Blossoms and Ballet and . . . Vignelli Grids

comments: 10

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Oh, we have had a busy, busy few weeks around here. Amelia's ballet school performed Don Quixote over the weekend and it was just fantastic. I'd never seen that ballet before and I loved it. Andy and I watched three performances of it (one on Saturday with Amelia, so she could see it, and two of her performances on Sunday) so — luckily, we loved it! They were looooong. Two and a half hours each. But wow, they did a great job. The costumes were just gorgeous — the skirts on almost every costume were just layers and layers of fantastic ruffles, and the colors were so pretty. Salmon, mint greens, dusty greens, mustards, reds. This ballet was mostly the big kids at the school, including all of the graduating seniors, who each come out onstage and are introduced by the owner of the school, who shared their accomplishments and got choked up almost every time she mentioned, very movingly, what she was going to miss about each one of them. Amelia's class (the "little kids" in this ballet, though the school does other performances that include even the littlest toddlers) were the "Village Cleaners" and they each got to leap over a broomstick onstage. She (and everyone) did so great and, I don't know, these ballet performances really move me, every time. It makes all of the driving and the waiting not "worth it," exactly, because obviously it's all worth everything — but we don't get to watch them dance on a daily basis anymore (no room in this school for parents to watch), so I really just love seeing these performances so much. Amelia had a great time and is sad that she'll have to wait until Nutcracker season for the next one. Maybe she'll do ballet camp this summer. 

I have been ferrying this dancer back and forth all over the place lately so my time to work has been tucked into every corner, it seems, and I won't lie — I'm kinda tired and could use some downtime. I played Pickleball yesterday and that was great.

(Amelia won a cake at the school carnival cakewalk, which was very exciting until we tasted the cake [the label from the fancy grocery store was still on it and I could see that somebody had paid $35 for it!] and it was absolutely disgusting — dry as a bone and with gluey, inedible frosting. Wah! Still quite exciting.)

I've been working on the cookbook like crazy. Every morning I get up and drink coffee in bed early, before anyone else is awake. I read stuff on my iPad and just generally surf around. One morning I read this excellent article by Kendra Aronson about her experience self-publishing a cookbook. In it she said, "Design dictates everything," and mentioned the concept of the Vignelli grid. So I watched that video and knew that, although I had been diligently making recipe lists and writing recipes into a Word document (yes, more to come on the promised style sheets discussion), the design — or my lack of any concrete ideas about it — was really bugging me. I felt like I needed to get some kind of handle on it in order to move forward, so Kendra's article came at the perfect time.

Creating a Vignelli grid made sense to me because I knew I was wanting to use a lot of my blog photos for my book. Not as the main food shots but just as supplemental lifestyle shots throughout the book. Because almost all of my blog photos (for the last ten years or so) have been sized so that they show up at a reasonable size onscreen — they are 660px x 495 px, or about 7" x 9" at 72dpi (which is the resolution used to view images onscreen). But when you print images on paper, they need to be at a much higher "resolution" — that is, they need to be at 300 dpi (dots per inch). Dots are like pixels, but for printing. Once you've resized your photo, the dots you have are the dots you have -- you can't really create dots (you sort of can, but let's just keep this simple). You can't create more dots. So resizing an image that is 660px x 495px at 300dpi brings its print dimensions all the way down to about 2.2" x 1.65". So, pretty small. Nevertheless, I have thousands of photos at this size, so they are going in the book

I decided to create my Vignelli grid out of blocks that were about this size (2.2" x 1.65"). After a lot of tweaking and watching this video I created a modular grid that was three blocks wide and five blocks tall, on a letter-sized (8.5" x 11", which is listed as one of the hardback sizes that Amazon will print on demand) document, all matched perfectly to my baseline grid. I knew about the baseline grid (basically, a design grid that makes sure that all of your type is consistently lined up from page to page) from the novel-design Skillshare class I had watched. 

So: Once I had figured out how to get this all set up in InDesign (by Googling and watching videos) I had a grid template on which I could build my design. Can you see how it works? I've inserted these sample-page screenshots so that they are quite large; click on them to see them even bigger if you'd like.

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Can you see how things, from pictures to text, get slotted into the grid? Pretty cool!

I also picked some fonts — one serif font (for titles and headnotes) called Bodoni Egyptian Pro Light and one sans serif font (for ingredients and directions) called Proxima Nova Thin. Picking out fonts gives me a massive headache, to be honest. I don't know that these will be my final fonts but I like them. I did not want a trendy display font, or a handwriting font, or a cutesy Posie-ish font. I just wanted very simple fonts that were classic and would not look dated in two years. And ones that just felt "right." Fonts are bizarre. I have to be in the right mood to think about them, otherwise my brain gets super tangled up, for some reason.

