Book design

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Book design concerns the graphic and typographical design of the content and the cover of a book . Most is publishing for the organization responsible and often takes to the expertise of specialists. These can be book designers, typographers , communication designers, and in exceptional cases also freelance artists. Many publishers take on the design of their books in their own specialized department, the production . The aim is to design the book in such a way that it communicates the content best and most clearly, is balanced in terms of material and price and, of course, is also accepted by the potential target group.

Goals and areas of responsibility of book design

The book is first and foremost a commodity. This means that it should not only look good, it should also be a comfortable size, feel good and, above all, be easy to use. Besides readability of a text must on choosing the right paper , of the cover, the font , the type area be and more respected. The design must be adapted to the type of book, be it in terms of differences in production or in terms of the content of the book. In addition, the use and reading requirements for the book should be considered. A book for children is exposed to different stresses than a volume in a multi-volume reference work; and the font is chosen differently for these books. In some cases the saleability of a book is strongly influenced by a particularly good or bad design. The design of a book is particularly dependent on the current taste: “The author usually consciously or unconsciously takes a position on his time. Not only the directly socially critical or political novel, also the religiously emphasized or the utopian novel are not beyond the social controversy, likewise the drama, the novella, the poem and other kinds of beautiful literature. The book designer must have knowledge of the essence of the text before him. "

The work of the book designer

The book designer is responsible for the appearance of a book inside and out - the so-called equipment: “The equipment of a book includes everything that is not usually contained in the manuscript and therefore only affects the external form of the book: format and type area, font and font size , Typesetting, type of book cover and dust jacket, the paper and any special accessories such as bookmarks, protective cardboard, etc. ” The book designer thus makes a decisive contribution to the overall impression of the book. It is therefore particularly important that the design, regardless of the design principle, is based on a uniform plan - from the first to the last page of the book. This is important not only for aesthetics, but also for understanding the text. Because it is precisely things that are often dismissed as trifles, such as subtitles, suggestions or prints, that decide whether you like to pick up a book or not.

Work areas of the book designer

In addition to the overall concept, the book designer has to deal with many details, not just the layout, the typographical system, but also the typographical detail, because an appealing overall impression invites the reader to pick up the book. This means that the reader perceives a book from the outside in. The book designer should, however, ideally work from the inside out. The book designer deals primarily with the following individual questions: format, volume, typography, materials (paper, cover materials ), reprography and printing . In the field of typography, it is particularly in the area of macro typography , (also called layout, large typography or typographical unit) responsible therefore for determining the page size, the size of the set of columns and illustrations as well as their placement, the organization of the title order and the legends and for all other typographic elements.

Order of the work of the book designer

In the optimal case, the book designer works in the following order:

  1. Inspection of the manuscript / content: Find out the requirements and wishes of the publisher, editor and author, inquire about the format.
  2. Start of the concrete work (the designer already has an idea): Determination of the type area on the double page, planning of the entire content.
  3. From this developed the book designer / typographer from the middle to the front and rear sides before and after the contents: the title page with the table of contents , the appendix , the apparatus with notes, bibliography , index .
  4. Development of the binding / envelope, cover and finding the matching colors: tone of the content paper, colors of the endpaper , binding material, headband and bookmark and the colors of the cover .

The role of the book designer in planning

Today the book designer is no longer left to his own devices and his artistic understanding. Despite its cultural value, the book is an item that has to be sold. Experts from other areas of the publishing house also contribute to the work of the book designer: advertising psychologists, sales experts, typographers, reproduction experts, printing technicians and calculators. All objections and suggestions from these specialists must be taken into account by the book designer. It is therefore particularly important that these arrangements are made during the planning of the book, because many changes are no longer possible or costly once production has already started. The arrangements with the printer should also be made as early as possible: If the designer adheres to certain formats , numbers of sheets and folding schemes, costs can be saved. On the other hand, the designer is expected, as “connoisseur of graphic techniques, to include all the possibilities that modern technology gives him in the planning from the start.” In the best case, the book designer accompanies “the book from the idea to the finished product. As the mediator between the author and editor on the one hand, the calculator and technician on the other, he is the man whose job it is to bring about a balance between the various wishes and interests. ” The publisher must produce in line with the market Book designers know the market in which their products should prove themselves.

Design elements

The design elements relate mainly to the book decoration , i.e. the decorative accessories of the text and the other elements that make up a complete book as well as the color and formal design as a whole.

