Friday, August 29, 2014

Galaxy Prime Art 15: Paging GP

I think we're just about ready to come back to earth from our tour of Galaxy Prime. That's my glib way of saying that I've finished reprinting the illustrations I created for the book. But there was one other aspect of art I created for the book, and that is the book itself.

GP, pg. 208
The illustrations I created weren't standalone pieces -- they were part of a page design that I was also responsible for creating. In this case, I used Adobe InDesign to create the book that author James Shade had originally written in Microsoft Word.

In this example below, you can see how the illustration is at the bottom of the page. It also extends far to the right of the text margin because it "bleeds" into the spine of the book. That's also why my signature is so far indented -- I didn't want it to get lost in the fold where the pages gather.

This is actually one of the things that I had to think about on a regular basis with this, and all other commercial illustrations that I create for publication. The original image actually needs to be a little larger than it will appear in the final book so that there is room for it to bleed off the page or into the spine.

A few of the cool things I liked about the design of this book was that each chapter opened with a quote -- which I wrote. I read the descriptions that author James Shade wrote about the various races, and then came up with some sort of saying that reinforces some of that race's basic traits. For instance, the Uncha are a race of gnome-like tinkerers known for building fantastic devices. For them, I wrote this saying that appeared at the start of Chapter 4:

"Planning is overrated. Just start putting things together and sometimes something wonderful happens."
Or this fun Molgan saying from Chapter 5:

"Money can't buy you friends... but when you have enough money you can always rent some." 

As you can easily guess, the Molgans are the financiers of the galaxy, always wheeling and dealing.

These quotes (and other textual elements) are the sort of features I worked into the text to perform multiple functions:

  • They help introduce new material that supports the content, but isn't part of the main text.
  • The reinforce character traits and give the book personality
  • They break up the text so it isn't overwhelming. There is little more dull than page after page after page of boring text. This is a game book, not a novel. 
  • They take up space. As a design decision, the side bars tell the reader which chapter is currently open. This meant that chapters start on the left page (even numbers). So, every chapter has to start with an even page and end with an odd page. To prevent blank pages, textual elements and graphics were added to just fill space. As in the example below, I tried to have fun with it by putting quotes in an alien font, and then putting the translation below it.
  • There are also 16 sectors in Galaxy Prime, so I selected an "sigil" for each one. So, when I put one of those in the background, it actually indicated which sector the quote originated from.

GP, 228 - 229
This is one of the few times James edited one of the quotes I wrote:
Translation of a Runarian saying: "The Future is not your to take, it's yours to make."

Word Processors vs.
Page Design Programs
The Galaxy Prime book that went to press would not have been possible if I had been forced to work with MS Word. In fact, James actually tried laying out the book in Word -- and he did a passable job of -- but it was unstable (an edit on one page could start a ripple effect that would reflow the text throughout the entire book. Plus, it was more than 350 pages long!

MS Word is a fine program -- and many people successfully use it to create fairly complex documents. Including myself. I've published many documents in Word, and got very nice results. But, it is not a page design program (or what we used to call "desktop publishing software").

I actually had a discussion with a fellow professional recently who said that almost anything you can do in InDesign can be duplicated in Word. That is true, but the key phrase is almost anything.  I'm not going to go into a long discussion about how the page design program is better at using visual and spacing algorithms to better process type (but if you're interested, there's a very accessible article about it here). I'm just going to list a few of the differences between the two types of software.

Word ProcessorsPage Design
MS Word
Open Office *
Google Docs *
Word Perfect
Text Maker
Corel Write
Adobe InDesign
MS Publisher
Adobe Illustrator (single pages & short docs)
Page Plus (* free version available)
Scribus *
For a review of many of these products, check out this link:
* Indicates Free software
For a review of discount products, visit this link: 
* Free tools reviews:

There are MANY more programs out there. Many of them free. Many of them very good. But I'm going to be brutally honest: MS Word is the top word processor and the top two design programs are Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress. Everyone else in the market is an "also-ran." Those programs dominate their markets, and rightly so. They are good programs that get the job done.

In our next installment, we'll do a level-1 diagnostic about
the differences between these two types of programs. See you on Friday!

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