Editing by design

Author: Jan V. White. Link to original: http://depositfiles.com/files/3452841 (English).
Tags: верстка, дизайн, книги, полиграфия Submitted by Anastasia 13.08.2008. Public material.
This completely updated edition of an industry classic shows a new generation of editors and designers how to make their publications sing! Readers will find a treasury of practical tips for helping story and design reinforce each other and create powerful pages that are irresistible to readers. Brimming with hundreds of illustrations, Editing by Design presents proven solutions to such design issues as columns and grids, margins, spacing, captions, covers and color, type, page symmetry, and much more. A must-have resource for designers, writers, and art directors looking to give their work visual flair and a competitive edge!

Translations of this material:

into Spanish: Translation of "Editing by design". 1% translated in draft.
Submitted for translation by jaimehcruz 03.02.2010
into Russian: Изменение дизайном. 9% translated in draft.
Submitted for translation by Anastasia 13.08.2008 Published 8 years, 6 months ago.



When you pontificate in seminars to editors, journalists, art directors, designers, publishers—fellow working-professionals all—you are forced to observe, analyze, and promulgate principles that had better make sense for them in their practical world. That is why every one of my clients is part author of this tome: they forced me to figure things out for them. Without such challenges, this compilation of observations, exhortations, opinions, warnings, and recommendations would never have happened. Are they idiosyncratic? Yes and no. All are based on experience. Are they proveable? No. Everything our professions produce varies (that's why it is such fun) but the underlying constant is to make the most of the What by exploiting the How (that's what this book is about).

As far as the illustrations are concerned: The little guardsman who starts marching on page 15 is by Feliks Topolski.* The gentleman on horseback on page 171 and the rhino on 175 are from woodcuts by Albrecht Durer. The column and doughnut on 184 are by William Wirt Turner.** The devils on 108 and legs on 156 are details from Gustav Dore's illustrations to Dante's Divine Comedy. Drawings on pages 145, 146, 147, 152, 153, 156, 175, and 177 are by Emil Weiss. The prolegomenon overleaf was assembled from mediaeval woodcuts. I apologize to Leonardo da Vinci for page 224, and must take the blame for the rest of the scribbles.

My thanks to Nicole Potter and Liz Van Hoose, my editors at Allworth it gets very lonely being a one-man-band, coming up with the idea for a book, writing, designing, illustrating, setting the type, and assembling the pages. You need a pal to see the big picture as well as save you from yourself. They even queried the tiny type dropped out from yellow on page 212 with a note "I can't read this." That is above and beyond the call of duty, because you're not supposed to be able to read it. It's an example of what not to do.

Without the tranquility and confidence that my Clare has given me, I doubt I would have had the energy to tackle this rodomontade. The task has been daunting. How can I leave out the names of the Whites who appeared in my other acknowledgments: Toby and Caroline, Alex and Lilian and Paula, Greg and Dana, Christopher, and Bentley? Thanks for being you.

*The London Spectacle, [935, The Bodley Head, London

** Shades and Shadows, Ronald Press, New York, 1952

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A montage of 16th and 17th century woodcuts showing some of the occupations working together to produce a printed product. In the distance, the writer, (working at home). A typefounder, a cartographer, an illuminator who colors and gilds illustrations (that's a stencil, not a mouse in his hand), an apprentice, a production organizer, the art director, a woodcut artist, and a courier from the outside printer's. At left, the editor. Not shown: our customer— the reader.

Introduction: teamwork

The drawing of the self-satisfied writer is a throwback to my first year in publishing. It was an illustration for an article in FYI, our Time Inc in-house newsletter. Typewriters, scrunched-up paper, overflowing wastebaskets, cigars, feet on desk, the newly-invented ergonomic chair...

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Design? You must be kidding! That’s ART – ain’t got nothing to do with ME. I’m a JOURNALIST!

Not much has changed in publishing in the last fifty years— or the last four hundred, for that matter. Technology, perhaps. And maleness. And fear of lung cancer. Then along came Scotch tape... Letraset rub-off lettering... Xeroxes... offset printing and flow-through color... and Macs! Despite the ever-improving marvels of technology, the worst leftover dreg we seem unable to change is the traditional attitude that pits editors versus designers. It remains as misguided today as ever. What can we do about it? Deliberately build bridges of understanding, personal liking, and professional appreciation of each other's contribution to the common effort.

