See how we approached the design of a resource book and website for creatives

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Earlier this year, we were approached by the team at Creative England and asked if we’d like to pitch for a new project they were producing. The concept was to produce a book and supporting website which would act as a useful resource for creatives and entrepreneurial types to gain information about everything from how to start a business to intellectual property rights and cash flow.

Pitching against three other agencies, we looked at the brief and the creative scope for the project and decided to go against our usual philosophy when approaching similar pitches and we instead put forward creative visual concepts that we hoped would help us win the work. Alongside initial ideas for the editorial spreads, we also put forward concepts for the home page of the site. Usually, we’d tend to resist producing creative concepts for the pitch as we feel that at the early stages the focus should be on strategy rather than the aesthetics of the project, however, we decided to opt for a different tact. And, it paid off. Following an initial meeting with the team at Creative England we were delighted to find out that we had impressed with our concepts and were subsequently awarded the work.

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We began by researching editorial layout, typefaces, illustration styles and colour palettes to help informal the creative concepts for our pitch.
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Concept artwork for an editorial book spread. Our idea to use illustrations and graphic design to support the articles meant that we wanted to set a limited colour palette throughout the book to help with consistency and flow.
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An example of an initial web page visual put forward in the pitch. We wanted to convey the idea that the website supported the book and therefore include simple graphical devices such as the page tabs to help emphasise this relationship.

The Challenge

Creative England interviewed over 50 creative leaders from across the South West about their experiences running a successful company and our challenge was to take those articles and translate them into a visually engaging book and website, which could be used as a resource for budding creative entrepreneurs. Our concept for the book was to contact 50+ visual artists, illustrators and graphic designers from across the South-West and beyond, setting each individual a brief based around an extract from one of the articles. As the turnaround for production of both book and the website was only around eight weeks, everything, even the title of the project, was still undecided so we adopted an approach that wasn’t going to cause any problems further down the line.

The Process

Following our successful pitch, Creative England were keen to roll with the concepts we’d put forward, however they wanted to see changes made to both the editorial layouts and the website design. Starting with the book, we began by creating a number of different style guides which included a range of complimentary typefaces, colour palettes and layout options. Working closely with the team at Creative England through the initial design stages, we were able to quickly work through the changes and decide upon four final page layouts for the editorial.

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We constructed four seperate page layouts for the editorial and artwork based on the length of the article. Commissioned designers were then sent a copy of the brief along with the template to match the relevant article.

Following an expression of interest from the preselected designers, we sent out the page templates along with a brief and article extract to individuals and agencies based on the topic of the article and the selected designers style of work. The brief included a full break down of the project, as well as a set colour palette, artwork area dimensions and file format requirements. Within the brief we also asked designers to effectively sum up the theme of the article without visualising the content to literally.

Whilst we waited for completed artwork from the commissioned designers, we started to set up a master file for the book, as well as paragraph and character styles and a baseline grid. We produced an empty page plan and began to map out each section of the book. Unfortunately, as we were still waiting on the final proofs of the articles to come back we had to use un-edited versions of the articles as place holder text until we had the final signed off versions so, as a result, were constantly having to update and alter articles and page layouts throughout the design process.

flat plan editorial rough
Our original flat plans for the book were very rough as we tried to organise 45+ articles and accompanying artwork into the correct sections.

At the same time we were also working on page designs for the One Thing I Know website. This needed to function as a showcase for the articles as well as linking to authors and artists websites, offering further information on the project and the option to buy the book. We also wanted to create a site which could be easily accessed on the move and which would make it easy for the user to read the articles. With this in mind, we took an editorial approach to the design the site, making articles easily readable and accessible from anywhere on the site by using related content widgets and clearly signposting key areas.

editorial flat plan
Our ‘work in progress’ flat plan for the book with blue boxed-out areas for where artwork would be placed once it had been received.

Once we had received final proofed articles and artwork, we were able to make final changes to the page layouts, construct a table of contents and finalise the front and back cover designs. When we had a test copy of the book ready, a dummy copy was printed in full at 100% and the team at Creative England proofed and double proofed all 116 pages before passing back to us for final edits. Once we had final sign-off, the inside contents of the book, inside front and back and front and back covers were formatted and sent to print. The books were litho printed and perfect bound before being shrink wrapped and sealed with a sticker.

Cover design
One of our original cover designs for the book which repurposed graphics created by design studio Little Whale Studio to create a graphic montage. There were numerous iterations to the front and back covers before it was signed off.
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The Heidelberg Speedmaster printing press at EPC Direct used to print the One Thing I Know book spreads.
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Before being cropped and bound, the spreads were checked and colour matched.

The Results

Two thousand limited edition books were printed and sold for the price of postage through the website. On the day of launch we received over 200 orders in just four hours and within three weeks all 2000 copies of the book were gone.In the first month after the launch the site saw almost 20,000 visits of which almost 15,000 were unique visits and since then the site has had over 75,000 visits from across the world.

Receiving national acclaim from the design community and beyond, the book has been featured on blog sites such as Creative Review, It’s Nice That, Design Week and FormFortyFive. It’s also featured in local publications such as The Evening Post.

The project has proved to be such a success that, at the time of writing, a second run of the book is being prepared to be printed and plans for a second edition with all new content are being considered for 2014.

One Thing I Know
An example of one of the final spreads from the One Thing I Know book.
Words by Mike Hawkyard. Illustration by Jamie Jones.

The Reaction

“A huge congratulations to everyone involved for creating an extraordinary piece of work. It is a well written and extremely well realised piece that I can see people coming back to again and again. What a lovely way of catching some of the wisdom in evidence in the wonderful range of companies that have been supported through the iNet and beyond.

“The content is great but I must say the visual style and illustrations are exceptional so please do pass on my congratulations to those responsible for commissioning these. I’m sure you’ll agree, there is an ever-present risk that such things will get bogged down in branding guidelines and quickly reduced to corporate evaluation docs, whereas this reads as a contemporary, stylish tome that is eminently applicable to the industry it represents – kudos!” – Verity McIntosh, Pervasive Media Studio Producer

One Thing I Know book
The final book contained 116 pages of articles and artwork from creative leaders and designers from around the South West. Books were perfect bound and shrink wrapped.