The email message said, “A voice from the past.” My former corporate client, Annie, had switched departments in her company, and it had been more than a year since I heard from her. She now needed help with an unfinished design assignment. Annie said the project was a community-involvement book for investors.
“Did anyone from the Marketing Department reach out to you about a project that I’m am working on?” she asked. “I requested you, because I know that you will get me to the finish line. I am about at my wits’ end. I don’t think we have a complicated project; it’s about 90 percent complete. I want to move forward and wrap this up.”
I replied that I was available to help. Even though Annie had sent me a book to work on, she had no idea that I am a book designer. I explained, “I’ve have lots of experience with books. Send me a PDF so I can see the project.”
Examination of the PDF revealed several red-flag problems. I relied on my book-design experience to determine the following:
Red flag #1:
The folios (page numbers) and the footers were too close to the trim mark (less than ¼-inch). The printer might chop those off, causing the pages to look uneven when trimmed. Most book printers recommend a ¾-inch or larger margin for printing or trimming.
Red flag #2:
The photo captions were light gray and a small size, extremely hard to read. I suggested beefing up the captions—both the point size and a darker tint for the target audience. The target readers do not want to strain their eyes to read the captions.
Red flag #3:
The back cover had an unnecessary page number, and the text on the back cover was in light gray type—too hard to read.
Red flag #4:
The biggest mistake: the CEO’s photo (he’s in a group shot) is in the gutter of the book! Beware—when the book is bound, it will be impossible to see his face. Many other photos needed adjustment, too.
Book design is not the same as designing a corporate brochure. Perhaps the first designer was rushing through this project or maybe didn’t have the right experience. All these problems were easy to fix. Annie sent a list of changes to make, including instructions for adding an additional twenty-plus pages of new material. Everything made sense. When I received the existing InDesign files, photos and fonts, I started making the edits.
I quickly discovered that the majority of the 102 photos in this picture book were in need of retouching, brightening, or just converting to CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) for printing.
Toward the last section of the book, I realized that this InDesign layout didn’t match the PDF. Apparently, I had an earlier version, in other words, the wrong file. Four hours of work were wasted, except for the photos I retouched. Time to start over with the right file.
After I submitted the revised layout, Annie said: “In thumbing through a hard-copy print out of the book, I can see that you have taken this project to another, higher level of design. Just looks cleaner. Flows better.”
How nice! It felt truly rewarding to be able to help Annie and to receive a compliment from this “voice from the past.”