The cover or envelope

Today, little more than the cover or the book cover influences the purchase decision . The envelope is what the customer sees first - and often the only thing. The design must be appealing and arouse the reader's curiosity. The recognition effect is particularly valuable in the case of book series , because with a barely manageable offer , the reader seldom flips through the book and lets the content take effect. If the cover doesn't speak to him, the customer often doesn't even pick up the book. Today the content of a book should be recognizable by its presentation. A book without a cover or cover that is designed according to contemporary tastes will sometimes be difficult to sell. The cover material or the design of the title plate also play a major role: Sometimes it attracts the buyer to take the book in hand or supports the positive effect of the book.


The selection of the format stands at the beginning of the book design. The main criteria for the format are the literary genre , the readership and sales price of the book, the volume of the manuscript and any ties to series and standard formats. There are now suitable standards for most of the literature groups. A delicate, narrow octave format is chosen for volumes of poetry, and a medium octave format for novels and stories; The basic rule is: entertainment literature should be comfortable to handle in an armchair for comfortable reading. Special editions or illustrated books are usually somewhat larger, because many pictures only develop their effect from a certain size. Young people's and children's books are usually somewhat larger, as are scientific books and lexicons that need a lot of space for tables and texts. The strength of the book can be influenced by the choice of format; the larger the format, the thinner the book becomes.


Before the designer chooses the paper, it should be clear what conditions the book will face. Is it going to be a paperback book meant to be cheap? Or a hard-wearing school or children's book ? Should the book be on the bookshelf of a bibliophile as a collector's rarity or is it needed as a holiday reading? The reader makes demands on the book that the designer must take into account. But the publisher also restricts the designer: Wood-free , but durable papers are more expensive than wood-containing papers. Colored, coated, volume, opacity , weight: these are all properties that affect the price of the paper and thus the publisher's expenses. The content of a book also has an influence on the choice of paper: For scientific works, (bright) white paper is usually used; the paper of a cheap, classic novel is usually kept in warm white. Different printing processes, be it letterpress , gravure or offset printing , as well as books with illustrations, require different types of paper adapted to the requirements . The paper can also affect the strength of a book. If the paper has a low volume, the book will be thinner later, but if the publisher wants to make “more out of less”, he orders a type of paper with a high volume. To save space, dictionaries or other reference works are printed extra on thin paper, usually even on special thin printing paper .

Further design elements

  • Typography : The chosen font, set type area and much more typography contributes significantly to the appearance of a book page at.
  • Title and the appendix : Both should fit into the overall concept of the book. Clearly designed, they still offer space for individual concepts.
  • Illustration : Although a book is usually understood to be a printed text, illustrations have an effect that should not be underestimated, and they are what make many books special and extraordinary.
  • Slipcase : It offers the possibility of additional advertising space, protects the book and often increases its bibliophile value.
  • Ribbon bookmark:attached to the spine of the book and in a color that matches the book, it is a relief for the reader as a bookmark.
  • Headband : Even if it is no longer necessary for the production and durability of a book today, it decorates the book with many color variants.

Book design and book art

With bibliophile books you often come up against the limit “beyond which the book is no longer an object of use, but becomes an object of art.” When is the design of a book really art and up to where is it “just” a technical design? The technical part predominates in the production of the book. The illustration belongs to the fine arts, the design of the cover and the binding belongs to the applied arts. There is often an overlap between aesthetic and technical aspects. It would be best to look at the entire field of book design from the standpoint of technical and artistic design. The following should be noted: “A book must be made for use. The paper, font, typography, illustrations and binding must be tailored to the readership for whom the book is intended. Only through practicality do we come to beauty. We perceive a book as beautiful when it gives the impression of perfection in its kind. "

Criteria for a book that is “beautiful” in terms of book design

Every year various sponsors award prizes for particularly beautiful books. In Germany, it is the Buchkunst Foundation that organizes the “The Most Beautiful German Books” competition. The books are judged by an expert jury. Some criteria are listed below:

  • Does the design concept correspond to the character of the book and has it been implemented consistently?
  • Are the type and image area and the image formats coordinated?
  • Does the font match the content, is the layout adapted to the task and is the text easy to read?
  • Have the typographical details been observed (even typesetting, enough leading, correct spacing)?
  • Are the table of contents and critical apparatus clear?
  • Do the cover and binding design correspond to the purpose of the book? are they integrated into the overall concept?
  • Have the different types of paper been correctly selected for their purpose and have their colors been matched to one another?
  • Is the printing of the text and the pictures even and clean?
  • Can the book open easily, is the direction of the book block and endpaper correct ?
  • Have the binding materials been chosen according to the purpose of the book, its format and the weight?

