was because time was badly running out at this point, so all the extra effort that could have gone into the southern hemisphere, I chose to re-direct into proof-reading to ensure what I had done was error free. The third was because it was only intended as a basic guide, in the introduction to Part 2 I stated my reasonings so the audience would understand.
Star charts are normally circular, and therefore do not translate well onto a page as there is always something upside down. Planetarium apps are better like the Neave one, but aren’t much use in a printed book as there is no way of navigating around the page like there is in a digital website or app.
However, in my research I had come across the Astronomy with Patrick Moore book that had some very basic sky charts. This gave me the initial idea, where it showed what you could see in the sky if you looked north and south. Looking at the planetarium app image above I felt that there could be some improvements to these charts.
It sounds very silly to state it, but when I looked at the southern aspect, and saw East on the left and West on the right, it made me do a double-take and then work it out in my head! Better to understand it now then let the sub-conscious take over and a mistake made.
Creating the charts
As I had done with the constellation illustrations earlier on in this project, I drew a bounding box around the available space and copied it into Illustrator. From there, I sized the constellations to fit. As can be seen the image below, I started with the exact same constellations and had to draw 34 new ones to make the charts, which was very time consuming and boringly repetitive. This took longer than expected.
When I first started, the stars were at such small scale that you could not read the magnitude. This is to be expected and is perfectly fine, but it meant it wasn’t very sightly on the page. To sort this out, I ungrouped each star, removing the text and black box, to leave the white disc at the right size. To differentiate that further, I included opacities so the brightest stars are brightest when viewed on the page. I created a key, which I’ve placed below. I started with the left list but that evolved to me refining it, which is the right list.
Below is the development that I have made, from left to right.
The stars are looking more realistic and with more contrast between them, which will help the reader pick out what stars are the brightest in the night sky to look at.
Once I had developed a couple of charts, I trialled them on the page and added in some text boxes next to the constellations so the audience know what they are looking at.
I felt that there needed to be some separation between the two sections on the page, and trialled a box around the edge. However, I thought this looked really clumsy and broke up the flow of the page.
A much simpler solution was to place a line between the two halves of the page, which gives some definition to it, but lets the margins provide space around the edge, something not possible with the box idea above as the margins were separated from the design.
I had 8 charts to produce, and things were going well, but as I progressed I found I was forgetting what constellations were what (as I hadn’t placed their names next to them at this stage) and I was struggling to get a realistic appearance with correct positioning.
After producing 5 of the charts, I realised something had to change to stop me producing a sub-standard piece of design so I almost had to start from scratch again, so this was really frustrating. In the end though, I managed to complete all 8 charts, and my second attempt was much better, as by this time I was learning more and more about the positioning of the constellations relative to each other when I was transforming them from a celestial sphere to a map-style.
The four finished constellation finder pages can be seen below. I chose to put one season on each page, as the night sky changes with each season. This meant that two spreads/four pages could be removed from the book. I am very pleased with how they look, and think they are suitable as a basic introduction as to where to look in the night sky.
With the book’s content complete now, I want to go through the pages of the book and see if there is anything that needs some attention before I sit down with someone to methodically proof-read the entire book to remove any mistakes.
For this blog post I want to discuss the process for designing the covers for the book. From a previous blog post where I conducted the third test print of this project, it is possible to see here how I got to this stage, and where I progressed it from there.
The first design I came up with was based on the concept of a wraparound image. It needed to be of something spectacular, and instead of going for something very unrealistic like a nebula that can only be seen through a very powerful telescope, I decided to go for an image of the Milky Way, something that can be viewed, albeit in the right place, such as the Atacama Desert. This should pull the audience in from afar.
As for the front cover, I wanted to keep it deliberately simple, to place attention onto the image. The book’s title is there, as well as a sell that briefly encapsulates what the book is about. The name of Stargazing comes from the fact it would be produced in association with BBC Stargazing LIVE.
As for the back cover, the blurb talks about what the book contains, being placed in a translucent black box to ensure it is readable on the starry background. The four images are brief examples of some of the visuals you can see in the book. I have chosen strong images that should hopefully excite the audience as to what else is inside.
