FMP: Re-deciding the format of the book

For this blog post I want to discuss an issue I have come across with this project. In a previous blog post, I detailed my thinking as to why I chose the book format I did, which can be read here. Unfortunately however, that has since been forced to change as can be read below.

Discovering the problem

When I went onto the Blurb website to check some information about the Brochure option, I noticed the format was missing from the website, which I thought was very strange. Instead of ‘Magazines & Brochures’, it now just read ‘Magazines’. Oh dear. Not a good sign.

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Spot the missing product…

I then went onto the Blurb Support website to see if there was anything stated about this and found a press release.

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So after digesting the information, I had to decide whether to still continue with this format, knowing I would be uploading it using an out of date program and that it would be available for re-ordering or as an e-book after the 15th May. This is a big risk, so although I was leaning towards not going down this path, I still needed convincing one way or the other.

I then opened Adobe InDesign and the Blurb Book Creator, where it told me it needed to update. Once it had finished updating, it presented me with the following message:

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From this point on, it was clear there was no going back as Blurb have clearly made life difficult if you want to pursue this option. Taking a long-term view of the situation, I want a format that I can order more copies for myself in the future if required (say for portfolio use) and can be uploaded and ordered using a current system.

Contacting Blurb Support

I wondered if the Magazine option would be suitable, as it was similar to the Brochure option, but with perfect binding instead of saddle-stitching, and was even cheaper. Unfortunately however, the quality of paper (at 89gsm) is too low for me. Therefore, knowing a potential reshuffle of the magazine range could be just around the corner, I decided to contact Blurb to see if there would be an extension to the paper options for their magazine option.

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I was pleased to get a polite response, even if the answer was not what I was hoping for! So this meant the magazine option would not be suitable, which would mean a big change of plans for the book.

Looking around

I then had a look on the Blurb website, knowing from previous experience, a photo book format would be required to get the quality I need. These have some advantages and some disadvantages, which I’ve listed below.

  • Good quality paper.
  • Good quality print finish.
  • Perfect-bound binding looks smarter.
  • No saddle-stitching so there will be a turn-in.
  • Higher unit cost.

As this project is ultimately for a graphic design course, and not a commercial project, the higher unit cost is something that will have to be tolerated. As for the lack of saddle-stitching, that will just have to be a compromise, but at least I know from experience perfect-bound books are readable if you hold the pages open and look smart.

A previous design of mine using the Standard Portrait photo book format from Blurb.
A previous design of mine using the Standard Portrait photo book format from Blurb.


While thinking about my options with Blurb, I found several local printers in my area to see if there could be a better option than using Blurb. I was really disappointed that only one stated they were able to produce a booklet. I sent them an e-mail asking whether they could supply me with the following or similar specification, and if so, to quote a price, so I could judge if it was an option I could pursue.

  • 5x A4-sized booklets.
  • Saddle-stitched.
  • 48 pages.
  • Paper weight of around 140gsm with a lustre finish.

Unfortunately, they could not be bothered to reply, which stands them out as lazy and inefficient, and a total waste of time. I will instead continue to use a company which at least has provided me with a good standard of customer service so far.

Re-deciding the book layout

Repeating work I have previously done has to be one of my least favourite tasks as a graphic designer, but I knew I would need to set up a layout for the book that would hopefully serve me well. I’ve listed the settings below and grabbed a couple of screenshots along the way to illustrate my points.

Document & Baseline Grid

For this, I decided to keep my settings from the research I had previously done (in this blog post) as they fitted very well with the new layout, which was understandable given they were settings similar to the ones used for the St. Luke’s book I produced at the beginning of this year.

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I chose to set the margins at 24 pt, as this fitted in very well with the grid I was working to, and as for the inside margin, I knew from previous experience with perfect-bound books from Blurb the turn-in was substantial. Previous projects with a 45pt turn-in have just about been suitable, so with a thicker book being produced this time, I decided to increase the inside margins to 60pt, so that none of the information can get lost in the turn-in. This is especially important when my designs could be putting infographics in this area.

Columns & Gutter

I decided to go for three columns like I have with the old layout, as I still think this is the best way to present the information with a two-thirds majority of the space open to imagery. The slightly smaller size of the photo book should not make a difference. I also chose to keep the gutter to the relatively thin 12pt so as to maximise space on the page, something I think could be at a premium as I design.

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Conclusion & Reflection

Well, I’m very disappointed with the situation I was placed in, but I have found a suitable solution. However, the situation could have been a lot worse, as this could have happened near the end of the designing phase, and then the decisions would have been a lot tougher to make.

It is for reasons such as this that I add contingency time into the project to make sure everything can run smoothly despite issues. However, unfortunately for this project, things have moved too slowly up to this point, which means things will be very close for time from now until the deadline.