I did something noteworthy last night: I attended the first class in the last course I need to complete the publishing program at Ryerson. It’s a course on book design, and it looks like it will cover a lot of the things I’m interested in: typography, clean aesthetics, creating an intuitive flow of text, and so forth.

This course should also provide some structure for my thoughts on how books can (or should) work. When I read a piece of text, I imagine the line reading for it in my head, and determine how it could be said to achieve the greatest rhetorical impact. I hear punctuation. I imagine many editors do this, even if they don’t state that they do, and that this is one of the reasons why they become editors in the first place – to make the text sound as good in real life as it does in their heads.

But anyways, I digress. I can hear punctuation. I can analyze the content with some level of success. What I really need more guidance on is form. While I can design things (this website being the best example of that), there are a lot of unspoken rules about visual layout that I’ve probably perceived, but never articulated. Things like:

  • the proper balance of white space to text on a page
  • choosing a set of complementary serif and sans-serif typefaces to use within a single document
  • insetting images into a page so that the flow of text isn’t impeded

Judging from the first class, I think I’ll have no problem with the lessons, and I’m also really looking forward to getting some formal training with InDesign. Next week I’ll need to bring some books to class that I think have been both well- and poorly-designed. I can already think of a few examples. But I’ll save my thoughts on that subject for next week.