Development – Round 1
I asked for some feedback from fellow students and it was felt that there should be less text in the blurb and to look into rearranging the images to give more of a structure to the page. This I did, and I took a couple of images out to gain more space.
The differences between the two layouts can be seen below.
I was not happy with that last stage though, and thought in many ways it looked more unbalanced than before, so moved on to another approach. Here I added in a third image, but spread them and the blurb across the full width of the page. This is how I left it for that evening and is how I test printed it.
Development – Round 2
However, after I did the test print, I just was not happy with the layout. It looked worst than it did on screen and when folded, it just lacked structure and was plainly not good enough. The problems got worse when I realised the wraparound image was not of a high enough quality to print well. Therefore I decided to start over again, as I knew whatever the final result was, it would be similar to something I had already done. There’s only so many ways you can package something to achieve a certain aim.
I managed to find a new image that would display at 300 dpi. It was slightly more subtle, but much better balanced, and importantly was darker, which fitted the tone of the night sky better.
I then re-wrote the blurb to make it a bit shorter and more relevant to the audience. I was very lucky that the text fitted very well into the space I created, that I was able to justify the text without any issues whatsoever, allowing for text that lined up with the images. To make sure the text was justified correctly, I opened up the Justification dialog box and entered the values I learnt about in the St. Luke’s project, that refines the positioning and spacing of characters.
As for the images, I decided to change back to my original idea of having four placed in a 2×2 grid. The top two images of the Sun and the Moon, I chose to keep the same, but the bottom two images I decided to change.
The night sky image did not look that clear on the cover, so I decided to replace it with an simulated image of Saturn’s rings. Being such a crisp, detail rich image, I am confident it will attract a lot of attention and stand out amongst the other images, which all have a very powerful pull in their own right. As for the Scorpius illustration, I replaced this with Cancer, as while I liked the idea of having an illustration visible to the audience, I felt Scorpius was a bit fussy and not vibrant enough to hold someone’s interest on the cover, whereas Cancer was perfect for achieving this.
There was also the benefit of the colours being balanced diagonally with orange-red tones top-left to bottom-right, and monochromatic tones top-right to bottom-left.
Using the BBC logo
From a discussion I had with a couple of people, we agreed that the BBC logo needed to be present in some way to draw a solid connection with who would be producing the book. On previous BBC Stargazing LIVE branding you can see that the BBC 2 logo is used, but I think this is extremely limiting and is not suited to a book as it is the organisation that should be advertised, not the channel.
So I found a BBC logo in the PNG file format. However, it was obvious that placing this onto a black background would result in only the letters really being visible.
So I opened the image in Photoshop and went to Image > Adjustments > Invert (Cmd + I keyboard shortcut) to leave white boxes and black text.
I then had the idea to remove the black letters, which when the logo was placed on the cover, would allow for stars to come through depending on its position on the page. For this then, I wanted to select the black letters so I went to Select > Color Range, and using the Sampled Colors option, clicked on the letters to select them.
I then pressed the backspace key to delete them, but unusually this left a small black border. To remove this, I undid this step to bring back the selection, and went to Select > Modify > Expand. I chose to expand the selection by 2 pixels to remove the border, but importantly leave the logo’s proportions the same.
I was then able to place it into the InDesign file I was working on, placing it in the bottom-right corner of the front cover to mimic other BBC publications, and then tried it on the spine. I was pleased with how it looked, so I decided I would ask for some feedback.
Getting feedback… or not!
I now asked for some feedback on the Facebook group we have about positioning the image and whether to include the BBC logo on the spine, but aside from one person, no one else could be bothered to give any feedback, so that wasn’t particularly helpful.
The evolution of the back cover means it now looks like a refined version of the first attempt, a sign that I very nearly had got it right, and how refining a design can take it in the wrong direction at first.
The Final Covers
The only design difference to the image below is its position now slightly right of centre. While when viewed on the screen it looks slightly unbalanced, in reality when printed, its nudges the image’s brightest, most dominant part onto the front cover.
For the front cover, the text was realigned to the guides I’d added, and I also made the decision to move the BBC logo to the centre as it seemed odd to have the text aligned in the centre widthwise, but then place the logo in the bottom-right corner.
As for the spine, I placed the book’s name Stargazing at the top, and the BBC logo at the bottom.
