What is a spec design?
A spec design is preparing the book’s page look ‘n feel. It’s also a preparation for the handover to the typesetter. It’s a great method to keep your book in extent and create a consistent flow of text and imagery throughout your book.
There’s a lot of publishing professionals who don’t work with spec designs. Sometimes the manuscript is given directly to a typesetter. This can be a bad move depending on the typesetter you using. Some typesetters are trained designers, and some are not. Research the suppliers you work with. Ensure they have the qualification and experience to do the work you paying them for.
Book publishing is like a relay race. If the first person starts out bad, it affects each and every person further down in the race. And it’s usually the last person in the race who suffers the most (or gets the most praise if the job goes well!). So be considerate of your team members as you run the publishing race together! Responsibility and accountability is an important aspect in business. The responsibility of the designer is to ensure the text on the page looks good and reads well. The typesetter ensures that they keep to the design style and text is sitting on the page correctly. Typesetters have a very good eye for how text should fall on a page, and have a lot of knowledge and technical know-how in book publishing. Each have their role to play. And it’s really magical to see a book come together and be a part of the process.
This is extracted text from the manuscript. In publishing we call it ‘dummy’ text. The editor supplies the designer with dummy text in order to make up the spec design. Ensure you extract all possible text features, eg. body text, headings, box features, chapter openers, part page openers, contents page, and end matter like the glossary, index page text. Remember, we creating a shortened visual of what the book will look like before typesetting takes place.
The dummy text is styled or tagged as body txt, body 1st para, body indent, and HeadA, HeadB (see style sheet image below). The editor and designer use the same style sheets. So by the time the spec design is complete, the typesetter is using these style sheets for styling the full manuscript. Book design involves alot of thinking and planning ahead. Only once you do it – will you understand it.
Style sheets make life simpler in book and magazine design. It keeps text consistent throughout. Have a look at the kind of style sheet names we use in book design. Below is a list of paragraph and character style sheet names.
The names need to make sense to the editor, the designer, and the setter, who will be using this to style the manuscript.
The paragraph style is the main style sheet. The character style lies within the paragraph style. So before you make character styles, you need to know how things will look on a page. Learn how to setup style sheets, and it will be your next best friend in book design.
For more info on style sheets visit: http://vector.tutsplus.com/tutorials/designing/an-intermediate-guide-to-stylesheets-for-adobe-indesign/
After the spec design is signed off
Once the spec is designed and signed off, the designer collects all the style sheets into an RTF file for the editor to start styling the manuscript. The editor is using the same style names the designer used. By using RTF format, Indesign picks up the formatting and styles the text according to the RTF and Indesign document. Sometimes the manuscript changes during setting, and the setter has to accommodate for this. If these affect any design features – it’s usually taken back to the designer to provide a suggestion on how best to fix.
The spec design will look like the book except it’s a much MUCH shortened version of the final book. It will give the author a good idea of how text and images will run on the page.
Have you or do you know of designers who use this method? Most importantly, was this helpful? Do you understand the concept of what and why we use spec designs?
Feedback is improvement 😉