In honor of our February CURATE sale, I spoke with Senior Designer Michelle Neustrom about the process of designing one of our most gorgeous books, Tom Continé and Faye Phillips’s The Golden Band from Tigerland.
There are so many good photos, it was hard to decide! But this one, it reminded me of when I was a student, or coming back afterwards, to see a football game. You always go and wait for the band to come down the hill, and it brings out the emotion that you feel getting ready, getting psyched up for a game. It just sets the mood with that specific game-day feeling.
Type placement is another thing you have to look at for cover design. It’s not just picking which image is good; it’s also about whether you can work with it and place the type on it in a successful way. So it lent itself to lots of type.
I usually do the cover design first, and then whatever I do on the cover, I try to pull elements of it throughout the rest of the book. So the little baton element on either side of the “from” in the title, it’s obviously a baton, but it also evokes the lines of their uniforms, especially the buttons on some of the older band uniforms. And you can see that little graphic in different places throughout the book, but it began with the cover design!
How did you choose the shades of the interior purple and gold colors? The gold is very bright and cheerful, and then the purple is much more subdued. What goes into that decision?
I went with this very orange-gold color because the marching band uniform has that same kind of tone, and that printed very cheerful and bright. The purple is more subdued, almost more of a navy, but again it’s because if you look at their uniforms in the picture throughout the book, they do look a darker color. I didn’t want all the photos of them in their uniforms to look out of place next to the colors of the book.
What are some of the challenges in designing the interior of a photo-heavy book?
Getting all the photos to fit with the text in a pleasing way! You’ll have call-outs, where the text of the book makes references to a particular photograph, and those are not always evenly spaced. So it is a challenge: In some two-page spreads it would be very photo-heavy, and then in others you’ll have no photos at all.
I also wanted each chapter to have a pause, a break, like a new song is starting. I wanted to drive home that we were making the shift: Something new is happening! That’s why I chose to start each new chapter with this design element, to give it some grandeur. And there’s a different musical instrument at the bottom of each of the pages that begin a chapter. Because I started with the trumpet on the book cover, I wanted to follow that design element throughout the book.
What are some of the fun parts of designing the interior of a photo-heavy book?
I always like picking out the endpapers and the colors for the book cover! Not just for photo books, but with a book like this, you can choose a fun endpaper, which is the paper on the inside front and back covers. We have books where we pick out the colors, and I like paging through and choosing which ones are the best fit for that book. But we get to do that for every book!
It’s fun coming up with a look for the book, almost like a logo, an identity for it. Again, it all comes back to the cover: Whatever I do on the cover, I like to pull it throughout the book. You can embrace that as much as you want, too: You can really go all out and stick with the look of the cover very closely, or you can just be slightly inspired by it. You don’t have to commit to it.
For this book, though, I really pulled a lot of design elements from the cover. I really like the running feet, with the little baton. Something as simple as that — I tried probably ten different ways of doing this footer, and that’s the one I liked the most. It’s funny how a lot goes into such a tiny little detail. Good design doesn’t always have to be specifically noticed; it just feels right, even if maybe you can’t pin down exactly why.
Did the authors have any ideas/requests about the book’s layout that worked really well or didn’t quite work exactly the way you planned?
Well, at the end of each chapter, the authors wanted to include a series of photographs that would often come from more recent years in the band’s history. To me, it didn’t quite go with the historical chapters, and I had to figure out a way to set them apart and make it clear visually that these images weren’t from the historical eras the text had just been discussing. That’s why at the end of each chapter, there are photos on colored backgrounds: The reader understands that these images don’t go with the history but they’re here as a kind of visual punctuation, a break between each chapter.
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