Shortly after “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” was released I got a nasty call from a reader.
“I’m a graphic designer. I own other Lost Art Press books,” he said. “And I have to say this new book has a terrible, amateurish design.”
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“Exactly right,” I replied.
Each of the three books in the “anarchist” series takes its design cues from different points in history, reflecting something about the book’s content or storyline. (This is true for all of our books; we don’t have a house style.)
“The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” is supposed to look like a manifesto set on a Macintosh. The chapter headings were made with a clicky label maker. The body copy is 11-point Cochin, a free font, and is set on a 17-point baseline (way too much space between the lines). The font used for the quotations is Courier 8 point, another freely available font.
From a broader perspective, the book doesn’t have a formal “grid,” which is the underlying structure used by most page designers when setting columns, photos and drawings. Photos intrude into the body copy in awkward ways. Yet, the book is (I think) still readable from a typographical perspective.
For the second book, “The Anarchist’s Design Book,” I looked to 18th-century pattern books and 17th-century texts. The book’s physical size is the same as Andre Felibien’s “Des Principes de l’Architecture…” The body copy is Caslon 12 point (on 13-point leading). Caslon is from the early 18th century (circa 1722). The style of the subheadings, the drop capitals and even the running heads on the pages are all ideas swiped from early books.
Plus, of course, the book’s copperplate etchings by Briony Morrow-Cribbs add to the overall older feel to the book. The idea behind the book design (and the book itself) was to treat vernacular furniture with the same respect as the high-style stuff.
The third book, “The Anarchist’s Workbench” (download it for free here), is from an entirely different place. It is meant to echo the books of the early 20th century that were set with Linotype machines. The body copy is, again Caslon, but the letters are set tighter. The type is 10.5 point on 12-point leading. In fact, all of the text in the book (except the data page at the front with the ISBN) is set in some form of Caslon – a common feature of books of this time.
Unlike the other two books, the text is carefully justified to look more formal and present letterspacing that looks like it was done by a real designer. The images and text are locked to a rigid grid system. The design is (supposed to look) mature. And that mature design is supposed to reflect the ideas in the book (poo jokes aside).
Apologies for the “behind the scenes” content. I get asked sometimes why our books look so different. This is why.
— Christopher Schwarz