A manifesto on design in publishing

A manifesto on design in publishing

"Design thinking" is a way to work — on anything. So we told anyone who would listen when I was executive producer to Copenhagen's INDEX: Design to Improve Life awards programme. And as today's manifesto writer, Sophie O'Rourke of emc design ltd, tells us, our commercial world pulses with design. O'Rourke reminds us that frequently a publishing project gets nothing called "design" until a bit of cover art is roughed up by an illustrator who hasn't even read the book. Granted, O'Rourke is with a design studio. But in the same way that it takes illustrator Sarah McIntyre to remind us that #pituresmeanbusiness or translator Simon Bruni to remind us to #namethattranslator or picture book author Jonathan Emmett to tell us that boys need books that are #coolnotcute, it simply takes design people to remind us about design. Designers, O'Rourke says, "are problem solvers at heart." Not that publishing has any problems, heavens no. — Porter Anderson


'Designers are problem solvers at heart'

The average Joe is more design-aware than ever, even if not aware of it. Steve Jobs said “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” He was talking about UX design here as much as he was about the form. So, if didn't doesn’t work, why would a user continue to invest in you and your product? 

We passionately believe that if you make design and designers an integral part of the publishing process, instead of leaving design to the end, you will see incredible results. 

Designers are problem solvers at heart, who continually look to new software and processes to find a solution. Publishers need to work more closely with them and take advantage of their skills.

Make design an integral part of the publishing process

▪    Start by getting design involved earlier on in the process. Include designers in scoping out the project. Allow them to integrate with marketing, finance and editors.

▪    Get everyone who is involved in the project thinking about how it will look and work. Use designers to help get your authors to think visually about their content. You may get away with not thinking about the design until the end if you’re producing a print course book but if you’re writing for an app, if the content and the design don’t marry up you’ll  have a product that doesn’t work and consequently won’t sell.

▪    Getting the brief right from the start is also really crucial. And we would urge you to work with your designers in honing this. We’ve seen so many projects go over budget because the design brief keeps changing.

▪    If you don’t think your brief is good enough or meets what you’re trying to achieve, ask your designers to advise you on getting it right.

▪    And use your designers as experts; ask them what is achievable and what’s not.

If you make design more central to the publishing process, you will ensure that materials function according to your users' needs. And visually they will stand out – meaning that they will compete more successfully in a busy marketplace and ultimately make you more money.


We're interested in having your "Five-Minute Manifesto" for The Future of the Book Business. In his article, Those magnificent manifestos, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones renews his call for the FutureBook audience to reflect on five years of digital "to challenge the customs we have begun to adopt." The response is so robust that I've extended our deadline for submissions of manifestos to Monday (7th September). See below for details and a list of those published to date. Your statement, preferably no more than 500 words, should be sent to Porter.Anderson@theBookseller.com. Please send along a headshot and short bio, as well.

And mark your diary for The FutureBook Conference, 4th December, The Mermaid, London. More details are coming Tuesday 8th September.

#FutureBook15 manifestos:

Main image - iStockphoto: IPGGutenbergUKLtd