This one is a little late, so you will get two of them this week! My only excuse for missing my own deadline is I hate Linux distros. I could use it as fodder for an upcoming Tales from the Darkside except it wasn’t work (graphic design) related. So on with the show!

Tale of the Misspelled Name

Quite a few years ago, a company I worked for would periodically layout out pages for a local children’s book publisher. The one I am thinking of was a very special case. A local designer (who became one of some note over the years) was going to both do the illustrations and design the book. Since we had a template of their catalog page and the location of the ISBN number for the back cover, we would be looking after that part of the book and nothing else. It was also a bit of a departure from the rest of their books. They usually printed in full colour and usually seemed to be targeting younger readers. This one was black and white only (except for the cover which was 2 colours) and seemed to be geared for slightly older readers (lots more text and fewer illustrations – though not a chapter book). The only thing of note for this job should have been the Jazz drive (that’s really dating myself – look it up) we had to purchase one to do our part of it. Since the illustrations were only black and white line drawings, they were scanned in at very high resolution (1200 dpi) so a SyQuest Disk (yuck) or Zip disk wouldn’t easily hold all the uncompressed illustrations. The 1 GB Jazz Disk was all that was really easily accessible at the time. It was a few years away before re-writable CDs, then DVDs, became widely available, thus killing off all the rest of the high density portable disks.

This should have been all there was to it. Except for one little thing. Luckily it had nothing to do with me, even though I was the one tasked with “fixing it.”

The author’s last name was misspelled on the outside back cover.

This wasn’t discovered until the print run was completed. The author was apparently really cheesed off. I don’t think the publisher was much impressed either. This set off a LOT of changes. And I mean a lot.

The designer who originally designed the book hadn’t been a designer for very long (neither was I at the time) and was fairly young (ditto for me, I was about 20 or 21 at the time – I think the designer was only a few years older) and made some poor choices design-wise. Mainly the body copy. It was a display typeface (Lambada Plain) that was used to great effect on the cover, but was too small and too novel for a font for all that copy, especially for younger readers. So all that had to change. But the best part, the author took it upon themselves to layout the whole book in Microsoft Word (or maybe even WordPerfect) and I was to match it EXACTLY. QuarkXpress (the only real option at the time – my how things have changed) had some pretty different ideas on how to handle type than basically any word processor. Adding a still fairly green designer (me) to the mix and it was pretty rough going trying to match everything up.

But that wasn’t everything. There was one more really big problem. One we didn’t really fix. The illustrations. The book’s plot was kind of complicated. Without giving too much away (the book is out of print, but can still be found online through places like Amazon – I’d like to prevent people from being embarrassed by this post) there was a little boy who had a series of dreams. Things happened to the boy in the dreams that changed his appearance, but only in the dreams. The illustrator got a little confused and slipped up on one of the drawings. I was asked if it was possible to take a piece of one of the other drawings and transplant it to the problem illustration. Due to the large file sizes and the computing power available in the mid 90s (I was on either a Quadra or an early PowerMac at the time) it would be a slog, but it was possible. It was decided that since the copyright still belonged to the illustrator we wouldn’t change anything unless we had permission from the illustrator. Considering all that happened it’s not surprising we didn’t do that. I suspect there was a lot of ugliness I never saw.

Though we did change the cover a bit too. Remember, that is was only a two colour job for the cover? Well, the colour the designer/illustrator chose was pretty dark. The publisher then chose something quite different. In my opinion, it went totally the other way and was too bright. Do stare directly at this cover or you’ll go blind. But considering the very frosty look the publisher gave my Art Director over the term “PMS Colour” (they only ever printed in process colour before, so I imagine she never heard the term before) it was probably best not to argue with them. Fun times all around.