Notes from a discussion with Derek Birdsall on book design, part of an essay found in TypoGraphic Writing. The comments are circa 1978, but still entirely relevant today. A few choice bits from the end of the essay:
The whole satisfaction with designing is to get better at pleasing yourself — to get better at developing your own taste so that your own taste is more demanding. I just don’t agree with the philosophy that the solution has got to be self-evident. That would make it meaningless — a clichÃ©.
What really matters is how you think it should be, and how good you are at getting it right and convincing others by your conviction and professionalism that it is right.
One of the most original things today is to produce work beautifully. Most people seem to have forgotten how to do it.
It applies to writing, design and artwork — create beautiful work that will make you happy. If you’re passionate about what you produce, it shouldn’t be too hard to bring people around. As artists, we have the tendency to be our own worst critics. It’s not worth it, the effort can be better applied elsewhere.
If you get the chance, flip through a copy of Birdsall’s Notes on Book Design. He explains his grid systems and methods for proportional representation of artwork. When you see how the various pieces relate to each other, you get a better sense of scale and scope.