Celebrating our buildings book by book | For the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, we celebrate the brave and bold ways in which publishers are bringing innovative design and Scotland’s architectural heritage to new audiences. James Crawford of Historic Environment Scotland and Adrian Searle of Freight Books present their work and discuss the ways in which design-led books and publishing contribute to the reading experience.
“Design is a way of levelling the playing field.”
“You can’t not communicate,” says Adrian. It’s one of the most important things you have to bear in mind. Through design “we’re saying something about the book and about ourselves as publishers.”
Readers don’t give a stuff about publishers, so Freight shape their design around the author. It’s a case of form vs function. “Design is a great way of levelling the playing field,” he notes. You can compete with bigger publishers – early on they realised design was a way to stop the reader spotting that they were a new indie.
Category drives a lot of design, saying “I’m like book X that you read and enjoyed, but I’m a bit different”. You innovate within those restrictions. But always bear in mind that around 70% of book sales are in the six weeks before Christmas – books, primarily, are a gift. They need to look like one.
“Without architecture these stories would be lessened.”
The role of Historic Environments Scotland is “telling the stories of Scotland”. It’s exciting and challenging because, dare he say it, “architecture is boring”, or at least is perceived to be in the book trade. They’re competing against so many other things.
But think of Twilight, Harry Potter and Fifty Shades of Grey, and architecture is key to all of the books and subsequent movies – “What is Harry Potter without Hogwarts?” – each say something about the character, “without architecture these stories would be lessened.”
There are three key virtues in architecture that can be used for books too:
- Utility – does it work for the audience?
- Strength – editorial, design, all of that put into practice
- Beauty – our books must delight
Both Adrian and James take us through examples of their respective books, but design is ultimately a provocative attempt to get readers to engage with the image and get to the heart of the story – applicable across the board. Design speaks for your company and your book, it communicates to the reader, and it is the most important thing to get you from a bookshelf into a reader’s hand.
So what about the future of the physical book? “Books are gifts,” repeats Adrian, noting that the cost will only go up and design will become more vital. James agrees, “Design is so important.”