Widows and orphans, be gone!
This is not a cry from a hater of the bereaved (Annie is one of my favourite movies… ever), but my own declaration as a typesetter: Preventer of small words dangling alone and single lines left stranded from the others in a paragraph; fighter of continuous white spaces that run vertically and disturbingly down your page; promoter of effortless reading!
To me, typesetting is like solving a puzzle… And sometimes, a jigsaw puzzle. When I get the interior of a book to set, most of the pieces have already been laid out by the designer: the font, font size, leading, margin sizes, page extent, etc.. Once the manuscript is ready, I take all of those pieces and make them fit together just so. Design also can be compared to puzzle solving, except that you basically have to find your own pieces first.
So this summer when I was designing a book cover for the first time, Tim Lilburn’s book of poems, Assiniboia, that main difference between typesetting and design seemed a touch daunting at first. Instead of the pieces to one puzzle in front of me, I felt like I was searching through hundreds puzzles all mixed together. How do I begin??
I had a creative brief, as well as the poems to read, which gave me an overall feeling of “history reimagined.” So visually, I wanted to give that sense of the old mixing with the new but with the emphasis on the historical. Loads of inappropriate images skipped and process-talk condensed, I finally found something I could work with. Ok so, image? Check. Font? Ya, I’ll get that in a second, just let me flip through my over six thousand font choices first.
But the decisions got easier with every dismissal. I learned that there were several possible solutions to this cover, as with any cover in fact, and the best to way to come to a conclusion was to realize that the actual challenge in cover design wasn’t in the decision-making. It is creating a cover that the majority will relate to. Not solely to appease those that judge a book by its cover, which I only somewhat-shamefully admit that I do, but to feel gratified when someone can and not be disappointed.