Nice Kern-Job

The thing about design is that it’s not always noticeable. We designers are in the background agonizing over things like a fonts point-size so that books are readable; left, center or right-aligned text; 95% black or 100% for the running font; making sure the footer text isn’t too close to the trim or too close to the text. But really, what sucks up most of our time is kerning.

Ahhhh! Kerning: the space in between the letters. The spaces that nobody notices, until they do.

I like to think that one of the most important parts of a designer’s job is to keep people focused on the task at hand by cleaning up, removing or adding, and making an experience feel beautiful and seamless. If a book or a space or a product gives you an easy, calm feeling, it is because of design (and there is probably some decent kerning going on).

Here’s a quick example of how I spent a good 20 minutes of my time as I was laying out the pages for Inspiring Improv by Nicholas Ball for Lucky Spool.


This is a looooovely image, isn’t it? Nick had the brilliant idea of taping all of his improv blocks up on the wall in color order. So pretty. I just want to keep my eyes moving amongst all of those inspiring blocks, but my eye gets pulled down to the bottom left of the page, right to that ragged line of text. What a bummer! Maybe it’s just me? But I couldn’t leave the page that way, so I justified the text, giving it a nice clean edge.


Ok, that’s a little better, at least I’m not attracted to the last line of the paragraph jutting out anymore! But now I’m distracted by how the text has a bunch of space between the words and letters in the first few sentences and then gets really bunched towards the end of the paragraph. AND I don’t like how close the last line is to the page number. Jeez Louise, I drive myself nuts!


There we go. So after spending a little time adjusting space between the words (tracking) and the individual letters (kerning), I’ve got the text to a nice, tidy block of unassuming text.

But I’ll be honest: now that I’ve spent some time writing up this post, I have grown fond of the ragged edge from the first image. The ragged edge does make sense with this particular image in that it feels organic and fluid, much like the improvisational blocks. That brings us to a different conundrum that book designers face: consistency. This is just one opener from the book, there are a few. As the designer, I was tasked with selecting the best design solution for the book as a whole, not for one spread at a time. In the end, the author and I decided that the justified text for the openers was the most successful choice for the overall design.

Welcome to the inside of my brain which is a constant back and forth of what-if’s and yeah-but’s!

What sorts of nitty-gritty does your job get you into?


Inspiring Piecing
Book Design + Style Photography: Page + Pixel
Publisher: Lucky Spool Media
Author: Nicholas Ball

FBF // Serendipitous Natural Light

One of the first projects Nissa and I worked on together as Page + Pixel was shooting the style photography for Amy Gibson’s Quilt Block Cookbook for Lucky Spool. It was a big project with loads of bird’s eye/layflat shots and Nissa and I wanted to add some variety to the images somehow. Susanne—publisher and editor for Lucky Spool—had a vision of a person holding up the quilt blocks so we went ahead with that cute concept.


It was one of those perfectly-overcast-but-not-too-overcast days and Nissa positioned us perpendicular to the floor-to-ceiling windows. This gave us some warm yet diffused autumn light. We were so excited by the natural shadow and depth that came through! Not only were we able to capture Amy’s impeccable fabric combinations, but the diffused side light allowed her beautiful block construction to be seen through the fabric. Perfect for this book full of block recipes!

Can’t go wrong when skill and serendipity are in sync.


What are some of your favorite serendipitous photography moments?


Quilt Block Cookbook
Style Photography: Page + Pixel
Publisher: Lucky Spool Media
Author: Amy Gibson

Photo Styling // The Surface Matters

Bird’s eye, layflats, still life….whatever you call them, these are photos that require a surface to be shot on. With the camera positioned just above the subject, the styling will rely on a more graphic look due to the lack of dimension that will come from the angle of the camera. As simple as these types of photos appear, they do require a fair amount of propping and styling. It can be quite fun to create interesting lines and juxtapositions within the photo composition, but when you are short on time or on a tight budget, giving some extra thought to the surface that you’re shooting on can elevate your photos without a ton of effort.

The following images were taken for Heidi Staples’ new book, Patchwork USA (Lucky Spool Media). We played with a lot of surfaces in the styling for this book in order to achieve a warm, nostalgic aesthetic. By swapping out the different surfaces, we were able to keep the styling minimal so that the projects took center stage.

Color Book // Shot on the reverse side of a quilt in order to give a warm, sweet feeling to the image.

Color Book // Shot on the reverse side of a quilt in order to give a warm, sweet feeling to the image.

The window light was perfect in one of the bedrooms of the home we were shooting in. In order for the shot to make sense near that gorgeous light, we laid down a quilt with the back side up so that the top design didn’t distract from the Color Book project. The result was a textured and colorful backdrop for the cloth books. The color and the pattern immediately indicate that this is a project for children.

Scout’s Honor Pencil Case // Shot on top of a vintage map.

Scout’s Honor Pencil Case // Shot on top of a vintage map.

A strong theme that runs throughout Patchwork USA is that of road trips. Heidi sent us tons of vintage maps and postcards to use in the photography and one of my favorite ways to use the maps was as a background surface. Laying out the map adds a wonderful graphic quality to the image and it helps carry the road trip theme. Best of all, it was so easy!

Curio Pocket // Shot on top of a vintage steamer trunk.

Curio Pocket // Shot on top of a vintage steamer trunk.

Nissa and I have a favorite piece of perfectly weathered wood. It has the best tone and texture and it is very tempting to use it in every photo…everything looks beautiful on it! But we want to keep our images feeling new and one-of-a-kind, so we decided to play around with shooting on this vintage steamer trunk that belonged to my Grandpa. We love it!! So much life and texture is added to the photo from simply placing the projects on the edge of this trunk and by utilizing the brass details. Simple and effective!

Beachcomber Drawstring Bag // Shot on a vinyl seat.

Beachcomber Drawstring Bag // Shot on a vinyl seat.

Serving multiple purposes, this vinyl seat was the perfect place to shoot this drawstring pouch. Indicating “road trip” as it is the bench seat inside a Shasta, adding an easy pop of color to the image, and creating some visual texture with the stitching on the seat, we loved using this surface as an easy way to tell a story.

While all of these projects would have looked great on our favorite weathered wood, the varied surfaces do more to tell the author’s story and really bring each of the projects to life.

What are some of your favorite surfaces to shoot on?


Patchwork USA
Book Design + Photography: Page + Pixel
Publisher: Lucky Spool Media
Author: Heidi Staples