Originally, I was going to finish my whole manuscript in MS Word before flowing any of it into design. But that's really a "traditional publishing" kind of workflow. When you're doing your own design, it just makes sense to me to write directly into the design document, so that you literally are writing to fit, for the most part.  I haven't quite figured out the details yet, but plugging the recipes directly into the design is already alerting me to potential problems with that, etc., and I'd rather know now. What I've done this week is basically make an entire book dummy, and assigned pages for sections, chapters, recipes, intros, frontmatter, backmatter, index, everything. Now everything has a place, and in theory this book is 222 pages long. So we'll see how that all holds, or shakes out, as we go!

One thing I am really confused about is some of the printing details at Amazon. I can't find anywhere where they tell you whether to use jpgs or tiffs, or whether you should submit files in RGB or CMYK. I was assuming CMYK but there was some chatter online that I could find where people were saying that they strip all color profiles before printing anyway? Is that a thing? Like, when you export as a PDF does it still matter? If anyone knows, please advise. I talked to my friend who is a production director at a book publishing company and she said they submit jpgs to their printers. And I also contacted another self-published cookbook author on Amazon who said she submitted all tiffs. . . . Hrmmmm.

I'll try to talk about style sheets next time!

10 comments

karen b says: May 25, 2023 at 11:27 AM

I work in publishing, and it is kind of nuts how much certain things vary. I only ever submit jobs to printers as PDFs, ones with particular specs. My printers always want CMYK, which is a good starting assumption, but I hear that it can be desirable these days to use RGB for some jobs and some printers. The version of myself from my late 90s job in photo processing shrieks in disbelief. It sounds like you have some resources and you seem to be doing amazing with getting your bearings so far. Seriously, I'm impressed at how well you've worked things out.

I clicked on the muffin recipe and it appears to be in Italian! I may be wrong but it sure looks like it to me. Can't wait for your cookbook to be published.(In English, I'm sure.) I'm a long time reader of your blog and many of your recipes are in rotation at my house.

I worked in print production for a long time, but we custom printed all of our materials. I just want to be sure you're not comparing Amazon's print on demand to custom printed materials. There is a difference, especially with photos. I just want to make sure you understand this as you proceed. Best wishes!

Hi Alicia! I miss watching my daughter’s ballet performances, so much. Everything about them. So much to soak up. I love Amelia’s t-shirt on her, she owns it in a way that is confident and young and full of heart.❤️

It’s so inspiring that you are writing a cookbook! I realized last year that I wanted to write one for my kids, but of course I would never know where to start. But I want to do it!? I think? Anyways, I recently got a book about dahlias by Kristine Albrecht, and she has them printed on demand by Amazon. She seems like such a nice person and she is so generous with her knowledge, I was thinking you could ask her those printing questions. She is at santacruzdahlias.com (sorry, I doubt that is a link b/c I don’t know how to do that, even😂)

Christine says: May 30, 2023 at 09:20 AM

What you wrote about watching the dance performances made me tear up. My daughter stopped dance classes about 4 years ago. But for many years of recitals, I would cry watching kids I didn't even know dance. It was very moving to see kids celebrate their beautiful talents. Kids singing also does this to me - I heard the sweetest version of the National Anthem at a track meet last week.

melissa glynn says: May 30, 2023 at 12:31 PM

all i know is that me and my ordering pinky will be patiently waiting for this book. and i will buy one for me and for my aunty and my best friends and one for Julia to have when she's older.....MANY COPIES is what I'm saying ha ha ha!

Mary Ann in Vermont says: May 31, 2023 at 07:32 AM

Just have to say over and over again and again that seeing a new blog post from you brings me the most incredible joy! I sit myslef right down to read each sentence and lose myself in each photo. As much as I enjoy the other forms of soical media there is nothing in this world as beautiful as Posie Gets Cozy. I imagine it takes lots of work and time but please, know that you bring such a sence of serenity, goodness, and delight to my heart and soul, Dear One. Thank you for all of your continued efforts always. xo

You're doing great work on your cookbook! I'm a graphic designer and I have a few comments:

◾ Remember that RGB is red-green-blue plus LIGHT. Once your image moves from your bright monitor to paper, things can go flat. Best practice is to convert your images to CMYK and tweak them before you put them into InDesign. You may need to adjust the saturation and/or contrast.

◾ I find that exporting a pdf from InDesign makes it possible to fudge the resolution of images a bit. Sometimes I even go as low as 150-200 dpi. Just export the pdf and check (never trust your screen).

◾ You'll want to export using the Print Quality setting in Adobe unless Amazon gives you custom settings.

◾ Don't wait too long to choose your fonts. Different fonts, even if they are the same point size and have the same leading, can affect how much space your text will occupy. The characters might be fatter or thinner; the character spacing might be tighter or looser. It's better to design with your final fonts in place.

Good luck! If you run into problems, feel free to shoot me a message.

Elizabeth says: June 13, 2023 at 06:31 PM

I can't wait to see the cookbook, I'm sure it will be lovely! Always look forward to your blog posts.

What an exciting few weeks you've had! From the captivating ballet performances to your dedicated work on the cookbook, your passion and attention to detail are truly inspiring. Wishing you continued success in your creative endeavors!

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About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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