FMP: Choosing content and how to realise the design

This is going to be a detailed blog post that will focus on three areas:

  • Structuring the book’s content and allocating space.
  • Creating some initial ideas to set the ball rolling.
  • Deciding on how the book and poster will be realised.

Design Considerations – Book

Below is a copy of the notes I made when thinking about how I will make the design of the book reality. It is important for me to make a note of the broader areas I need to think about to stop me forgetting important parts of the design.


The book’s content & allocating space

Allocating space for the book & deciding what format is best

As is visible in the above page of sketches and notes I made the other day, I am working out how much space I need. I will be working out a rough minimum and maximum amount of pages I expect could be used before I go onto choosing how to best realise the book.

The main difference in the length of the book will come down to the constellations, which form the main focal point for the book I am designing. According to the International Astronomical Union, there are 88 constellations, which would be a monumental undertaking to include in the book, especially as I am producing a basic guide, rather than a comprehensive book such as Universe, that I researched in my last blog post.

So are there any ways of deciding on what to include? Well in an earlier blog post, I analysed the content of Astronomy with Patrick Moore, where in Appendix 5, the constellations are listed, with the largest and most important marked in capitals. From this I can see there are 36 important constellations, 13 of which form the zodiac (although only 12 are used in astrology.) Therefore it makes sense to definitely include the zodiac constellations, and others as well if there is the space.

Minimum estimate of book length: 34 pages.
  • Contents: 1 page.
  • Chapter Pages: 4 chapters x 1 page = 4 pages.
  • Viewing tips & Equipment: 2 pages.
  • Solar System (exc. The Moon): 8 planets x 1 page = 8 pages.
  • The Moon: 1 page.
  • The Sun: 1 page.
  • Constellations: Only focusing on Zodiac = 13 pages.
  • List of remaining constellations: 1 page.
  • Star Charts & Maps: Northern Hemisphere = 2 pages.
  • Credits: 1 page.
Maximum estimate of book length: 84 pages.
  • Intro/Foreword: 1 page.
  • Contents: 2 pages.
  • Chapter Pages: 4 chapters x 2 pages = 8 pages.
  • Viewing tips: 2 pages.
  • Equipment: 2 pages.
  • Solar System (exc. The Moon): 8 planets x 2 pages = 16 pages.
  • Dwarf Planets: 2 pages.
  • The Moon: 2 pages.
  • The Sun: 2 pages.
  • Constellations: 36 constellations x 1 page = 36 pages.
  • List of remaining constellations: 2 pages.
  • Star Charts & Maps: 3 regions x 2 pages = 6 pages.
  • Other Interesting Objects to Observe: 2 pages.
  • Credits: 1 page.

Sketching some initial ideas for the book

In these sketches I am mainly starting to think how the book could look.

Above is a page of sketches I have created to try and get an initial idea of how the book could potentially look. I am already trying ideas out as to how much space is needed and seeing what looks best, whether it should be an image taking up a page with text on the other, or condense it into one page. I’ll be producing many more sketches in a future blog post, as I really concentrate on seeing how the book will look, but for now it is difficult to do so when the format is undecided.

How to realise the book?

For previous projects, such as the St. Luke’s Church book I designed earlier this year, and the Range Rover brochure from last year, I have used Blurb and have been very pleased with them, and while they seem the obvious choice to use again, I thought I would take the time to investigate potential competitors and see what I think of them.

The criteria I will be judging to see which is the most suitable is:

Product/Format (Size of book, number of pages)
If the product/format is not suitable, then it stops here.

Quality (Type of paper, weight of paper)
The quality has to be suitable for the audience.

Pricing (Cost per unit)
If it is too expensive, it makes it unviable.

Design Flexibility (Is there an InDesign plug-in, PDF upload?)
I want full flexibility to create the design best suited to the format.


Blurb Homepage

First of all, I decided to take a look at Blurb to re-familiarise myself with their services. Reading into the company, they offer a print-on-demand service that allows you to order as many books as you would like to be printed. Immediately, it’s very clear they offer publishing options such as an InDesign plug-in, that would allow me to design the design that I want to.

Blurb Products

Looking at the products/pricing page, I can very quickly narrow down to the two sections that would be suitable, Photo Paper Books and Magazines and Brochures.

Photo Paper Books: Deciding on the correct format from this is difficult, as both the small and standard sizes would be suitable. However, given the fact I would probably need to fit more information in over less pages, then it would benefit the larger page size of 20 x 25cm instead of 18 x 18 cm. This is confirmed by me actually using both formats for different projects on my Graphic Design course, so I have experience of their respective qualities.

Blurb paper

As for the quality of the paper, I can see the standard paper is 118gsm, while the premium lustre paper is 148gsm. I would expect the difference weight wise to be fine, but the premium lustre finish would probably make the imagery look slightly better. That can be decided upon at a later stage though.

For the pricing, if I take the minimum and maximum values for the books, then the small square book would be £13.34/£20.84, while the standard size would be £20.11/£29.49, a large difference, and not one I think would be justified for such little extra space gained.

Magazines and Brochures: Looking at the information, the sizing is slightly larger than standard photo book size, at 22 x 28cm, and it turns out the brochure is better suited to my design as it features better quality stock (118gsm vs. 90gsm) and is saddle-stitched, something my research has shown to be better because it can stay open and is more flexible, making it easier to read, something I have learnt through previous experience with Blurb.

I would however, be limited to 48 pages. This initially caused me a lot of concern, but reflecting realistically, I must be careful to keep this project manageable for the timeframe I have. Also, for a basic guide, if done well, it should not need to be any longer than 48 pages. So I would start with the minimum page count estimate and add in pages where needed.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t
understand it well enough.” 

