Anna Karenina

Designing a classic Russian novel using only typographic elements

Role: Book Designer
Duration: 3 weeks
Tools & Techniques: InDesign, typographic hierarchy, grids
Project Brief
This project was part of the ‘Document Design’ course. The objective was to design a book given the raw translated text of the Russian novel ‘Anna Karenina’. I designed interior spreads, chapter openers, running feet, a title page, the table of contents, a colophon and the book jacket (front cover, back cover, and spine).
The design involved the following constraints:

1) The entire book interior had to be designed using only type, and no other graphical elements.
2) Only black and white could be used, except for the book jacket.
3) We could only choose one typeface for the interior. 
4) The book jacket could use one additional typeface, and minimal color and graphical elements.
5) The page size and spine had to reflect a realistic size of the book, including all the raw text.
Final Book Design
The InDesign online publication below has the final book design including the following elements in order:
1) Book Jacket including back cover, spine and front cover
2) Title Page Spread
3) Table of Contents Spread
4) Part Opener Spread
5) Chapter Opener Spread
6) Interior Spread
7) Colophon
Process

Texture and Margin Studies
I started off by selecting a typeface and leading for the interior spreads, which form the meat of the book. I chose Baskerville Regular with 10 pt size and 14.25 leading, for its pleasing texture. My exploration involved observing extremes of texture, with changes in typeface, leading, and justification.
Some of the different textures I explored. I went ahead with the one on the bottom right
Page Size 
I was intent on having the book size small. I initially chose a size of 5 x 7.5 inches. I cut out the frame of the book based on this size and liked the way it felt in my hands. I calculated though, that this could cause the size of the spine to be enormous, more than 1100 pages. I changed the size to 6.5 x 9 inches, which worked out to about 600 pages, and a spine that was 1.6 inches thick. I personally feel that a higher width/height ratio makes for a more intimate book. I associate books that feel vertically long to be esoteric and academic. That was not the impression I wanted to give to readers of Anna Karenina. 
Top: A spread with page size 5 by 7.5 inches. It was more intimate and informal, but the book  bloated, with about 1100 pages.
Bottom: A spread with page size 6.5 by 9 inches. This addressed the concern on the size of the book.
Grid System
I wanted large margins, to make the book informal, but I was mindful of the book being too large as a result. I chose a left margin of 1.25 inches (on the left side of spreads), and a top margin of 1 inch, enough to make the top left of each spread the focal point for a reader. A margin of 1 inch on either side of the spine gives enough flexibility to hold the book in a comfortable position. A bottom margin of 1.25 inches, with the footer resting 0.75 inches from the bottom makes the chapter name and page number easily accessible for the reader, without competing with the body text.
Front Cover Exploration
I found the theme of the train really interesting, throughout Anna Karenina. I wanted to play on that graphically. I realized though that it was taking away from that period, from the aristocracy of the time. I went back to focusing on type. And then I added some elements and color to reflect the importance of Anna Karenina to the story, and to draw attention to her name as well as that of Leo Tolstoy. The Belgian lace pattern is also meant to hint at aristocracy and wealth.
Top: Two versions of a front cover that I designed. I realized that this didn't fit the era in which the novel was set. I stripped it down into a purely typographical cover (bottom), and then later added color.
Learnings
My explorations on this project have given me the confidence to pick the right combination of typeface, leading and alignment for a given project. I learnt the nuances of book publishing. Keeping the book size and spine in mind was quite challenging. Since this project, I have been mindful of how choosing a certain type can influence the message behind the content. I also learnt to think outside of my comfort zone, as I did with the book cover. 

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