When you are assigned to design a Coffee Table Art Book

When you are assigned to design a Coffee Table Art Book 

The opportunity to design a coffee table book can be a most rewarding and portfolio-enhancing assignment. Many of the graphic designers I work with every day are seasoned professionals with much experience in Adobe’s Creative Suite. But most have not worked on coffee table books. While the tools we use are the same, design of an art book is entirely different from designing publication, packaging or advertising graphic design.

If you are not working in InDesign™ or Quark™

I have come to the conclusion that when you are assigned to design a Coffee Table Art Book and you are not at least at novice level in one of either one of these programs, it is best to pass on an opportunity to design an art book. Too many times have we found ourselves in a position where we essentially had to start over because files submitted could not be used. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the bottom line is this : InDesign™ and Quark™ are the tools specifically developed to create print-ready files and currently nothing comes close to the usefulness of this software.

Understanding the specifications:  the quotation of an art book

Before you begin the design, make sure you understand each item listed in the quotation. If anything is unclear, ask us. There is no sense spending time and getting a client excited about a creative idea if the specifications and the budget do not allow it

If our specifications and your creative vision for the book do not align, let’s have a discussion to see where we can modify the specifications or whether it is worth asking the client for additional funds for the project.

Understand you are an interior decorator and a graphic designer

At some point, you will be asked to play the role of interior decorator as much as graphic designer. An art book is a three-dimensional object: the jacket; cover, end papers; tint of foil and embossing all have to present themselves in harmony. These elements are critical in producing a high quality coffee table book

Understand the templates we provide

Our service includes providing you with jacket and cover templates that you can lay in the background. If anything is not clear, please ask before you begin.

Understand when to send PDF and when to send native files

Make sure you have the relevant sections of Starting the Journey Together that addresses PDF settings, color profiles and when and why to send native files.

Understand the limitations of special applications

Foil stamping, embossing, spot UV coating and other embellishments can create powerful and dramatic effects but there are limits to how such applications can be used. Please consult with us before you get your client excited.

Ask for swatches and tint samples

We have a large library of foil tint and fabric swatches. Please let us know the range of colors you are interested in and we will send you swatches. It will be very useful as you develop the book design

Be a team player

Most importantly, we respect you as a designer and we ask you to respect us as printers. If we tell you it is not possible to execute your idea due to time restraints, expensive or the technical limitations of today’s most modern equipment, let’s work together to find the best solution. Sometimes a compromise is needed. Interestingly, I have found that seasoned book designers are generally much more understanding of this than those who really never designed a coffee table book before.

The Ten Commandments of Art Book Design

Two years ago I published The Ten Commandments of Art Book Design. If you have not seen it, please visit the article here.

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