Albert Einstein

As for pricing, with the cost for one copy, with 48 pages, would be £9.39, which when compared to the £15.44 that an equally specified small square book would cost. Overall, I believe the ‘brochure’ option Blurb supplies is the best option they provide for the project.

Newspaper Club

Newspaper Club

I was discussing with my tutor the process I am deciding the best way on realising the book, and could he suggest a rival to Blurb. He suggested that I should look into the Newspaper Club. As the name suggests their business lies in newspapers, not a route I had planned on going down, but I thought it could be an interesting option.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 07.21.08
Newspaper Club Tabloid newspaper

Their three options are tabloid, broadsheet and minis. Tabloid and broadsheet are immediately ruled out because of their size, I want to produce a smaller final piece than that, and with the quality of the newspaper at 55gsm, I am very unsure the quality would be acceptable, especially given my thoughts in my research towards the guides printed on poor quality paper.

Newspaper Club Digital Minis

So I looked at the minis they produce, as on first glance they looked a very interesting solution, and at 180 x 260mm being about the size I would expect for this format. However, the quality is no better and I don’t think would be suitable but the big issue is the pricing and order size, as for a student project, 100 copies is excessive as is the price from £220. Commercially this is fine, but for me I would just be ordering no more than a handful of copies of the final design.

To conclude, I have no doubt that they would be a decent company to deal with, and that the products do what they say, but for me, they are just not suitable being newspapers instead of books.

Apple (iPhoto Print Products)

I received an e-mail the other day from Apple, advertising their iPhoto Print Products line. While not a conventional option for my designs or a direct rival to either Blurb or the Newspaper Club (as it is designed to work with photos taken and uploaded into iPhoto) I thought I would check it out to see what its capabilities were and if I could bend it to make it work for me.

It provides four formats, photo books, prints, calendars and cards. For this, I’ll be looking at the photo book format.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 12.21.14

Investigating the options open to me, there is a hardback and a paperback, which is a lot cheaper so that’s the better option. Then for the sizing, I would state the closest to the Blurb magazine (22 x 28cm) is the Large option at 28 x 21.5cm and the closest to the Blurb small square book (18 x 18cm) would be the Medium option at 20 x 15cm. However it is landscape instead of portrait, although that doesn’t have to be a disadvantage. It also gives no indication to the quality of the paper.

Working out the pricing for both the Medium and Large options for the 48 pages (to give an equivalent to the Blurb books) comes to £16.79 for the medium (compared to £15.44)and £26.59 for the large (compared to £22.74)

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 12.41.59

As I unfortunately expected, setting up a photo book in iPhoto (for this example using images I took on a trip to Margate a couple of years ago) strongly restricts you in terms of design. While this is the point of Apple’s service to make the process as easy as possible, this is not suitable for me as I wouldn’t be designing anything!


This has been a very illuminating part of my research, and I now know very clearly what direction I will be heading in. Blurb will be the supplier for the project, and I will be choosing a ‘brochure’, which will most likely feature the maximum 48 pages. As for the content of the book, I shall spend some time in a future blog post refining how the book will be filled in a way that makes sense for the audience.

How to realise the poster/print?

Thinking about how to realise the poster/print draws me neatly into my past experience with the Land Speed Record posters that I printed on some A2 Epson Professional Premium Lustre photo paper that I bought.

Why A2?

As I previously discussed in my research for the previous project, I think the same paper is suitable because the use is the same, so the same reasonings apply. To summarise, A3 is too small to have as a poster/print because not enough detail can be placed in, which is critically important for a star chart. A1 is extremely large, which has benefits obviously, but is very difficult to handle and to have a space that will fit it. That leaves A2 as the happy middle ground which is large enough to have detail but small enough to fit in more spaces.

Size comparison between A1, A2, and A3 paper although the A2 sheet looks distorted here.
Why Lustre?

I’ve chosen lustre because with gloss, while the colours are very vibrant, the reflections are too great to see the design properly in the vast majority of situations. Matte paper solves this, but soaks up more of the ink on the page, giving a much duller appearance that is not as appealing for this format. So lustre is very much the best of both worlds, having a slight sheen that lets colours be vibrant, but is not too reflective.

Epson Professional A2 Premium Photo Lustre
Epson Professional A2 Premium Photo Lustre

While it is possible to ask a printers to print my final piece, to me it does not make sense, financially or logistically, when I can print the final piece at college on their Epson Stylus Pro 3880 printers, as long as it is no larger than A2, which I have already decided is a sensible size for the final piece as I found in earlier research that the A1 posters were too large.

Epson Stylus Pro 3880
Epson Stylus Pro 3880

With the Land Speed Record project earlier this year, in my evaluation, something I picked out that could have been improved was the printing of the final pieces, as they looked slightly washed out. In hindsight, I would have benefitted from a trip to the Photography technician at college for a chat.

So the other day, when a fellow student in our group came to print a piece using the same paper I had used and plan to use, I thought I’d tag along on her visit to the technician for advice. However, he was too busy, but in the printing room there was an information board, and handily, a couple of helpful photography students!

It’s clear now to me what the best settings are and as her design printed well, it’s a good indication for when I print. I have learnt the correct settings I need to use are:

  • View > Setup in Photoshop and choose custom printer setup.
  • Printer: Epson Stylus Pro 3800.
  • Color Handling: Photoshop Manage Colours.
  • Printer Profile: 1-FS… (needs checking)
  • Scaled Print Size: Scale to Fit Media = ON.

Conclusion & Reflection

This has been one of the most important sections of the project so far, as it has allowed me to really start setting down some markers for the project, and has given me a clear target of what I am designing for. The next step now will be to really focus on the design work, and get some ideas on paper and the screen as quickly as possible.


2 thoughts on “FMP: Choosing content and how to realise the design

Comments are closed.