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layout for casual & humorous book?

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bobby b's picture
Joined: 17 Sep 2010 - 10:44am
layout for casual & humorous book?

I was recently asked for advice about book design by a university student. He was asked to design a book about language (specifically about english words that have originated from the arabic language), the writing style is personal(lots of stories about the authors childhood and family), casual, quite humorous and very readable.

Now I am not the most experienced designer so I wasn't much help to him.

His typography skills were exceptional. he set the text in Arnhem (only,, & cant remember seeing more than one pt size for everything), flush left, ragged right, folios and header wer aligned left with the text. the layout and quality looked like something that could have been done by Hyphen Press (he did have a copy of ''what is a designer'' by norman potter on his shelf and may have tried to copy that style). But it just seemed wrong for the specific book he was designing. it seemed weird to read those words in such a serious layout.

I didn't really know what to tell him, the book was beautifully designed and basically did its job very well ... it just felt wrong to me, in the same way drinking beer from a wine glass seems wrong.

any opinions?

Nick Curtis's picture
Joined: 21 Apr 2005 - 8:16am

"De gustibus non est disputandum," Thomas Aquinas rightly said. Matters of taste cannot be disputed.

Some would argue that ragged right is, indeed, casual; it is justified text which has no sense of humor. And what is "humor'? Slapstick? Self-deprecation? Sarcasm? Irony? Are the intended readers so dense that, unless the style is obviously humorous, they will have no idea at all that the content is meant to be?

In other words: don't overthink it, dude. If it looks good as it stands, then go with it. Or, simply change the font to Comic Sans: even people whose sole intellectual achievement is typing LOL in some social media space will get it, Oh: this is supposed to be funny! Umm. Wait a minute: where are the cat videos?

Okay: maybe they won't get it. But you get it, don't you?

James Michaels's picture
Joined: 6 Mar 2010 - 12:54am

I agree with oldnick; I don't think a humor book needs to scream "funny" to its readers via typography. But if your friend's book was looking too business-like, perhaps a more casual or quirky headline font might help. You could also make use of photos, illustrations, pulled quotes, etc.

You might want to check out the humor section at your bookstore for examples. For example, here's a page from a best-selling humor book by Steve Martin.

Jeff Dodd's picture
Joined: 1 Apr 2009 - 8:00pm

Unless the chapters are so short it would become intrusive and gimmicky, perhaps give some thought to opening each chapter with an Arabic drop cap?

Héctor Muñoz Huerta's picture
Joined: 21 Feb 2003 - 11:00am

Use random slightly slanted margins.