I am very pleased with how the final covers have turned out. It is very important to get the feeling right with the cover, as that is what you have to entice the audience into reading the book. If they don’t find the book of interest, either with the images shown, or the blurb, then they won’t bother to read it. I believe this cover gives meaning and purpose to each element.
For this blog post, I will be discussing the third (and probably final) test print of the project, an important stage in the project as this will be where I check features I have had problems with in previous test prints are fixed and that improvements are made where needed.
Issues with printing
As seen in the previous two test prints, the black ink cartridge was running, and then promptly ran out, meaning no more test prints could be conducted through the printer for the duration of the project as the necessary black ink cartridge was on order.
This was a big nuisance, as it meant I would have to conduct my test prints on a different printer, which would produce a different result, meaning I wouldn’t be able to compare it against my other test prints. In the end, I found a printer in another computer room, which was a Sharp, instead of an HP.
When it printed, I was really surprised to see that it came out glossy, with vibrant, but poor colour reproduction in some areas. It did satisfy though for a test print.
Looking through the test print
This is the first time the covers have appeared on the blog, as I was working on them yesterday evening, so haven’t have had time to state anything about them. I think in my next blog post I will show how I got to the stage you see below, and how I will develop it to create the final piece. It looks to have printed well, although I’m not so sure about the quality of the main image, I will have to check the dpi figure in InDesign.
Advice & Tips
The left page has the new PNG icons placed on it. Unlike the first test print, where the black background was wrong, and the second test print, where they were pixellated, here they look just right. This result was achieved like the constellation illustrations, where I exported them from Illustrator as PNG files instead of placing them in Photoshop and then importing them into InDesign.
One observation about the main image however, is that editing I have done to remove noise has removed quite a lot of sharpness from the image. I think this is something I need to rectify.
So I did rectify it, I reversed the changes I made to reducing noise, and I also decided it was too blue, so I added a gradient map, set to 45% opacity to achieve this. At 100%, it produced a great black and white effect, which I preferred the aesthetic of, but I knew it wasn’t suitable as a photo, which is meant to show realistically what you can see looking into the night sky.
Part 1: The Solar System
I chose to only print the ‘Other Sights’ page off, as my second test print had shown everything to be fine for the rest of the first part of the book. I am very pleased with the layout of this page, which I discussed in my last blog post, although I feel the image of the Geminid meteor shower could be lightened a touch.
This was completed as such, as can be seen below. I found I had darkened the original image too much so I reversed the vast majority of this to leave practically the original image.
Part 2: Stars & Constellations
In the last blog post I discussed the changes made to the introduction section for the second part of the book. With test-printing, I was pleased to see everything went well. I asked one of my tutor to proof-read this, and she found some typos as well as suggesting that for the star magnitude key, the stars were made larger as the text inside them seemed small.
Other than that, the feedback I received was positive for this spread, which is good considering the amount of time, effort and development it has taken to get this right.
The typos were easily fixed, but for the star magnitude key, I found that for the stars, making them larger worked, but for some reason, the -1 and -2 magnitude stars did not copy across from Illustrator, with the text merging into the white ring. To solve this I copied the stars minus the text and added that in InDesign.
I also changed around the right page, making some improvements to the design, such as placing more information on the page in a clearer manner.
As for the constellation spreads, these printed well and I got most of them proof-read. There were a few typos that needed to be sorted as well as re-writing some of the sections so they make more sense. I shall get this done by, if not before, the proof-reading stage.
As for the illustrations, they have printed well and feedback was positive, however, I am disappointed with the flatness of the illustrations. Although they let the stars appear more visible, they are a bit dull. This might just be the test print though. I’ll have a think about what to do and sort it out when I know what to do, and talk about it in another blog post.
I also wanted to print a prototype of the star charts that will make the back section of the book’s second part. As with the cover, I have not shown these before on the blog as they were put together not that long ago, and I would prefer to talk about them in a separate blog post, as it has been quite a long process, and also I can then talk about how I will be developing them to a finished stage.
As for the credits page, I was disappointed with how it printed, although I can see from the streaky lines across the page it is the printer not representing the colours properly. I expect no problem when I send it off to print. There is still some work to do with the credits, mainly updating information before it is ready.
