Diana Souza speaks of her work on the new book "Realms of Light" by clairvoyant Laurie Conrad.
To read the first chapter of Realms of Light go to A Designer’s Journal at www.canaryperch.com/diana07.html. Click on "Coal Mine" and then on "Designer’s Journal". As you read the Designer’s Journal, at the end of the first paragraph, you will see "HERE" in blue. Click on it and the chapter will come up on Adobe. On my computer the pages takes a long time to load, and I minimize Adobe until it’s done. This is the only chapter we will post online.
A DESIGNER'S JOURNAL by Diana Souza, illustrator & designer of The Spiritual Life of Animals and Plants, Realms of Light and Visits With Angels And Other Divine Beings : Entry June 17, 2007
June 2007 :
THE IMPORTANCE OF INTRO PAGES
The introductory pages of a book set the tone for the entire book, in regard to both the writing and design. Laurie Conrad loves extensive introductory pages –– there are TEN of them in Realms of Light. Though at one time in the history of book authoring, when the use of several introductory pages was in high vogue, it is very unusual for this century. Well-designed introductory pages, using graphics, not just text, can add distinctive character to a book. That's why I'm approaching the task of designing these introductory pages as an opportunity to not only present the concepts that the book is based on, but also as an opportunity to introduce the design of the book. Realms of Light has: a title page, four pages of Table of Contents, a Preface, a Frontispiece and an Introduction. It also has four section title pages and an Epilogue. This means my work is really cut out for me. The intro pages have to be designed as decorative heralds of the book's main body. They will strike the visual chord of the emotional tone of the book. That's why they're so important to the designer, and why so much effort is put into them.
VISUAL LITERACY: THROUGH A DESIGNER'S EYE
There is MORE that goes into design than the scientifically measurable aspects on the page. There is also a psychological component that is indiscernible to non-designers, yet which dynamically affects the overall emotional impact of the book on its readers. Like a composer who is trained to elicit subtle emotional responses through the notes in a musical score, a designer uses her tools --like font choice, line spacing, margins and white space-- to subliminally influence a viewer. Like musicians, a designer has no words to describe the intuitive way she arranges space so that a reader will experience a certain feeling from the work.
Teaching graphic design to college students, after a lifelong career as a designer, has taught me how hard it is to convey the more instinctive side of design: how to see the world and turn it into visual information that will be magnetic enough to entice someone to read it. No matter how much training is given in the basics of design, the more innate instincts for good design cannot be grasped by software alone. The Old School modes of teaching composition, layout, typography and art history come closer --much closer-- to being able to teach effective design.
Despite being surrounded by such a non-stop tidal wave of visual stimulai, the average person is, shockingly, downright visually illiterate. The assault of images and messages in our culture haven't really made us any more savvy about WHY these images and messages affect us so strongly. This implies that there's far more power in graphic design than is generally realized. We're still looked at as commercial decorators, just the people who assemble the visuals for the marketplace of consumers. That's one of the reasons why desktop publishing software has almost destroyed our profession (as well as increased the efficiency of its production): because now, people who aren't designers but who are willing to learn the software can produce their own graphics. And since everyone thinks that their own taste in art is GOOD taste, they're perfectly happy with what they themselves produce. This is because they don't really know that there are strategies underlying the work of professional designers, strategies that aren't teachable in software classes or manuals. To learn these more subtle aspects of design, one has to study art, psychology and geometry for utilizing classic spatial ratios like The Golden Mean and The Rule of Thirds.
The conclusion I've come to is that the role of a graphic designer is to be a visual translator: to take abstract ideas and translate them into visual form. This happens to some extent through the balanced use of typography, imagery and composition. It also involves no small degree of psychological strategizing. There's no formula, no rule of thumb for knowing how to charge a design with emotion tilted in a certain direction. That takes ingenuity and a certain level of thoughtful instinct. It takes insight into how humans think and how to capture the eye.
Most of all, it takes incisive communication skills.
White space too plays a huge role in this. Like the rhythmic silent pauses in music, white space on a page or screen design offers the eye a resting place, a quiet counterpoint within the body of information and imagery.
There's something mysterious about the use of white space that can make a design look elegant and graceful. Without effective white space integrated into a design, the effect is usually busy and crowded, not inviting to the eye. This clogs the information, makes it harder to access, which defeats the whole purpose of graphic design: capturing the attention of a reader by enticing their eyes.