Pro Designer Michael Rylander on Designing Books with Blurb

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rylander2 Pro Designer Michael Rylander on Designing Books with Blurb

Michael Rylander
has designed advertising, logos, and all manner of great creative work for companies like Apple, BMW, Lexus, and Google. He’s also created a fantastic collection of Blurb books from portfolios of his work to photo books inspired by his travel.

Michael’s tools of choice are Adobe® InDesign® and our PDF to Book workflow. He’s also a fan of our plug-in for InDesign and loves the way it streamlines the PDF to Book process.

Here, Michael shares some of his top tried-and-true tips for creating beautiful books. Read on and learn from someone who always inspires us with every Blurb book he makes. Plus, you can read more about Michael, Adobe, and Blurb over at

From Michael:

Details, details, details.
The myth is that great designers and artists create masterpieces in an instant. But it rarely happens that quickly. The secret to any successful project, be it painting, writing, or design, is obsessive attention to detail in the revision process. While the basic idea can come in a flash of inspiration, fleshing out is where the real magic happens. Don’t shortchange the small stuff: tweaking font sizes, shifting colors, getting rid of red eye, etc. And don’t give up until you feel it’s perfect. It’s the details that will elevate your book design from the rest of the pack.

Proof, proof, proof.
The sweet little secret about Blurb is that you can proof your book as many times as needed before publishing, for relatively little cost. In the old days of traditional publishing, you had more limited proofing options; each proof was wildly expensive, and it often took ages to turn around. With Blurb, I always build in several weeks to see proof books. There’s just no better way to improve your design than by holding the real thing in your hands.

Espana by Michael Rylander Pro Designer Michael Rylander on Designing Books with Blurb

Keep it simple.
Unless you’re going for a scrapbook look, keep the basic design simple. Don’t go crazy with too many different fonts, sizes and page layouts. I prefer to let the images and text provide diversity, while the basic design structure provides the reader with a framework in which to view the material.

Size it right.
Choose a page size that is appropriate for your style of book. For example, photography books shine in the bigger sizes like Large Landscape (13 x 11 inches) and Large Square (12 x 12 inches). Even though a landscape format will play better with many photographs, I’m in love with the square format. It takes a bit more work to make crops feel natural, but it’s worth the effort. To me the square format feels modern and classic at the same time.

Bugatti ad by Michael Rylander Pro Designer Michael Rylander on Designing Books with Blurb

Mind the gutters.
Pay attention to images that fall across the gutter. In general, I “spread” the photos 1/4″ to 1/2″. If you’re using InDesign, this means that you will have two picture boxes (one on each page of the spread) that contain the same photo, with overlap in the middle. The amount of imagery that gets swallowed up will vary depending on page count, so be prepared to test and adjust your gutter spreads over the course of several proof books.

Play with paper.
Paper stock and weight are a personal choice, but I’m partial to matte finishes. The trade-off is slightly less dense blacks, but the overall impression feels more high end. And if you really want to make a statement, try the new ProLine papers. I love the ProLine Uncoated and ProLine Pearl Photo. These papers are much nicer than you’ll find in many traditionally printed books.

Thanks, Michael.

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  1. Thanks for your thoughts, Michael. I’m an artist at heart, a counselor by trade. Made/received my first intended-proof Blurb book recently: medium size, square, matte finish as remembrance effort for friends’ European trip. The proof version is just right, as it is. Thanks for confirming my choices and for providing more tips I will use for future book projects.

    By Sandra Auer
      September 24, 2011 – 3:09 pm   Permalink
  2. Hi Sandra – Isn’t it nice when it works out that the proof book is the final? Glad to hear you are happy with the format. If you have a link to your book, I would love to check it out.

    Cheers, Michael

      October 4, 2011 – 1:23 pm   Permalink
  3. I love seeing the professional side of you, Michael. And, yes, I am impressed with your professionalism and attention to detail.Keep on, keepin’ on.

    By Mary Fontaine (Mom)
      October 5, 2011 – 8:18 am   Permalink
  4. I stumbled upon this blog entry while trying to figure out an appropriate font size for my book. I’m making a large landscape photo book with Blurb and I’ve got several text entries on different pages to explain some of the photos. I want to use Century Gothic for the font but was curious if a size 12 on a large landscape looks oddly large or does the font size look normal? Do you have a suggested font size for this sort of thing? Just curious!
    Thanks, Angela

      October 16, 2011 – 2:48 am   Permalink
  5. Hey Angela,

    Great question. I asked around, and here’s the response I received from one of our in-house bookmaking pros:

    12 point type for a 12 x 12 or a 13 x 11 sized book will work great. It will not be too large, as these larger sized books are better off with slightly larger fonts.

    The last 12 x 12 book I made had 12 and 14 point fonts used for captions…..

    So there you go. You should also be able to get a pretty good idea when you look at your book in the book preview.



    By Kent
      October 17, 2011 – 3:34 pm   Permalink

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