On Book Design
November 10, 1998
224 pages, 7 1/4 x 11
110 b/w illus.
As omnipresent as books are, few readers are aware of the “invisible” craft of book designing. The task a book designer faces is different from that faced by other designers. The challenge, says Hendel, isn’t to create something different or pretty or clever but to discover how to best serve the author’s words. Hendel does not espouse a single philosophy of design or offer a set of instructions; he shows that there are many ways to design a book. In detailed descriptions of the creative process, Hendel and the eight other designers, who represent extensive experience in trade and scholarly publishing in the United States and Great Britain, show how they achieve the most effective visual presentation of words, offering many examples to illustrate their choices. Written not only for seasoned and novice book designers, this book will fascinate others in publishing as well as all readers and authors who are curious to know how books end up looking the way they do.
A selection of Graphic Design Book Club
“Hendel’s accounts of ‘book design as it happens’ are fascinating and full of lively insights into the rich texture of design work.” —Paul Stiff, University of Reading
"Richard Hendel’s On Book Design unabashedly acknowledges the beauty of the printed page in a world increasingly dominated by video screens. . . . Although the focus is on the printed page, On Book Design with its recommendations for clarity, effectiveness and subtlety should be relevant to designers of new media as well as those of books."—Michael Maynard, Azure
"Touching on topics from a book’s size and shape to the arrangement of type on a page, Hendel treatise attempts in lively, nontechnical prose to show why designers make the decisions they do.’"—Biblio
"The designers are generous and honest about their process, habits, opinions and styles. Here are all the 'trade secrets.’ . . . This level of goodhearted sharing would be valuable to any student considering this part of design, but also for that lonely book designer, deep in galleys and memos from visually-illiterate editors, who wonders, how do the other guys do it?"—Communication Arts
"On Book Design is a fine book. . . . Richard Hendel has produced a model book, a book that is easy to READ. He examines the process of book design with the confidence and amused wonder that only an old ’pro’ could exhibit. . . . [Hendel’s] expressive way with word peppered with sly humor is a joy to read."—Jean Stephenson, Guild of Book Workers Newsletter
"There are few in the design, production and print community who wouldn’t benefit from reading this thoughtful and scholarly book. Tasteful, understated and designed by the author himself, this is not a coffee table book to dip into for into for quick design ideas, but rather a considered and timely reminder that the purpose of design 'isn’t to create something different or pretty or clever but to discover how to best serve the author’s words.’"—Mac User
"Richard Hendel . . . masterfully helps us comprehend the practical challenges of preparing layouts that seldom call attention to themselves when done well, but can be seriously to both book sales and, more important to message delivery, if flawed, and critically aid comprehension when successful. . . . In a sparse but comprehensive fashion reminiscent of Strunk and White, Hendel outlines the elements of internal book design from the half-title page through the index: What are the concerns and challenges each text raises? What are some of the basic responses and compromises that must be made? These thirty pages should be basic reading for anyone anxious to get a fuller understanding of the book both as an artistic and commercial package, a 'product’ that in turn has a message to deliver. . . . On Design is a title that belongs in the library of anyone who appreciates the look and feel of a book."—Thomas L. Bonn, Publishing Research Quarterly
“After reading many expository nonfiction books, I found this book a refreshing alternative. I actually feel as if I’ve read Hendel’s autobiography, followed by conversations with the author’s best friends. I feel like they’re in a design studio with Jan Tsichold and David Carson in the background. . . . On Book Design is enlightening. . . . I am glad to have read it and will refer to it often.”—Beth Conney Lisberg, Technical Communication