The Files of Know Return
Editorial Design, Graphic Design, Print
Yarden Vered, a close friend and aspiring poet, received an opportunity to sell a booklet of his poems at an alternative book fair, taking place at the annual Israeli “book week”. Four days before it began, he showed me his booklet: black Times New Roman text on A4 white pages. Horrified, I imagined people disregarding his work due to the booklet’s unprofessional looks. I volunteered to come up with visuals to accompany them; trusting my abilities as a designer, Yarden gave me almost full autonomy to redesign the booklet.
Believing every product in this world - digital or not - has a user experience, I approached it while keeping in mind the heuristics of the user-centered design method, since I didn’t have the time to fully follow the process. Poems in their essence can be tricky to figure out, and most will ask: “What was the poet’s intention?”
A bit of mystery adds to the readers’ experience. Too much of it can deteriorate the experience of reading a poem and having no clue about its’ meaning ruins the experience outright, discouraging the audience from buying the booklet.
My guiding question therefore was:
“How can I hint the poet’s intention to the users using visuals, without making it too obvious?”
Since it was an “alternative” fair, we figured that most people choosing to visit and not go to the more mainstream fairs would be experienced readers.
The poems had no titles, which can help in hinting the users about the poem’s subject. While we were brainstorming, I came up with the idea of using icons as titles- each poem would get an icon.
We picked one of the poems and he walked me through it. Yarden helped me to comprehend the meaning behind it and let me in what he had felt while writing it, so I could successfully convey it into graphics.
Considering the short time I had, I decided not to create my own icons, and instead to use the Noun Project’s wide range of great icons and alter them according to the needs.
Having no budget at all, we wished to minimize the printing costs. We decided to stick with black only and line graphics. I did want the booklet to have a softer feel and thus advised Yarden to invest in recycled paper, with its warmer feel and added color.
The font choice proved difficult, as I was torn between the need to have an easy to read font for optimal usability, and the wish for a more intimate - possibly handwritten - styled font. Eventually, I found the perfect one lay between the two.
Getting the job done
Using the walk-through Yarden gave me on one of the poems, I created a draft and luckily I was spot on with the style. Having defined the style, I tasked him with giving me a subject for each of the poems, and I proceeded with designing the rest.
Some of the icons morphed into full-page illustrations to give the booklet a more dynamic flow. I iterated some of the designs in the few hours I had left after getting Yarden’s notes, and managed to create a booklet we were both happy with just in time.
Success, reflection & future plans
Considering the short amount of time we had to produce it, I would say it was a big success. Yarden sold more than a hundred copies in the three days of the fair, receiving positive feedback from the readers. My design had upgraded Yarden’s simple booklet into a professional looking one, which made people take him seriously and engage in the poems.
Through this process, I learned how beneficial it is to work closely with your client, how it can simplify the process, especially when working under pressure. Reflecting on the project, I wish I had the time to actually test the booklet on its variations with users, to verify or refute my assumptions, so I would have more concrete knowledge about readers’ behavior while reading poems.
Excited about the sales, Yarden decided to open a Facebook page to keep publishing his poems. Happy to help, I’m working on adapting my design into a brand identity, in order to brand the page in a way consistent with the booklet’s successful design.