Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

  • Fine Art Book Designers #3: Katy Homans

    For the past ten years, I’ve had the privilege of typesetting books designed by the very talented Katy Homans, so I was thrilled when she agreed to be interviewed for this series. Katy is known for her cover designs for New York Review Books; her collaborations with photographers, such as Lee Friedlander; and her complex, multi-volume catalogue raisonné designs. In addition to being a talented art book designer, she is as generous with her time as she can be.

    Tell me a bit about your background, your education, how you got started as an art book designer.

    I’ve had a marvelously privileged education. I discovered a love of pattern sewing costumes for high school plays; studied at the rare book library in college; went to work as a letterpress printer for David R. Godine; held various design-related jobs; and finally attended the Yale MFA graphic design program with a semester at the Royal College of Art in London. There I discovered the work of Robert Brownjohn, maverick conceptual designer of ’60s New York and London, and was able to write an extensive thesis about him and his work. Starting at Godine I’d been designing books, so it was easy to keep working while I was in school and then afterwards. Having studied art history as an undergrad has helped me enormously.

    catalogues raisonnés

    Who are some of your favorite artists (whether you’ve worked on their books or not)?

    With no exceptions I’ve come to appreciate the work of all the artists I’ve worked with, from Wendy Ewald to Lee Friedlander; Rembrandt to 18th century Indian drawings to John James Audubon to Shahzia Sikander. That’s been one of the great bonuses of designing art books, the opportunity to look closely at such a wide range of material. I try to get to the exhibitions for which I’ve designed catalogues: the originals inevitably surprise and delight.

    Please describe a few of your favorite projects. Are there any interesting stories about how you came to work on them? Any big challenges that popped up during the project? If so, how did you handle them?

    Collaboration is my favorite medium. I worked on the design of a series of posters for the schools of Tanzania (Wendy Ewald’s project) with a small group of local teachers in a classroom with a dirt floor and one lightbulb. My first major book with Lee Friedlander (Letters from the People) was done with Lee on a xerox that could go to 25%, 75%, or 128% (something like that). The greater the challenge the greater the reward; the conversations keep moving, and we’re all surprised in the end.

    Do you have any interesting stories from press checks? Do you get to travel much to interesting locales for press checks?

    There is always a benefit to going on press, and great camaraderie between designers and printers. The most exotic location I’ve visited is Tanzania, but the most unfamiliar approach to art-book printing was a plant in rural Pennsylvania.

    Have any of your books received any special awards you’d like to mention?

    I have had my share of awards! But the greatest reward is always a successful collaboration.

    Are you an artist yourself? If so, what type of art do you create? Would you like to share any of it?

    Art appreciator, not maker!

    If you had to choose another career, what would it be?

    I would have added teaching to my practice.

    Tina Henderson Book Designer - website images

    Katy was also profiled on the Yale Art Books blog.

  • Working with a book typesetter, Part 2

    There’s been a lot of writing lately about the resurgence of beautifully designed and printed books in this age of digital books. Typography has a significant part to play in the creation of those beautiful books.

    As mentioned in Part 1 of “Working with a book typesetter,” freelance Book Designer (BD) has hired Typesetter (T) to typeset galleys for her 352-page art book. What are galleys?

    Here’s a good definition from Wiley:

    Galleys are the typeset text showing continuous word flow uninterrupted by illustrations, tables, footnotes, or figure captions. Tables, footnotes, and captions are set together in their own sections at the end of the text galleys.

    When creating galleys, dedicated attention can be given to typography without the distraction of layout concerns.

    So, BD sends her sample InDesign file and Publisher’s Word files to T for evaluation. T looks through all the files and asks BD to clarify any confusing typographic issues and to define any styles missing from the sample pages:

    • T notices that some body text paragraphs are set using Paragraph Composer while others use Single-Line Composer. She asks BD to clarify which is preferred.
    • There are poetry extracts in the Word files, but none in the InDesign sample file. BD may create and send specs for the poetry now, or she may ask T to design style sheets that BD can easily edit later.
    • The Word files contain yellow and cyan highlighting added by the editor. T needs to know if these should be retained for galleys, etc.


    Highlighted text in Word.

    Once T is clear on how things need to be set up, she begins developing a clean InDesign file. Master pages are set up, including the appropriate running feet and folios. Paragraph and character styles are created, using Nested Styles, GREP Styles, etc., when called for. Word files may be adjusted or may be brought into InDesign as is. Text is styled carefully and consistently and master pages are applied.

    T doesn’t bother fixing widows and orphans at this point because BD will be adding images to the layout and text will reflow from column to column, or page to page. But if the text measure (line length) is finalized:

    • nice rags will be created (on rag right text)
    • loose and tight lines will be fixed (on justified text)
    • ladders, rivers, and runts will be eliminated

    When finished, T delivers her InDesign file (galleys) to BD, so BD can begin layout.

    Text corrections

    One month later, BD receives first pass corrections from Publisher. Sometimes the changes are simple and it’s easy for BD to make them herself because the file is so clean. But in this case, there are numerous layout changes and 20–30 text changes on each page. Publisher sends replacement Word files for one essay and all of the footnotes. Publisher has changed her mind about the styling of captions and requests that they be set up differently.


    Sometimes the text corrections are…dizzying.

    Fortunately, BD has already scheduled T to assist in creating 2nd pages, so she sends T the marked-up pages and her first pass InDesign file. T makes all requested text changes, including typesetting the new text and editing the caption style. She may also address widows and orphans, and fix any reflow problems caused by the edits. She leaves notes on pages that require BD’s attention.

    When BD receives the file back from T, all she needs to do is make layout changes and address the notes from T. BD is relieved because she knows T has a proofreader’s eye and rarely makes a mistake when inputting text changes. This means BD can concentrate on the design and layout and doesn’t have to worry about things like spelling errors.


    If BD and T are lucky, this is the end of the story. But they have worked together on complex books that required 12 or more rounds of changes from the Publisher. True story.

    If you’d like to learn more about this process, or hire me for typesetting, I’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch so we can start making beautiful books together.


    Beautiful books.


    Office security guard Captain, protecting us from scary thunderstorms. See office manager Annie here.