History of book design

Handwritten books

The code was the early form of the book. In contrast to the earlier - comparatively impractical - scroll , the code had the advantage that you could leaf through it and look it up. In the 4th century AD, the code, along with parchment, became the new writing material. The code was bound with leather-covered wooden covers. These were decorated with ornaments - also part of the book design.

As early as the 6th century, the writing area was based on rules similar to those of today. The text in large book formats was usually laid out in two columns (with two columns per page). The book, which was written with black ink , was then colored. Headings written in red and adding pictures and ornaments were common for the design at the time. This work was carried out by the Rubricator and the Illuminator .

In the 7th and 8th centuries, book design reached such a high artistic level that it is now referred to as "book art". "In many European countries, splendidly written and decorated codices with scenic and perhaps already national features were created."

Book design in Gutenberg's time

The need for books grew, and copying books was expensive and time consuming. Johannes Gutenberg came at exactly the right time with his invention. With the hand casting instrument , technically perfect movable letters could be produced in large quantities. The types are similar to the types used in today's hot type, the principle of printing is the same. Gutenberg's invention made it possible to produce many books in a short period of time.

The design of the font and the type area was similar to the design of handwritten books. Because Gutenberg's goal was for his books to look exactly like the best handwritten books. But these were surpassed by Gutenberg's sophisticated technology: the types were more uniform and more precise than the handwritten letters. The uniform width of the typographic line was also a novelty. Gutenberg achieved this through 290 different types: So there was one and the same letter in several sizes. Together with abbreviations and letter combinations, the typesetter could reduce or expand each line to the desired width. Gutenberg wanted his text columns to look like "closed blocks". To do this, he used hyphens outside the sentence boundaries and marked paragraphs with initials instead of the indentations that are common today.

To make the printed books even more similar to the handwritten ones, Gutenberg also tried printing with two colors, for initials and headings in red. In 1457 the manufacturer (Fust and Schöffer) and the date of manufacture were mentioned for the first time in the Mainz Psalter, the first step towards today's imprint . The first foreword appeared in 1478 by Erhart Ratdolt in Venice and provided information about the content of the book. In the 1480s, title pages with woodcuts were already being printed.

Book design in the Renaissance

The humanists , supported by the bourgeoisie, had a great influence at the end of the 15th century . Efforts were made to revive ancient Roman culture, and ancient Roman monumental scripts were studied in the ruins of Rome . The Latin classics were modern again - and so was the script in which they were handed down: the Carolingian minuscule . This was carried over into the new era and is now called humanistic minuscule . The mixture of this and the Roman majuscule typeface resulted in the Renaissance Antiqua , an important typeface to this day. The Venetian printer Aldus Manutius brought a novelty onto the market in 1501: He was the first to print inexpensive and practical octave editions . It was with him that “the Renaissance utility book, which was uniform in all parts, was created .” Robert Granjon developed new and practical typographical elements .

The main focus of font development during the Renaissance was in Italy and France. Basel and Strasbourg were centers of humanistic book creation. In Germany, Emperor Maximilian promoted book art through his bibliophile inclination. He commissioned three works that are still known today for their aesthetics and artistic design: the prayer book, the Theuerdank and the Weißkunig . The font used also changed in Germany: the Bohemian Bastarda developed into Fraktur , among others thanks to the printer Johann Schönsperger , which was the most important German book font for centuries.

see also: Niccolò Niccoli , Francesco Colonna , Claude Garamond

Book design of the baroque

In Baroque , ostentatious folio and quarto volumes were produced especially in France. The books became lavish and luxurious, and a new antiqua was created, the Romain du Roi. In the Netherlands and England the bourgeoisie determined the new form of books. The small ribbons of the Dutch printer and publisher family Elzevier became famous . Other famous people of the baroque era: the brothers Voskens and van Dyck . In England, the printer and typographer John Baskerville (1707–1775) created light and open letters in a wide-ranging sentence.

see also: William Caslon .

Book design of classicism

“Handy, small ribbons became more and more popular.” The classicism book is the small-format, simply designed book. The jewelry and ornaments of the magnificent baroque volumes are no longer used. The French François Ambroise Didot created the classicist Antiqua , with strong contrasts between bold basic strokes and fine hairlines. He also created the typographic measurement system that is still in use today . The aesthetics are based on the stylish arrangement of the letters. The classical antiqua was also known in other countries.

