Some things just work. Some things are just easy—perhaps even delightful—to use. Often the user won’t be able to exactly articulate why they love a product—they just love it. The same is true for book design. Some books look and feel great. Some books are laid out well, and some are a hot mess. Sometimes the design genius or flaws are obvious. Other times, they are more subtle.
It doesn’t matter how good a book’s contents are, if it is essentially unusable. A book’s design should get out of the way and let the reader read. A module’s layout should facilitate the GM actually running the adventure. After all, that’s what they are for. That is their purpose.
As a publisher, you must deeply consider how your customers will actually use your books—and facilitate that use. For example, the glorious full-colour background image on every page might look fantastic on a tablet or computer screen, but it’s going to be substantially less fantastic when it is printed on cheap paper in draft black and white format.
Consider, for example:
- That font you love? Is it readable?
- The colours and font size you use? Are they visible to someone with less than great vision?
- The layout you slaved over? Does it present the book’s contents in a readable and useable fashion?
As a publisher it is critical you understand who is buying and using your products. It’s also critical to understand how they use them—and to help them get what they want out of the product. This is true in any industry. It doesn’t matter how you think someone should use your products. What matters is how they use them.
For example: you could design an amazing, full-colour interactive book designed to look amazing on a high-end tablet. That’s great—and I’m sure it looks fab—unless your customers prefer to print out their purchases. Then you’ve not only wasted a ton of time and money designing things your customers don’t actually want, but you’ve also—probably—frustrated your customer as well. That’s not ideal.
Invisible design begins before you start layout. It starts before you commission design words and art. Invisible design begins when you consider—and consider deeply—what your customers want and need from your books. Only then can you start to actually plan and design your book.