Start with the only thing we can control: ourselves as "editors" or "designers." Grow up. Stop guarding one's little personal empire of "The Word" or "The Picture." Quit defending them against imaginary intruders. Realize how interdependent they are and how they can't exist without each other.

If we are to capture and hold our audiences, add value, establish a brand with brand-loyalty (buzzwords, yes, but how apt and vital in today's competitive situation) we must combine the two warring aspects of our printed product:

the physical vs. the intellectual

the form vs. the content

the design vs. the journalism

the product-making vs. the story-telling

Product-making sees the publication as an object-for-sale and is concerned with overall character, appeal, personality.

Story-telling is the technique of communicating a specific message within the context of that object-for-sale.

We must seduce the uncaring page-flippers to pay attention by flaunting the relevance of the material to their interests. Then we must guide them through it. Therefore we must understand and exploit both the physical attributes of the medium as well as viewer psychology. That is why each chapter of this book starts with a reminder of how product-making and story-telling interconnect. There are some overlaps (and there may be some internal disagreements) because some elements are referred to in different ways under several rubrics to cover the various aspects of the subject. There are four sectors.

1. The physical attributes of the medium and how they affect

the product, (the multi-page medium, starting on page 3)

2 How to appeal to the reader. (inducement, starting on page 9)

3. How-to tips in the bulk of the book. (Starting on page 15)

4. Practical worries that bedevil our profession as communicators in print. (Appendix: Q and A, starting on page 231. Glossary and Index are also devised to respond to questions.)

Warning and disclaimer: there is no such thing as The Correct Way to do anything in our profession as communicators. It is all a matter of analysis and judgment. Nothing in this book claims to be The Truth or the Only Way. It is all just the result of a lifetime of trying to figure out what fundamental techniques seem to work for the editor / designer team.


STORRY-TELLING A true story about how common sense runs up against entrenched habits of thought. A few years ago I was asked to suggest improvements for technical documents for a very large company. One enormous subset were the manuals for field use. They weighed a ton, so the technicians preferred to have them miniaturized and attached to clipboards.

Discussion: Where are the pages held together! By the clips at the top.

How must one flip pages to find things! At the bottom.

What do technicians need to find fast! The titles of the material on the pages.

Where are the titles!

Under the clips at the tops of the page.

So can you see them!

No, they're under the clips. So the technicians have to use the tiny page numbers at the foot of the pages to find what they're looking for.

That's crazy! Doesn't it make sense to move the titles to the foot of the page so they pop out at you! Sure, but we can't do that, because our Manual on Manuals decrees that TITLES SHALL BE AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE and that's where they had better be, or else...

MORAL: don't be a consultant.

PRODUCT-MAKING The physical object and the users.

How do they hold it?

What do they see?

Where o they look?

How do they proceed?

Page size affects what people see and in how many "takes" they look at it. A broadsheet newspaper is examined in several takes. The magazine spread can be absorbed in one because our peripheral vision encompasses the entire thing at normal viewing distance. The closeness at which we hold it to read it also affects the scale of the things we put on the page. But whatever the trim size, our paper or monitor screen is a miniaturized world.

The single page isn't a stand-alone unit like an old-fashioned sheet of letterhead (or a one-page ad), even if we often think of it as a single piece. It is delivered to the recipient as just one-half of the dominant shape of the product—a spread.

The spread isn't flat, like a painting to be hung on the wall, or like the image on the monitor screen. Beware of that phony flatness. It is a trap. (The only time it is seen like that is when it is mounted on cardboard and submitted for a design award.)

The spread is split in half, and no matter how hard we may wish it were unbroken and pretend the gutter doesn't exist, it does. The thing is folded in the middle. And it is made of a material that is floppy and curved—and as paper gets ever more expensive, it becomes ever thinner, flimsier, and floppier.

Something on the cover arouses curiosity. The potential readers must pick it up to find out more... check the table of contents... flip through to find the story. Other elements may beguile them on the way. Some readers search for something interesting by page-flipping. In any case, the physical process of handling paper pages is combined with the reactions to what is noticed on those pages.

The object is floppy, folded, bound, three-dimensional. It is held by the spine, so the inner half stays hidden until flippers decide to open it all the way and reveal the full spread. What they see on the outer halves motivates them to do that.

