book design illustration specimens

What do you mean “book design?”

I’ve been MIA on the blog the last couple months because I’ve been working on turning the DIY wedding posts into a wedding planning workbook. It’s going to be a literary mullet: true stories and pro tips (business) in the front, and a workbook (party) in the back. While the editing of copy is underway (thanks to an incredible editor from Reedsy), I’ve been busy designing the pages, worksheets, and other book parts.

What’s that you say?

“Book design… Isn’t it just going to be text?”

No. Not even close.

In a nutshell, this wedding workbook is a space-themed illustration haven, clear from any filigree curls, Tiffany blues, or other stereotypical gender-specific things. The book isn’t ready to shared in its entirety yet, but I did want to share the design process thus far through pictures. YAY PICTURES!


Every good design project begins with
obsessive typography research.

In this case, we were on our annual pilgrimage to Shelburne Falls where I found this boulder of a book. (While it pulled a muscle in my forearm upon retrieval, I completely regret not buying it.)

book design research

book design research - type specimen
Inside were crazy gobs of delicious typography specimens. I died. In heaven. Over and over and over again…


book design illustration specimens
…which inspired the choice of Trade Gothic Standard for the worksheet typography as well as any small icon text.


book design illustration specimens
First a pencil drawing on tracing paper.
book design illustration specimens
Then we bring a photo of said drawing into Illustrator for vector art sorcery.
book design illustration specimens
And now we have our first gray scale illustration for the Style/Look section (you didn’t think I’d show a wedding veil and a top hat did you?!). PRO TIP PEOPLE! Always start in gray scale. Colorize later. It will save your sanity.


book design illustration specimens
Oh Google. You please me so, especially when researching “retro space helmet”.


book design illustration specimens
And so we start this illustration by rocking a sharpie drawing on tracing paper for our friend, MaCaW.
book design illustration specimens
Test driving style number 1. Notice the lack of polka dots in this bird’s space helmet.
book design illustration specimens
And test driving style number 2 against number 1.


book design illustration specimens
Your damn right you’re gonna get out there and prototype your wedding’s ass off! (I know it sounds confusing, but trust me, the book will explain it all.)


color palette workshop
Randomly, a couple of the product designers and I went to this killer color palette workshop where you cut up sheets of paper and make tiny Rothko-like palettes. The above is one of the outcomes from the workshop.
book design illustration specimens
I wanted to pull color palettes for the book from other retro space illustrations…
color palettes
…and so I did. Using the new color palette technique which rocked my socks off!


book design illustration specimens
Next, I brought a handful of my favorite palettes to the gray scale illustrations. I loosely dropped in color to see how it would translate across all parts. This is palette number 1.
book design illustration specimens
This is palette number 2. After checking for accessibility, using both color-blindness proofing views, I felt like number 2 was more “adult” and just needed a few tweaks to be the clear winner. (Remember people, color blindness is a real thing! While color blindness occurs mostly in guys, I want guys of all kinds – in addition to girls – to rock this workbook, sooooo yeah. Do your part and check yourself before you wreck yourself.)


white baord sketch
White board drawing of the Priority Galaxy concept.
book design illustration specimens
Fully designed Priority Galaxy worksheet, using palette number 2. This photo was taken while test driving the color of the worksheets at while Kinkos (like I’m back in college all over again lol). To celebrate the culmination of such progress, I bought myself a Marvin the Martian USB drive (because, the Q-36 Space Modulator, that’s why).


book design page research
I have what looks like a police station white board for page layout research. Taco cookbooks, Outside Magazine, and a special printed edition of Uncrate delivered some incredible ideas.
chapter header sketch
Sketched page layout concepts for the chapter headers.
chapter page header
From research to sketch to the printed page. First chapter header realized – huzzah!
book cover design
And finally, we’ve arrived at book cover design concept number two (the first was quick’n’dirty and kind of shitty. But it did teach me the value of visualizing your copy while attempting to write it.)


And there ya have it folks. Book Design, Part 1.

(The majority of this work was in large part due to a First Chapter contest that Reedsy and Hiive are hosting. I’m super excited about the progress thus far and to enter this little competition. Wish me luck!)

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