We are thrilled to start September with a celebration of one of our 2018 books, 500 Years of the Royal College of Physicians, which has been shortlisted for the British Book Design and Production Awards. Thoughtfully designed by John Dowling, and published in partnership with the Royal College of Physicians, this impressive, large-format anniversary history is a credit to 500 years of life-changing revolutions and medical innovation.
As we all know, great things take time, and this book was no exception. Our production director Simon Shelmerdine was instrumental in ensuring that the book’s design aspirations at the outset succeeded in the final printed product.
We chat to Simon about the production process behind this illustrated history and the challenges this book presented.
How long have you been working in production?
A good twenty years. I’ve always enjoyed reading and publishing seemed like a natural fit.
What do you read after hours?
Anything that keeps me awake after two pages. I’ll never say no to a classic crime novel.
What was the initial concept for the cover design of 500 Years of the Royal College of Physicians?
From the beginning we planned to create a large-format, landscape hardback that would reflect the richness of the historical material inside. This history needed to stand out on the bookshelves as an impressive publication, while also providing an enjoyable reading experience. It was important to reflect the historical nature of the book but also to appeal to modern design aesthetics and the vision of the College. The book was sold to the wider College community and provided as a gift for partners and friends of the College. To meet these two needs, we created an exclusive slipcase version, which gave us the opportunity to experiment with a bold, sleek design that would work across two formats.
What were the challenges with fulfilling this design concept, and how did you overcome them?
The challenges with this particular project were sourcing the correct grades of paper and binding materials that when combined together resulted in the superior quality and harmoniously designed book, which befitted a history of this great institution. That and working with our suppliers to pinpoint the optimum way (which happened to be screen-printing) of translating the designer’s vision for both the PLC and slipcase onto the uncoated embossed paperstock.
When it comes to the production of illustrated books, what would you say are the most important things to look out for when sending a book to the printer?
As ever has been the case, working to ensure that the images within your files and on the proofs you supply to the printer are correctly colour calibrated, with a sufficient amount of contrast and maximum detail to befit the paperstock you are printing on. Only in this way can you provide the press minder with a precise point of reference to match to during the make-ready process and when the job is run. Also, always write out your print figure on the purchase order as well as detailing it in numbers, to guard against producing far more than you envisaged with an erroneous digit.
What project would you say you’ve learned the most from?
My first! For although it was just a black-and-white monograph for a small academic press, I was responsible for every aspect of the book’s design and production, from briefing both typesetter and jacket designer to cutting and issuing the printer’s PO and vetting the advances. The body text ended up being a little small and the jacket was more utilitarian than visionary, but it was also a lot of fun and quite a challenge.