Words – ‘Coffee-table books’

To start my general research into this project I shall be exploring the range of ‘styles’ that ‘coffee-table’ books can be created as, potentially giving me a feel for the style of the book I will be illustrating for or just some creative thoughts. You can read my thought process on why I think this is a suitable thought process here. I had a quick look at some of the books I have, and felt a couple were what I was looking for, so I have taken some photos and will annotate them.

But first of all, what would you class as a typical ‘coffee-table book’? Well, I would say it is a book that focuses on a particular subject that would generally be classed as interesting by the intended audience and often combines this with very good illustration and/or photography.

First of all, I shall look at the book The Australian Alps: Classic Mountain Landscapes by Mike EdmondsonAs can be seen below, there is a fantastic source of landscape photography within this book and the landscape format (cover) of 265x183mm suits this. The size of the pages is something I will need to consider for this project. The size I have is 210×210 (single page) so when opened will be landscape and similar in size to an A3 sheet of paper. Type is also kept to a minimum, only used to introduce sections or give locations for some of the photography. In quantity this is similar in some ways to the book I am designing for, as type can be limited to word and definition. In style though, I am sure as part of the brief, typography needs to play a larger role, in order to draw the reader into the subject matter of the page.

Another book I have which is of interest to this project is Amazing & Extraordinary London Underground Facts by Stephen Halliday. Here we can see how the book makes use of illustration, with the cover being shapes recognisable to the Underground tube network, and the illustrations inside the book in the form of tube lines making up the Underground or little rough sketches highlighting aspects such as stations or signs. Needless to say the typeface used for the title and any other display type is Gill Sans as this is one of the strongest connections between the Underground and its users.

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Automobiles by Giles Chapman is where I look next in my research. Despite this book stating it is an “Encyclopedia”, being for “Extraordinary Automobiles” helps this book to be sized sensibly and therefore able to be a ‘coffee-table book’ if required. It mainly features photographs of the cars, with the illustrations other than the front cover) mainly being of technical cutaways of the cars. This book also focuses far more on the information with greater space being dedicated to text, which anyone with an interest in the subject matter should find an interesting read. It is important to point out however, the book does not go into great detail about each car, but picks out key points in its creation, what it is and why it has made it into the book, which works very well I think.

The final book I will look at here is Lost In Translation: Misadventures in English Abroad by Charlie Croker which I find to be rather humorous. The book is very basic in format and design, with text for the ‘translations gone wrong’, occasionally with some very basic illustrations just to highlight the point just made.


  • Page sizes/layout. A thought needs to be spared for page sizing and layout. No point in creating a stunning design if it only works in a portrait format.
  • Turn-in. This is a critical factor as from my research here, I can see that books have a higher turn-in, meaning that part of the design in the centre could be lost.
  • Styles. All of these books I have shown here have been completely different to each other, with different subject matter, which has allowed me to explore a wider range than just the one I am designing for, which will aid creativity.