As the reviews for my recently published book, Wheels of Change, have started to come in, I've been pleased to see that many mention the book's beautiful--one reviewer said "flawless"--design. Rather than write about the process of designing this book myself, I invited Marty Ittner to blog about it. Marty has designed all five of my books for National Geographic, and she was a true collaborator on Wheels of Change. (She's also in the process of redesigning my Web site, suemacy.com. More on that next month.) So take it away, Marty....
Why, thank you Sue. Having an author request my design for their book is a great compliment (and good for business). What’s not to love about Wheels of Change? As Sue discovered, folks go bonkers over bikes. I can vividly remember my own exhilaration the first time my father let go of my 2-wheeler seat and I sailed off on my own. And Sue does her homework. She’s that smart kid you hope to sit next to in the back row with the A+ essay and all the test answers.
Wheels of Change ironically describes our design process. It was my first project with National Geographic director of design Jonathan “Jono” Halling and art director Jim Hiscott. The digital revolution has forced us print designers to create more dynamic visuals. It is simply not business as usual. From the get-go, Jono and Jim conveyed the new mandate for Childrens Books: they’ve got to be fun, colorful, lively and engaging. J+J wanted to visually push the concept of how the simple circle of a bicycle wheel enabled women to bust out of their domestic confinements.
Looking back, my first sketches were as constricted as a corset. I was concerned about leaving enough room for the text. Each round of style chapter proofs inched out a little further, but still were not “there.” Finally, Jono drew a REALLY big arc that shoved aside everything in its path. It finally sunk in that the wheel shapes dominated the design. Even my coveted type would have to conform to the big circles. Once the boundaries had been broken, the rest was finesse: the color palette, the shading on the wheels and just the right modern handling of the old newspaper stories that Sue included in every chapter. I was particularly pleased with the folio treatments, a solution that took four or five rejected ideas to achieve. (Thanks, Jim!)
For the type, Fontfont’s Disturbance font struck just the right note between modern and traditional, with one hiccup. No one liked the original “g” in “Change.” Rather than jettison the ideal typeface, I crafted a new “g” from...guess which font? The first person who posts the answer here gets a free copy of Wheels. I’m fond of filling the holes in letters, and the orange popped against the teal. The interior drop shadow which clinched the deal started off as happy mistake. Okay, enough shop talk. One could say I am as passionate about typography as Sue is about sports. Which is why I didn’t squawk when a certain member of the design team changed a certain body text font at the 11th hour. It was the right call to propel Wheels to “flawless.”