In Germany, Fraktur was still the most popular typeface, and Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf (1719–1794) freed it from baroque flourishes. The Leipzig publisher and printer Georg Joachim Göschen had a particular influence on classicist book design . The complete edition of Wieland's works is an example of this. His goal was to produce elegant editions, without luxury, but beautiful and correct. The Berlin printer Johann Friedrich Unger (1753–1808) gave the Fraktur a classicistic touch, this "Unger Fraktur" could be described as a "favorite font of German Romanticism".

Industrialization in the first quarter of the 19th century brought about a change in the book trade: profit was the focus. The mechanization of book production led to an underestimation of quality and design. “The submission of the book from the point of view of 'goods' has been completed. In Germany, the cultural low was reached in the early days, the speculative period after the war of 1870/71. "

Book design until the end of the 19th century

Starting with the Englishman William Morris , a new wind arose in the world of book-making. Morris is considered to be the innovator of book art. His goal was to produce high quality books again. In doing so, he tied to the quality of the insignia prints . Morris, hoping for a socialist society, demanded devotion when designing a book and reflecting on the earlier way of designing it. In 1891 he founded the Kelmscott Press in Hammersmith. There he designed, among other things, the "Golden Type" font and printed many high-quality books, especially the publication of Geoffrey Chaucer's works. The special achievement of Morris lies above all in having driven the art of book design again.

Little by little, "so-called private presses emerged, which initially, independently of a mercantile client, used to print beautiful books out of hobby and enthusiasm." These also gave mass production an impetus to make the books of higher quality again. The first German private press, the Janus-Presse, was founded in Leipzig in 1907 by Carl Ernst Poeschel and Walter Tiemann . This was followed by the Rupprecht press, the Bremen press and Harry Graf Kessler's Cranach press .

Book design in the 20th century

After the First World War, the labor movement emerged with its own publishing houses, the Malik-Verlag and the Gutenberg Book Guild produced inexpensive books with high-quality equipment. The Reclam series was created in 1867, the low-priced series by Insel Verlag in 1912 : new sections of the population were striving for education. In 1926 Josef Albers called for New Objectivity. Typography should finally break with tradition. Important representatives of the New Objectivity were Herbert Bayer and Jan Tschichold , but also the older Willi Baumeister, especially with his catalog and book designs for the Stuttgart Werkbund exhibition “Die Wohnung” (Weißenhofsiedlung) in 1927. However, one often seemed to forget that a book was due to its content arises, the book form should correspond to this content and not vice versa. New fonts were created by Peter Behrens , Johann Vincenz Cissarz , Fritz Helmuth Ehmcke and FHErnst Schneidler , who created exemplary things in the 1920s with the "Juniperus-Presse" he founded at the Stuttgart School of Applied Arts . Modest, purposeful book typography counted.

The development culminated in the International Book Art Exhibition in Leipzig in 1927. Max Liebermann proclaimed in the exhibition catalog: “It would be the ideal of a book art exhibition to show books whose outer form and inner content are combined to form a harmonious whole.” An English typographer, Stanley Morison , then announced in an internationally recognized essay, that every book design should be subordinate to the purpose of the book. Reading should be made as pleasant as possible for the reader; Here typography that is boring from the artist's point of view is better than one that is emphasized. In 1929 Germany began to award the most beautiful books of the year. This led to an increase in the quality of books. This was interrupted by the seizure of power by the National Socialists, especially the numerous illustrations that had come to an end.

After 1945, illustrations were only found on the covers, texts were hardly illustrated any more. In 1949, the award of the most beautiful books was started again for the first time in Leipzig , which was stopped again by the establishment of the GDR. Despite differences in book prices between the GDR and the FRG, the font and typographic design developed in the classic direction in both countries. The 1950s saw numerous calligraphic envelopes; Written font was combined with illustrations, for which designs by Imre Reiner , Walter Brudi - 1966 founder of the Institute for Book Design at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart - and Gunter Böhmer provide vivid examples. In contrast, the cover concept for the Suhrkamp library designed by Willy Fleckhaus was different . In the 1960s, Pop Art found its way onto book covers. The 1970s began with Ferdinand Kriwet , who provided the envelopes with photos. In line with the anti-authoritarian movement, the design of books for children and young people has also become bolder and more open.

