For a handmade book, the bookmaking process allows a lot of flexibility between the concept and the creation of the object. While editing, I might investigate a printing or binding idea. While printing, I could decide to alter or enhance some aspect of the design. Nevertheless, there is a stage of the process where I spend a great deal of time thinking about choices that influence the look of the book: page composition, typeface, paper, colors schemes, binding, and so on. Some choices are not finalized until later, such as the binding, but they still influence early stages of the design process. In this post I will discuss a few of the choices I made when designing Deepening Snow.
As the project developed, a guiding principle in its design became a balance of Japanese and Western traditions, a reflection of the bilingual text and its themes. For example, the book opens from the right as Western books do, but the binding is a traditional Japanese structure. In a similar way, the papers for the text and the cover are Western style papers made in Germany and England, but the laid patterns of the papers—visible when a page is held up to the light—are reminiscent of handmade Japanese papers.
In the composition of the page, this idea of balance presented the challenge of Japanese and English sharing space on the page. I wished to give both languages equal status on the page and each page spread to function as a whole, while retaining the traditional vertical layout of the Japanese. After experimenting with several combinations, I decided on a square page with two poems per spread, in a symmetrical layout emphasized by justifying the English text at the gutter.
The “butterfly” effect of this layout allows both languages to have the space they deserve while at the same time allowing plenty of room at the margins and a structure that anchors the text on the page.
Once the title of the book was finalized, it became a second guiding principle for the design. I had in mind to begin each section with a colored title sheet associated with its season. A title that focused on winter turned that idea into a theme reflected inside and outside the book. The final decisions for the binding were made later, of course, but with the title in hand I was able to choose the colors for each season and begin imagining finished book.
Next, putting it all on paper.