Unlike book cover design (which calls attention to itself), interior page design is a ‘silent’ form of design. It acts like a bridge between the author’s words and the reader. You may be surprised to learn that a lot of careful thought goes into a book’s page design. This is because, unlike the cover design, the page layout design of a book isn’t that noticeable. In fact, interior page design works best when it isn’t noticeable! Your readers should be drawn directly into your written text without giving your page design any thought.
Page layout decisions a book designer makes
Below are some key graphic elements that have a direct impact on page layout design.
Choosing a typeface
The pages of a books usually look best with only one or two typefaces. Simple is good! Most books are designed using a serif font for body text. This is because serif fonts have ‘feet’ or flourishes on the end strokes of each letter that makes them easier to read. (Times New Roman is a serif font, Arial is a sans-serif font.)
On the other hand, some books require more than one or two typefaces. A technical book with several levels of headings and subheadings may need several contrasting typefaces to make them stand out. Alternatively, a display typeface can create an attractive treatment for chapter headings and provide a consistent and unifying element repeated throughout your book.
Justified alignment of body text is standard in most books. This means that all the words in a block of text are spaced so that the first and last words of a full line of text align evenly with the respective margins.
Margins, columns and white space
All text and graphic elements in your book must be included in your page layout design, and combined in such a way to produce uncluttered, easy-to-read pages. For example, designers need to decide whether margins should be bigger at the bottom or outside edges of the page spread to allow for ‘thumb space’.
Running heads, chapter breaks and folios (page numbers)
Running heads usually contain the book’s title, author’s name and/or chapter title. Folios, chapter numbers, and chapter breaks all provide visual breaks for your readers and help them mark their progress through your book.
Front and end matter
Pages in the front and back matter of a book are each designed individually, as they are all very different. However, together they must create a unifying whole. Elements from the chapter pages, such as typefaces, margins, paragraph styles and so on, can be used to connect all the pages in your book visually.