The turning point came in the 1980s: affordable equipment, linen, thread stitching, that is, the well-known and tried-and-true counted again. The book designer Franz Greno also immortalized “his” art in Klett-Cotta Verlag. Together with Hans Magnus Enzensberger , he founded the other library : Both had committed themselves to metal typesetting and the design of individual, high-quality books.

Desktop publishing , typesetting and layout on the computer have shaped book design since the 1990s . Although this left the imagination free, the quality of the microtypography deteriorated . The much-vaunted fast pace of the computer age is also reflected in the design: one trend follows the next. Nevertheless, the book has hardly changed inside in the last century, even if the production techniques have changed fundamentally. A book should still be legible, happy to be picked up and have a typography that “serves” the text.

See also


  • Albert Kapr : book design. A specialist book for graphic artists, typesetters, printers, bookbinders, retouchers, reproduction technicians, photographers, manufacturers, publishers, booksellers, librarians, authors and everyone who loves books . VEB Verlag der Kunst, Dresden 1963
  • Jost Hochuli : Making books. An introduction to book design, especially book typography . Agfa Corporation, Wilmington (Mass.) 1989.
  • Wolfgang Kermer : Willi Baumeister - typography and advertising design. Edition Cantz, Stuttgart 1989, ISBN 3-89322-145-X (with Baumeister's theoretical texts.)
  • Hans Peter Willberg (Ed.): 40 years of book art. The development of book design as reflected in the competition “The Most Beautiful Books of the Federal Republic of Germany” 1951–1990 . 2nd revised edition of Buchkunst im Wandel . Book Art Foundation, Frankfurt am Main 1991, ISBN 3-7657-1369-4 .
  • * Karl Klaus Walther (Ed.): Lexicon of book art and bibliophilia. Munich and (as a licensed edition) Augsburg 1994.
  • Wolfgang Kermer (Ed.): Between book art and book design. Book designer for the academy and former arts and crafts school in Stuttgart: examples of works and texts. Ostfildern-Ruit: Edition Cantz, 1996, ISBN 3-89322-893-4 (including detailed bio / bibliographical data on, among others, Willi Baumeister, Gunter Böhmer, Walter Brudi, Johann Vincenz Cissarz, Heinz Edelmann, Paul Haustein, Hans Meid, Bernhard Pankok , Karl Rössing, FHErnst Schneidler, Kurt Weidemann).
  • The German Library and the Book Art Foundation (ed.): The perfect reading machine. From German book design in the 20th century . Book Art Foundation Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig, Frankfurt am Main 1997, ISBN 3-7657-2023-2 .
  • Jost Hochuli: Book design in Switzerland . 2nd Edition. Pro Helvetia, Swiss Cultural Foundation, Zurich 1998, ISBN 3-908102-10-3 .
  • Rainer Groothuis : How do books come to earth? About publishers and authors, manufacturers, sellers and designers, the calculation and the retail price, the beautiful book and related things . 2nd edition, Dumont, Cologne 2002, ISBN 3-7701-3164-9 .
  • Helmut Hiller, Stephan Füssel: Dictionary of the book . 6th edition. Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-465-032209 .
  • U. Rautenberg (Hrsg.): Reclams Sachlexikon des Buch . 2nd edition, Reclam, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-15-010542-0
  • City of Duisburg (Hg): Exquisite book treasures. The collection "Historical and Beautiful Books" of the Duisburg City Library, ibid. 2007 ISBN 9783892796343 (collection of 3500 printed works; introduction)
  • Mathieu Lommen, The Book of the Most Beautiful Books . Dumont, Cologne 2012. ISBN 3-8321-9378-2 .
  • Engraving and type art. Book design in the 18th century. Eds. Peter-Henning Haischer, Charlotte Kurbjuhn, Steffen Martus et al. Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2016 (= Wieland in context. Oßmannstedter Studies; 2), ISBN 978-3-8253-6543-1

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Kapr: book design . P. 13.
  2. ^ Hiller / Füssel: Dictionary of the book . P. 35.
  3. Both according to Temming: Suggestions for modern book design . P. 25 f.
  4. ^ Hochuli: Book design in Switzerland . P. 36 f.
  5. Kapr: book design . P. 11.
  6. ^ Hochuli: Book design in Switzerland . P. 10 f.
  7. Kapr: book design . P. 20.
  8. Kapr: book design . P. 33.
  9. Kapr: book design . P. 55.
  10. Kapr: book design . P. 43.
  11. Kapr: book design . P. 46.
  12. Kapr: book design . P. 55.