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What makes a good book layout?

Designing for educational publishing is a delicate balance of many factors. Such designs are a mainstay of Wild Apple Design, with over 20 years experience of working in this arena, we have designed all manner of resources for different age ranges and markets. So for this post, we had our Apples step away from the process, dissect methodologies and design decisions to think about just how considered the designs can be ...

So what makes a good book layout? Attached at the bottom of the page, is a link to a double-page spread that delves deeper into specific design elements and features commonly found in educational publications.

I. Consider the audience, subject, and market to help inform your design decisions.

The age of the reader can help suggest the style of the design. For example, a younger reader may suit the storybook style, whereas teenagers may suit an engaging, real-world, magazine type design. The market, both geographically and demographically, will impact the direction in which a design can be taken.

2. Considered use of fonts

Age-appropriate fonts and those that are complementary to the subject, are essential factors in producing a design, which looks the part but remains legible and functional. It's almost an invisible design decision if done correctly. When designing for younger readers, letter shapes need to be the starting point for your design, typographically. Using a font family with a variety of weights, can help limit font use, keeping designs legible, clean and cohesive. Conversely, using fonts that complement your primary selection, such as scripts and mixing sans/sans serif fonts, for your features, titles and boxes will help with reader navigation. Just remember, don’t use too many!

3. Learning Styles

Often, in an educational environment, the author will include a variety of learning methods, within the manuscript, to appeal to a variety of learning styles. It is our job, as creatives, to ensure our designs are impactful, yet remain functional within any given feature or exercise.

4. Clever use of colours

Consistent colour use helps to gel pages together and limiting your colour palette will help with design clarity and subject navigation. The use of accent colours, for; features, photos and artworks, can help make the page design pop. However, ensure coloured fonts are legible, especially within a feature design on a coloured background.

5. Make sure the amount of material, on-page, is digestible

The saying ‘Less is more…’ can ring very true when it comes to page design. The use of white space is a great way to add breathing room to the design and help pace the reader. Sometimes the written content will often take precedent, having to meet syllabus markers. In these cases, the skill of the designer is balancing the heavy content, with a sympathetic design to help lift the page, add interest and retain the reader's concentration.

6. Consider artwork style and photos, to give the material authenticity

The style and ‘feel’ of any photographic or illustrative elements are often decided by editorial, prior to the layout of content. However, from a design perspective, the use of frames, cut-outs and ‘select’ treatments can help add continuity and familiarity to the scheme.

7. Use clear navigation to help with reading order

Signpost icons, waypoints, exercise numbering and consistent orientation of sectioning/columns, are all useful ways of helping the learner navigate the page and its content. Within an individual exercise, or element, font hierarchy can help steer the reader through the content.

8. Use graphic devices to help make your page come alive, engaging the reader

Shapes, text holders and feature boxes can be used to great effect, housing one-off, or regularly occurring features. Not only does this add interest to the page and help to engage the reader, but the consistent use of a feature box helps with recognition, so the learner develops connectivity and familiarity with the information.

We hope that these tips help your designs, so your pages are not only beautiful to look at, but engaging. If you have books or resources that need designing, project management or consultancy, please do get in touch.

If you would like to see more tips and insights, please check out our social media. We also have a quarterly newsletter which you can sign up to.

Please click here to view our ‘Page Design’ spread

Wild Apple Page Design Spread
Download PDF • 7.41MB


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