How to Make a Pretentious Book

25 02 2009

Well, I have started designing my next two books. One is to display my photography and the other is my newest novel. To do so, and to be comfortable with it, I have studied traditional book design as well as more avant garde book design for awhile now.

The first step in creating a pretentious book is knowing how to pretentiously use white space and the proper text to margin ratio. This goes all the way back to Gutenburg’s time. Since I am making a standard size 6″x9″ book, that means the ratios should be (clockwise from top) 3:2:6:5. Here you can see my layout for spreads including the grid lines, crop lines, and text box (in red.)
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The next step is choosing a pretentious font to use for your book. Generally, for moderate pretention, stick to serifed humanist fonts.

Humanist fonts, sometimes referred to as Venetian, appeared during the late 1400s. They were modelled from the more open and airy Italian script of the day. You can determine if a typeface is Humanist several different ways.

The lowercase “e” has a sloping crossbar.
Small x-height
Low contrast between stroke widths
Dark color (Not color in the traditional sense, but of the overall darkness on a page)

For both books, I settled on Adobe Jenson Pro. While it is pretentious, it is still perfectly legible. For a bit of added pretention, you can use blackletter typefaces. These are so pretentious, they are almost impossible to read!
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Third, use proportional, “expert” numbers wherever possible. It doesn’t matter if you are using them correctly, you are in it for the pretention!
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Next, you want to make sure you are using nonstandard ligatures. A ligature is a special glyph used in place of a pair or group of singles letter such as ffj, ft, fh, fi, fl, and ff. While there are plenty of standard ligatures, they are not nearly pretentious enough! Instead, use the nonstandard ligatures.
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Last but not least, is the most important tool of pretention handed down by the gods… discretionary ligatures! These ligatures are so powerful that the sheer amount of pretention contained in just one is enough to split the world in half! They say “Hey, look at me! I know about typography!” more than anything else you could possibly do. Use them wisely.
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There you have it. How to master the power of pretention in five easy steps.

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