Have the courage to use your own understanding

If you feel that marketing seems sort of superficial, trendy or ineffective, it may be because of the quirky nature of social media. Then there is the weighing of social media against SEO. Searching still seems to be the number one indicator of how people find things or at least attempt to find things whereas often diversion and multiple choices lead us astray. So for business sake we have to do both, do everything, all the time, just to keep up with the other guy and maybe we will by some small grace, some gift of intellect or creative genius, out smart the big guy. Some of us will think that sounds idealistic or pollyana-ish while at the same time think it has been known to happen, right, or more of the same? The big guys have all the money and can afford to do anything and make us think that maybe we can, too, while we struggle in the wake with our small change. It’s the American Dream. Courageous ambition, hard work, adventure, discovery, they may not be all myths.

Perhaps there is a little myth in the way I never know how things are going to go from a prompt to download a new version of compression software that I need to prep files for, say, amazon.com Search Inside The Book program. This program is supposed to help people not only find a book due to the ‘tag’ effect of words in the book but allows them to see it and read it, want to buy it, but not download it. The recommended way of delivering files to amazon is in a zip file, a compressed pack of files with cover jpegs and content PDF. I don’t know how much time I spent downloading and setting up a bit of software to accomplish this task but when it came to creating the archive, there was an error. Restarting didn’t help.

All this in order to perhaps sell a few more books and eventually offer them as ebooks, too, on amazon. Amazon used to scan books for this. Maybe they still do but my sense is they would rather not pay somebody to do this when it should be simple to upload a PDF. And it is. The snag is how to get the required covers to go along. I’m going to stop trying to figure a way to put them together and send them separately. I don’t have time for searching for the program or technical troubleshooting.

Such is the life of the little guy who has to hesitate to spend 30 or 80 dollars to get the full version of software that supposedly does this task of compression. Now I wonder if it makes sense to purchase the software or if even then it will fail and another hour or day will be spent in tech support trying to solve whatever the issue is. Haven’t we all had that experience? We think we need some internet security software that costs a mere 89.00 but for some reason we weren’t told that it is not compatible with our current system so we don’t find out until we install it.

It may be because half the time I am still using an older computer and operating system. There is a dilemma to the ever-changing and improving computer and its operating system, utilities, browsers, applications, all will become no longer able to function or use the new plug-ins, for example, especially with browsers, and, most importantly, they become less secure. So, as delimitating as this is, as frustrating and demoralizing, there is no getting around the eventual upgrade. It has to be planned. Just as parents try to instill the need for income, the work ethic and sense of business our young people must understand in order to continue to make more income, so should the sense that we must keep up with the improvements in technology. No matter how much we think Ford had the right idea, or that obsolescence is planned, corporations are just out to get our money and keep us down, we have to suck it up and keep that job. Keep our computers equipped with the latest software and extensions, utilities and all the rest because your business, personal identity and valuable data will become at risk.

I may sound a bit sarcastic, but I believe there actually is some truth to this. Being young and idealistic without being enterprising or realistic can lead to dilemmas, even poverty. But money is not everything. Wealth does not equal happiness.

In a recent article in The Economist (June 16th, page 52) “Money can’t by me love” discussing the Chinese people, the Confucian phrase leads, “admirable indeed” is a man who has only a begging bowl yet “did not allow his joy to be affected.” Even the thought that rulers are concerned with the people’s happiness seems out dated but studies show that in China surveys show that the people who expect their living standards to improve in five years went up “from 62% in 2004 to 73% in 2009.” With a Chinese growing economy there is also growing discontent thought to be due to “procedural injustices, abuses of power and the lack of resources.”

Do I come away from this with a notion that rulers and corporations try to use human behavior and habits to keep them engaged with money and merchandise as to keep them happy so they, the rulers and corporations can do what they want, or that it’s the same wherever we go? In this country, the USA, many are concerned with the enormous wealth being held by large companies and how the courts have given them almost carte blanche to influence political campaigns appearing to take away the democratic process while little is said about how people can organize to use power of their own.

There almost seems to be a trend in politics to divide and conquer, and it doesn’t stop there, if we think, we can go on to misrepresentations, blaming, deceptions, and more until it becomes bigger than life and our sense of futility grows driving us into some comfort zone. As if that is just where they want us to be. It all looks rather morose and incomprehensible.

Somehow we need to do our best at what we do and even better to find a way to compromise, to understand each other, to resist the urge to be unforgiving or assuming the worst and projecting onto one another things that are false beliefs. Somehow we must find the courage to use our own understanding and say and do things that unify us. We can always complain but it takes real leadership and real love to reach out and try to make a situation better.

