Designing The Book: WeMakeStuff Volume 01

In the year 2012, a digital era of eReaders and iPads, I had the privilege of being the designer for a physical book called We Make Stuff.  It’s a showcase of 100 Vancouver area artists and innovators exploring the collision of creativity and faith. The concept for the content of the book was that the 100 featured artists and innovators selected to be in the book would submit photos, images, and/or text to showcase their craft, as well provide answers in text form to a set of questions given to them to be presented as a 2 page spread. In some cases artists were interviewed on camera and their answers transcribed for the book.

Nick Froese

Nick Froese

As the designer for the book my role was to take the submitted images and text from the artists and create layouts that faithfully represented each artist. The quality of the images submitted was amazing and that made my work as the layout designer easy. The editorial duties of editing the submitted text were mostly handled by Fiona Moes with some help from David Vandas, and myself.


The book dimensions are 9″ by 9″ – the beautiful square! This shape poses some interesting design options and limitations. The tendency of a square leads the designer to the pull of centring elements with a bent towards the classic layout style. However because each artist was given a 2 page spread I was essentially working with a horizontal rectangle.

Steph Limage___revision-2

The key to establishing a consistent rhythm and cohesion for the book was building the margins and creating a grid. Other elements such as typography, colour, and the footers also helped give a unified feel to the book. I chose to work in the Standard System of Measurement, ya know–inches, not millimetres, because I feel the increments have such ergonomically tactile warmth to them.  Although doing the design math for the times when layout calculations were necessary put me the land of nauseating fractions–remember how fun learning fractional expressions were in school!

Screen shot 2012-11-22 at 1.17.35 AM

I used Adobe’s InDesign software as the digital platform to create the We Make Stuffbook. The power of InDesign is the layout precision and flexibilities. The weaknesses of InDesign are the image effects such as opacity and image rotation. These tasks are best done in Photoshop. When the proofs came back from the printers I noticed a huge inconsistency in how InDesign renders opacity. In some cases it was spot on and in other cases it was so far off I eventually remade all critical opacity effects in Photoshop to bypass the guess work. I also did a little test between InDesign and Photoshop and noticed that those 2 programs can render identical opacity settings differently . . . uh, thanks Adobe.

Elizabeth Gadd

The joy in creating this book was the journey of the design discovery for each artist’s layout. I would start with viewing a collection of submitted images, sometimes as little as one or two, or as many as 20 or more! I would then read all the submitted text, including the answers and descriptions written by the artists, as well as reading their biographies to get a sense of who they are. In some cases I would go further, searching on the interent for anything  I could find out about the artist. The more I knew about the person the better I felt I could represent their words and images in the book. I wanted the design’s style to be true to artist’s nature.  Often the character of the artist would lead me towards a specific design idea.


One of the fun parts of making the book was the time at the printers.  Maybe it’s all the machinery, paper, huge cylinders of ink, and loads of books and printed goods, or maybe it’s just because it felt like a school field trip but I loved being at Hemlock Printers where we had the book printed. The service and hospitality was incredibly great, they were extremely professional, and a class act from top to bottom.  Not only that but Hemlock has a carbon neutral printing program and they offer 100% Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) paper and employ many other environmental friendly print business practices. So the We Make Stuff book saves on trees, water, and energy thanks to the environmental friendly services offered by Hemlock.

You can purchase the We Make Stuff Volume 1 book at

WMS Book Launchby Mike Priebe




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