Randall Payleitner


The Interior Design of a Book--Don't Neglect It!

Do you judge books by their covers? Of course! We all do. A cover is a book’s first impression, its calling card, its visual representation to the potential reader. I can’t overstate the importance of a good book cover. I’ll probably write multiple posts on this in the future…

But, today is about the other key area of book design. The less-heralded, oft-forgotten interior design of a book. A good interior design is almost never the reason someone decides to buy a book. But, a bad interior design may be why a certain book doesn’t get finished.

While there is plenty of room in the market for the detailed, full-color, image-laden resource… they tend to be workbooks, or creativity-based books whose design is part of the project.

I’m speaking mostly here about 1-color, simple, standard designs whose job it is to help you psychologically and practically experience the words on the page. The types of designs that make use of things most of us don’t really think about… Font choices. Font sizes. Running headers. Gutters. Leading. Page Numbers. Use of blank pages. Chapter openers.

Done well, a great interior can tell a story all its own. It can tie in great cover art. It will let the reader get lost in the content. It will usually get out of the way. Great book interior designs are typically understated. The kind of thing you don’t notice unless you are looking for it. But, the not-so-great ones try too hard. They are distracting. They accentuate mistakes, rather than covering for them.

This is usually the way to tell the difference between a high-quality, thought-out project with a gifted Art Director at the helm and a self-published work that was typeset by a robot with no fingers or eyes. (As an editorial, non-design person, I love that I get to work with one of the best Art Directors in the industry—he makes sure our books’ interiors have the reader in mind the whole time.)

There are many hidden pieces in the process of making a book. Interior design is not technically hidden because, well, it’s all throughout the book in plain sight. But it is one of those things readers don’t consciously think about, and it makes all the difference for the reading experience.