I managed to complete the credits page and have placed an image of it below.
Edit: This image is actually of the finished credits page as I did not manage to take an image of the page as it stood at that point in time. There were a couple of changes made after that point relating the images on the cover and the image of Neptune’s rings that was changed.
The big issue of overprint preview
One issue that has plagued this project is that of overprinting, or as I knew it for most of this project… the annoying white lines around various images. The concern was that it would print like that, which would be a disaster, so I needed to do some research and find out what the problem was, and how to fix it.
My research found it was an issue to do with the transparencies of objects being previewed in the Blurb PDF export format that it would be sent off to printers as. They required compatibility with Adobe Acrobat 4, a much older format that is unable to process transparency.
So that was the problem, how do I fix it? Well some more research suggested it probably would not print like it, but I was not reassured with this. Eventually I came across an article on Blurb Support, which was very useful.
This stated that I should be viewing the file in Adobe Reader or Acrobat. Previously I had only been used the programme Preview, so I made sure I opened the file to Adobe Acrobat. The article then gave some support, including the critical point, Overprint Preview. By setting this to Always, it removes the white boxes around the text.
No white boxes around any objects were visible, and it was now that I knew it was clear that those lines were not going to print.
Conclusion & Next Step
I am very pleased with the progress that has been made with the test print and am now confident the book is going to print as desired. The next step once I have corrected the points raised in this blog post is to finish the book, including the covers and the final section.
For this blog post, I will be looking at some of the changes I have made to the design, and also to the structure of the book since my last blog post, where I was very concerned about the timeframe of the project slipping away.
Removing the book’s third chapter
Losing two pages, saving time, replaced with star charts, which will be looked at later on.
I also chose to re-name the second sections from ‘Constellations’ to ‘Stars & Constellations’ as I felt this would be a more accurate representation of its content.
Removing ‘Chapter 2′ and replacing it with ‘Part 2′, meant I had to revisit the Solar System introduction spread and change ‘Chapter 1′ to ‘Part 1′ to ensure consistency throughout.
Introduction to second part
I realised that I still hadn’t done anything with the introduction to the second section since the first test-print, and that I really needed to develop it or risk it holding back the book being sent off to print.
I realised what had been holding me back was the complexity of the information regarding the classification of stars that needed to be presented on the page. Stars can be classified in different ways, and my research showed that classifying them by their spectral type was the best, and most common way.
I was really struggling with how to make this information accessible as there was no handy guide I could find, which was really surprising, but I did managed to find an image while searching on Google that classified main sequence stars by spectral type, and separated them from white dwarfs, giants and supergiants. I found this massively useful, and used the data from this in my text.
I was still needing a bit of help though with understanding it, and if I could not understand it, I could not expect my audience to, so I decided to continue my research. I suddenly wondered if a simple explanation could be sourced from the DK Encyclopedia of Space book I used in my research. It could thankfully, and this provided the means from which I could get this piece of information understood.
This allowed me to be able to design the right page and get everything correct. I found that it was very difficult to position the text in an understandable way and give space to the central column of stars. I had thought about running them in a row across both pages, but decided against it because it would be such an inefficient use of space.
I also had to leave out graphical representations of white dwarfs, as these were too small to be visible on the page, as well as giant and supergiant stars as these were over twice the size of the book if the scale was followed through accurately! Therefore I made the scale to best suit the ‘main sequence’ stars.
Star Magnitude Key
As for the left page, I wanted a star magnitude key, so I made one of those to fit across the bottom of the page. Underneath that, I split them into three sections depending on how easy they were to see in the night sky.
Astrology and the Zodiac
I included a section for astrology in the introduction so the audience have an idea about what the zodiac is, which is important given some of the text in the ‘History & Meaning’ section refers to the Zodiac. I decided to stop it just being a big block of text I would create a big zodiac illustration, as I had all the zodiacal illustrations already completed for that section.
It was rather easy to create the illustration, but when I placed it into InDesign, it did not preview right when exported to a PDF file as the text and lines looked slightly blurry because they were too thin to be shown correctly. In the end I decided to delete the structure, export the grouped zodiacal illustrations as a PNG file, and create the surrounding structure in InDesign to ensure it came out correctly.
