Alec Julien did a marvelous job laying out The Crocodile and The Fox! He is an incredibly talented designer who has been helping Our Golden Hour (OGH) with our publishing efforts. As you can see from the cover of the book, he knows how to make a book something you really want to open and read.
* You’ve laid out a lot of gorgeous books–and now The Crocodile and The Fox –what got you interested in book layout?
I’ve been in love with books since I was a kid. My dad would give me the Sunday New York Times book review section, and let me pick out one book; then we’d go to our local bookshop (they still had those back then!) and buy it. There was nothing like the heft of a
new book, the feel of the smooth edges of the paper, the smell of the ink, and the black print marching through the pages in imperfect, beautiful phalanxes. When I learned more about typography, and learned that I had a knack for working with it, book layout was just a natural outlet for me. I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to design some books, and really hope I can do a lot more of it.
* I know you create fonts–how do you pick a font for a project? And if you have five favorite fonts, what are they?
Choosing a font for a project is way more art than science, and so it’s difficult to describe the process. Or maybe it’s too easy — I look at a bunch of fonts until I see one that clicks. But that’s not quite true, either. I generally have an idea going in what sort of typefaces will probably work. It helps to have a solid foundation in typography, and some idea of the history of typography, and categorization of typefaces. If you know what typefaces were being used in propaganda poster design in the 1940s, and you know that the 1940s propaganda design vibe is something that would align with your current project, you have a huge head start on font choice.
Five favorite fonts? Sheesh, that changes every month or so. I’ll always love Minion most of all, as far as serif text fonts. When I was in grad school, I spent the better part of a month looking through font catalogues (the internet wasn’t useful enough at that point to serve as a font research tool), searching for a type family that was the perfect means for me to get my ideas onto paper. When I found Minion, it was love at first sight. What else? Avenir is a perennial favorite — so clean and strong and sleek. I used to hate Helvetica, but I’m growing to love it these days. It’s overused, and is certainly not the font for every project, but, boy, it’s a brilliant design. I’m sort of fascinated by condensed fonts lately. Directors Gothic is a cool family I’ve been playing with. Museo Slab deserves a mention here, too. It’s just a beautiful workhorse of a slab serif. Let’s do honorable mentions for SuomiHand, Cormorant, and Carrosserie.
Editor’s note: Check out Alec’s great fonts! http://www.myfonts.com/foundry/Haiku_Monkey/?sort=new
* How did you get involved with OGH?
I had designed several books for Tim Brookes, who obviously is an important part of the OGH family. I learned so much from him about endangered alphabets — something I’m ashamed to admit I was pretty clueless about — and so I was so happy to have him put OGH in touch with me about these children’s books. It has been a special treat to work with such great illustrations, and to figure out how to work text in and around the images. It has been a challenge to my usual sense of white space!
* What is the best part about doing this kind of design work?
All kinds of things are the best part! Working with great people on meaningful projects; using design to create something not just beautiful but functional; and having an actual physical product at the end of it all. It’s so great to see projects like this come to life on the printed page.
* What do you think about The Crocodile and The Fox –the book soon out by OGH?
The funniest part was reading the text for the first time. I was expecting a sweet story about trans-species friendships; but, no, it turned out not to be that at all! When I retold the story to my friends, there was this hilarious double-take they did — “Wait, that’s the end? Seriously? That’s for kids?” Then I thought about it a little, and realized that most of the children’s books I’ve read (and certainly the ones that have made an impact on me) are pretty dark. There’s something important about showing kids that life isn’t all happy endings; and kids are resilient enough to not get bummed out by this. It’s sort of a good lesson for any would-be Stoics out there. (I’m a philosopher, by training. Stoic philosophy is way more life-affirming than you might think. It’s all about accepting the things you can’t change, because fighting against them is just a waste of time, and in the end is more depressing than just accepting them.) Anyway, I’m not a child psychologist, so I should probably just shut up about this. I’ll just say I thought that the book is great, and the illustrations are beautiful and really tell the story as much as the text. And of course I’m psyched to be typesetting something in Marma! I hope I can help the language survive and thrive!