Put your best stuff where skimmers look, on the outside, so they can't miss it. That's where the most fascinating images and provocative words should go, because that's where they will be seen. Never hide your headlines in the gutter.

The most valuable areas of real estate on the spread are the top-left corner and the top-right corner, because those are the areas where people look most.

The least important part of the spread is at the foot near the gutter. Who ever looks down there? That is why footnotes — are called footnotes and tucked out of the way down there.

Viewers concentrate on the upper parts of the pages when they are examining a magazine or newsletter. As they flip the pages, they stare at the tops and swivel their heads sideways, because it is faster, easier, and less of a pain in the neck than up-and-down. Try it. That is the reason why logical makeup is horizontal rather than vertical, as in the following example.

Logical page makeup responds to the way people look at the product. Present your menu of choices horizontally across the page tops to help scanners decide what to bother with. Don't insist on aligning columns at the foot of the page for "neatness." Let them hang as they come because nobody looks down there (or cares about neat alignment, if they do).

Lefts must be laid out differently from rights to make the most of the potential eye-catching areas. The logo that makes sense at top-left on a left-hand page or on a stand-alone single (which is probably the way you see it on-screen) is hidden in the gutter, if it is in the top-left corner of a right-hand page. Move it to the far outside right, where it can be seen and can do its ob of signaling.

Rights are preferred by advertisers because as people hold a magazine and flip pages, they tend to concentrate on the right-hand pages, because the left hand does the holding, the right controls the flipping. The right-hand pages are held steady, left-hand ones move and flop. Besides, as the magazine lies flat on the table and pages are turned, the heavier part remains flat while the lighter part—the front of the book—is curved. After the centerfold, the left-hand part stays flat, while the back of the book is curved.

Lefts are ideal as editorial spaces. The advertisers' preference for right-hand pages plays directly into our editorial hands: by getting the rejected left-hand leftovers, we can display our best stuff out at the far left, where the first words of our headlines and irresistible pictures can hook them in.

Rhythmic placement creates expectability and accumulates into strength. So long as our pages are all on rights or all on lefts, the sameness outweighs the preference of whether they are lefts or rights. If ad placement is allowed to dictate placement and results in arbitrary scatter, the product is weakened because the rhythm is disturbed.

Readers hate having to jump somewhere into the back of the book to follow a story to its end. It interrupts thinking, destroys concentration, jeopardizes the stories that have to be leapfrogged. (Worse: Usually page numbers are so small and often left off because of the ads.) If we know that we infuriate our readers that way, why do we continue doing it?

Work from the top down, not bottom upwards. The page tops need to be controlled, so they become part of a visual chain. Do not begin layout by placing the end of the text at the foot and working backwards, allowing the tops to fall at random. Instead, control the top and let the bottom fall as it may.

The looker begins a single page at top-left and scans diagonally downward, unless something pulls his attention away. The designer manipulates the neutral background by positioning elements in it.

How a line of type pull affects the space on the page

Centered, perfectly balanced, the words lie immobile like a jewel on a tray. Standard, static.

In a single line off- center, the left-to-right reading direction forces the eye to right edge and overleaf.

Forcing the eye downward, the pull the towards the right is even stronger than if the line is at top.

Hanging the wording off the very top of the page, the eye moves upward and then to the right.

With the wording at the foot of the page, the eye sinks downward and is directed to the right.

The way we organize elements in space affects the readers' reaction as they look at the page. Too often, however, we override the need for simplicity, shoehorn material onto the page, "pour in" the text, then try to "break it up" with pictures. Instead of controlling the space to encourage the flow of looking and reading, we create artificial barriers as in this example:

Pictures dropped in higgledypiggledy... do we really want the reader's eye to jump around this way?... look at the hurdles it has to vault over.

…but by simplifying, massing the text and aligning the tops of columns, readers will go where we hope they will go: i.e., first check the pictures, then settle down to read:

Pictures pushed to the outer edges, text shape simplified... smooth reading with no worrisome barriers to jump over except at foot of columns.


PRODUCT-MAKING People resist getting involved. They are afraid. They seldom want to read or study. They are in a hurry—yet so much print clamors for their attention simultaneously. They weigh the cost/benefit ratio of the effort and time invested against the payoff gained. “Is this sufficiently interesting?»