I then created the shapes in InDesign, which was tiring, and not as quick as in Illustrator, but at least I know it will print properly.
Once I placed the zodiacal illustrations into the centre, it was complete. I am very happy with the way this has turned out.
Text for the page
To fill the top section of the left page, I decided to place some text in explaining what constellations are and why they are named as such.
I also wrote a short section for the star charts at the back of the book, where I explained how it is a basic guide and for the best results, a digital planetarium app or website should be used.
A small, but meaningful change to the constellation pages within the book is the colour of the headings and sub-headings. As can be seen from the first test-print, they were white. However, I thought it made perfect sense based on the rest of the book to contrast them, using the colours in the illustration in the bottom half of the page.
Simplifying the star names
As can be seen in the rough image below, some constellations, such as Scorpius have a lot of stars. When placed on the page, I could see it was just going to overwhelm the illustrations. So I took some time to think whether it mattered that all the stars were listed, and asked some people for their opinions. Interestingly their views matched the ones I was beginning to have, that it didn’t really matter. Who wants to know the name of every star? was a common point raised.
So I decided I would only list the stars talked about in the text for ‘The Stars’, which would be between 2 and 4 stars. This made an enormous difference (and had the benefit of saving me a lot of time!) as the illustration once again could dominate the page, which was pleasing to me and what I wanted.
Development on credits page
Below is how the credits page looked. I decided to finish it because it needed doing and was a relatively simple task. As can be seen the pink text follows the development made earlier in this blog post and matches some of the colours in the text. I chose a bold image because I did not want a wasted page in the book that no one wanted to look at, because no one really picks up a book to read the credits…
However, when I started placing text over it, the white swirls and yellow-white centre played havoc with the text, and I could not find a common colour for the text that made it work. There was always some part of the text that became illegible, which was not suitable.
So I had to change the image. I still wanted a bold, high-quality image that would make people look at the page, but now needed something that did not contain much white in it. The first thing that came to mind was one of the most famous images that has been associated with space, the Helix Nebula.
Applying text to the page worked well, as can be seen in the screenshot below, and it is now all legible.
The next step in this project will be to go into college and conduct a test-print of the entire second part of the book, as well as any other section that has recently changed.
For this blog post, I will be discussing the results of my second test-print, and what this means for the project now. The focus this time was on the first chapter as it needed proof-reading, and I wanted to check any errors and misprinting from the first test print was fixed.
A point that needs making is that although I am using the same HP printer as I did for the first test-print, that black ink cartridge which was running out has pretty much now run out. It is extremely frustrating and means that I will have to use another printer for any further test prints. As for this test-print, it has made a mess of most of it and I haven’t bothered to show the last couple of spreads here because the ‘printing’ was so poor.
The contents page has printed out well, and I am pleased with it. I think it can be considered done, unless I see a way of improving it.
As for this spread, it has printed alright despite the red being way too bright (some of that is exaggerated by the camera) but that is the printer over saturating the colours.
Something I was very disappointed with was the small vector icons I saved as PNG’s and imported into InDesign. In the first test-print they appear wrongly as their black background did not match the tone of black used on the background. Now saved as PNG’s with transparent backgrounds, I see they are blurry. I will need to investigate into this and see what the fix is.
The other spreads all printed well, even if the quality of printing was not up to much! I asked one of my tutors to proof-read this for me, and he picked up on a few grammatical points such as the use of the correct hyphen for instance, which I have since corrected.
Something I am not so sure about though is the illustrations I created for the Moon pages. They look a bit cheap and tacky compared to the rest of the book and with the write-up I have completed for each section, I think I would be better off putting images in their place, showing these events happening.
Therefore, I decided to remove the illustrations and find some decent images. I then placed them onto the spread, and placed a caption under either one, as there was more room here to do that than having to add it to the big list of captions in the bottom-right corner of the left page.
As time is really beginning to run out now, and with the majority of the second and third chapters still to finish, I think it is important now the first chapter is complete (save for small design tweaks if I notice something and a final proof-read) that I move on to those.
I think I will need to look into a way to save some time as well as I know the second chapter is now nearly there, and will be ready for a full test-print and proof-read soon, but as for the third chapter, that has not even been started yet, which is concerning.