Now, if I sound overly optimistic, look at this.


Notes on book design, sacred geometry; good sources

The ancients, perhaps even neolithic man,  medieval and renaissance man, had some knowledge or imagination for geometry and math that could express evolution and gnomonic growth principles of proportion. Mathematically these can be shown in ratios, square roots, and spirals or sequences like the Fibonacci series.

The basis for some of these are addition and multiplication. Multiplication being an advanced form of addition, 4 x 4 = 4+4+4+4, for example. The Golden Proportion and the Golden Section being familiar to some designers as in the golden rectangle. Geometrically these can be drawn in a couple of ways, based on equations like 1=1/a2 + 1/a, named by the Greeks Ø (phi) seeking a division of Unity.

An example of design can be found in early book pages like the Lindisfarne Gospels (c. AD 700) which shows proportions based on the 3,4,5 “Pythagorean” triangle.

the golden rectangle; note the right triangle in the semi-circle, “Theorem of Thales,” expressions of ø (phi) “division into the extreme and mean terms.”

Another geometric drawing can reveal the golden rectangle based on the division of two squares and an arc constructing a rectangle which, when combined with one of the squares creates the golden rectangle. Ø The Golden Proportion is inseparably related to the square root of 5 function and the construct of a pentagon.

The ancients used proportion and the relationship between squares and spirals to express unity and the sacred in their architecture.

The Fibonacci Series is an additive progression in which the two initial terms is added together to form the third term and where any two successive terms to be approximately in relation to one another as 1 : Ø, a form of the Golden Ratio or infinite decimal equivalent. This series has been found to express patterns in nature.

The golden rectangle and similar proportions are what interest me most in book design as seen in many Medieval and Renaissance page designs as discovered and applied by early 20th century designers like Jan Tschichold in theories on proportion and layout using the Golden Section.  He began to practice moving away from the centered typography of earlier periods. He should be noted as becoming the designer for Penguin Books in 1947, and some of his designs for them can still be found.

It isn’t often that we can apply proportions for margins like the ratio 3,4,5 in common book production, but it is nice to understand that when we do there is a noticeable difference to the eye. The ideal of the combined inner margins or gutters equal to the outer margin for instance is similar to the head margin being half of the foot margin, are not often used due to the demand to save paper and costs by fitting copy using other proportions, if any, but having the knowledge of these things can be kept in mind.  I might add that Tschichold didn’t use them strictly by any means, often using off centered grids and the like for illustrated books. Holding to a grid consistently establishes the relationship of text and image areas that will display a noticeable continuity in a design that is unifying and beautiful.

In Tschichold’s time, and up until the early eighties, designs were drawn on paper, often using hand lettering for covers and other displays of type, that the printer had to follow. Until the development of a reliable photographic type, many layouts were done using ‘repros’ from metal type on ‘repro paper,’ that were then pasted up with hot wax, and then photographed to make negatives. These negatives  were then stripped in flats and burned into plates for the off-set press. This is part of the progression from metal type to digital type as we know it today.

It is useful to understand the metal and the geometric foundation of relationships for space and margins when applying our digital software to design books, or in doing other forms of typography. This is not to say that all books be designed a certain way using what seem like obsolete practices. Graphic design and the theoretical are established in publication design and advertising, and they often consider these basic principles. With advertising, sometimes graphic design overshadows book design and book design theories as established by typographic professionals, but most books should never be designed like advertising. There has been a tendency to ‘mix it up’ with advertising typography in books, and some books might actually work with it in some cases. Some advertising uses the theoretical of graphic design and succeeds visually, but using a bunch of type faces and doing something splashy, or without integration just for the sake of doing something wild, without the use of grids or some unifying factors, never helped a book. Whatever the book project might be, annual report, scholarly book, art book, or history book, an integrated concept can be brought forth in the design. Holding to some basics, new or old, some proportions, some unifying plan that recognizes the relationship of pages throughout a book, will decidedly make it elegant and tasteful to read. Reading is what we should keep in mind when designing books .

Methods of Book Design, Hugh Williamson, 3rd edition; (very comprehensive, available from Amazon)
Rudolf Koch; Letterer, Type Designer, Teacher; Oak Knoll Press / The British Library, 2000.
Writing, Illuminating & Lettering, Edward Johnston, Pitman-Taplinger, NY-a pentalic book.
Designing books: practice and theory, Jost Hochuli, Robin Kinross, Hyphen Press, London; (1996).
Sacred Geometry, philosophy and practice, by Robert Lawlor, Thames and Hudson, Art and Imagination Series (1982).
Jan Tschichold: typographer, by Rauri McLean, Godine, (1975, soft cover 1990).