They start flipping the pages seeking the What's-In-It-For-Me value. If they get hooked, they may well start to read, but few start where we assume they will—at the beginning. Instead, they are pulled in by something somewhere else which may well seduce them to return to the beginning.

STORY_TELLING We must edit and design on two tracks:

1: The fast track, where we show the value of the message by revealing its significant bits at first glance.

2: The slow track, where we go into depth. Nobody wants to read everything. Making it obvious that it is skippable implies permission not to read, which is psychologically comforting. In any case, they'll have gathered the gist of the ideas from the fast-track they did already glance at.

If the piece looks bland and uninvolving, it will be skipped. If it is only marginally interesting or if it looks too long, they'll say "I think I'll come back to it later" which is the kiss of death, because the issue will be put on top of the TO-BE-READ pile and when tall enough, the whole stack will go to the dump for recycling. That is why we must use every psychological, intellectual, and visual (i.e., editing) trick to get them to react the first time they see the story. It must be so irresistible that they feel they would be missing something if they didn't read it now.

So this is all about inducement, using psychological strategy:

Habit—what are they accustomed to?

Expectations—what is normal or abnormal?

Curiosity—what will startle or fascinate them?

Hence the need to build in hooks. Snares. Traps. Display. The more of them there are to pull them in with the better, even if the pages look "messier." We have to persuade page flippers to stop, look, and listen. The "display" is what makes the publication magnetic and pulls them in. Though hooks can take any shape (examples are shown on the next few pages) the most obvious ones are verbal.

Exploiting display

Headlines are unabashed, proud sales-copy and ought to be written first (What?) (Yes!) to ensure that the hooks are baited with the best bits of irresistible stuff. Yet they, and the other display elements, especially captions or cutlines, are written last, as a nuisance-job after the enthusiasm for the story has worn off, when it's too late to whip up fervor because the writer and editor are bored, tired, rushing to close. Writing headlines and captions first forces the writer to figure out why the story is worth publishing. Retrofitting—the usual procedure—is harder, but we don't realize it, because we are so used to doing it that way.

The most involving display is meaningful to the individual readers. It gets them excited about the what's-in-it-for-me, how-does-it-affect-my-life implications of the article. The headline is obviously the most important display element. To work most effectively, every headline ought to have:

1. An active verb. That forces the writer to think in terms of action and results.

2. The magic word YOU in there somewhere somehow, spoken or implied. That forces the writer to tailor the story to the reader.

To test the effectiveness of a headline, read it out loud, then ask "So what?" If the answer is "So nothing" or "Not much," then it isn't involving enough and the story must be re-analyzed to find the right ideas, so the headlines can be rewritten. Dead titles are products of lack of thought—taking the easy way out—regardless of the puns or cleverness of wording. If the story has no angle of self-interest for the reader, it'll remain unread. Why publish it?

Our pages in magazines, books, newsletters, magapapers, wherever, are editorial products. They aren't advertisements. Yet both edit and ads are looked at, examined, and reacted to the same way. So here's how successful single-page ads have worked ever since ads were invented. ADVERTISING 101: Viewers are pulled in in a logical sequence 1, 2, 3, 4.

1. The picture attracts attention and arouses curiosity. Since everyone interprets an image her own way, because every viewer has her own history and interests, words are needed to define the Idea—the purpose—behind the visual.

2 The headline highlights the Idea... then promises a benefit that is intended to motivate readers to find out more (to get them to delve into the text). The headline needs to be long enough to say all that. The newspaper dictum that heads should be short and snappy may be true, but it is often limiting. Unless you can find brilliant wording, opt for more words.

3 The text is where the details lie. The words are so exciting and captivating that the skeptical readers are persuaded to take action, now that they understand how much more fulfilling their lives will be.

4 The coupon is right there to be filled out and sent in to get a free sample. A more up-to-date version of audience participation (which is what the whole purpose is): visiting the www address.

Images incolve the viewer by means of emotion and curiosity.

Manipulate them to trigger understanding at first glance but exaggerate them graphically only if that clarifies meaning.

Use infographics to replace long descriptions with fast visual explanation. Find the statistical comparisons in the text, so you can turn them into pictures and make them easier to understand. Transforming words into images helps you to edit tighter.

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