Monthly Archives: February 2014

A Moment of Recognition

Comparison of two versions of hand drawn "Baseball" type

MLB’s “Baseball” from 2014 (top) and ours from 1989.

When you hand draw type, you become very closely acquainted with that particular piece of language. After spending days with it, you would recognize it anywhere—kind of like how you would instantly recognize one of your own children, even if they were a block away and walking in the opposite direction. I recently had a fun moment like this with the word “Baseball.”

In 1989 (twenty-five years ago!) Mary Parsons and I designed a wonderful book by photographer John Weiss called The Face of Baseball. It contained a stunning collection of portraits of some of the best known players in the game. John Weiss’s photography had a rich, burnished, old-world feel to it and we decided to make the cover typography similarly “old-timey.” After looking at lots of historical uniform typography, we decided to draw our own version of the word “Baseball” that would pay  homage to the history of the game.

So the other day, being a huge baseball fan myself (Go Sawx!), I’m reading the latest news on my MLB At-Bat app when I stumble across a full-screen ad for “RBI Baseball 14.” And that word “Baseball” jumps right out at me as being one of my own.

There’s no question that the designer completely redrew this lettering. And, as you might expect, he or she improved it in a number of interesting ways. But there is also no doubt that the designer had our twenty-five year-old book right there on their desk when they did it. This is the way hand-lettering works, of course. I had countless sources on my desk in 1989 when I drew my version. My version was one of the sources on their desk when they drew theirs.


The All-important Second Edition

It was like a second Christmas here yesterday. Fedex delivered samples of three major textbook titles containing our design work. We are most excited about seeing and holding the all-important second edition of Visual Anatomy & Physiology.

Jim holds the second edition of Visual Anatomy & Physiology

Over a year in the making, it sure is great to hold this baby.

The first edition was wonderfully successful, selling over 20,000 copies into a market where half that counts as a winner. But many professors simply do not trust a first edition of any textbook. And that’s a hesitation I can understand. Writing, illustrating, and designing a new 1000-page science textbook is such a major undertaking that it is bound to fall short in at least a few respects. With second and succeeding editions, everyone has time to refine and polish the thing until it really shines.

I’m very proud of this edition of Visual Anatomy & Physiology. In particular, we extended and reworked all of that usually unloved, end-of-chapter review and self-test material until it was as good as we would want it to be if we were taking this course ourselves. With most textbooks, this material is never seen by the designers, but rather falls into the hands of compositors whose only real goal is to see how small and compact they can make it so the book doesn’t get too long. In this edition, the publisher let us design and lay out all of the end-of-chapter material and we think it is dramatically better for it.

Because the publisher, Pearson, is the biggest textbook publisher in the world, they have the resources to extensively test these books. The feedback from students is the most rewarding thing. Here is a sampling …

“The reading hits every point so clearly …. Best textbook ever!”  –Tanielle Dobson

“I study better now than I ever have before.”  –Courtney Poland

“Visual A&P really improved my grade.”  –Callistus Nwobu

“This textbook genuinely helped me understand concepts better than my current textbook. I would retake this class next year if this book was our textbook and would understand everything perfectly. I’m so jealous of next year’s class if they get this textbook.”  –Allison Walker

Visual Anatomy & Physiology side view

At almost 2″ thick and over 1,100 pages, this is one hefty body of knowledge.

When we work on a project like this for more than a year, we begin to wonder whether it will ever become a real book. But here it is. Almost 2″ thick. Over 1,100 detailed and beautifully illustrated pages, all prepared in a new way that makes this daunting body of knowledge clear and accessible. Very gratifying.