The content for my most recent large project took years to compile. In one weekend, I took that content and turned it into a 300-page book, ready for journaling and processing some difficult issues that have been woven into the fabric of our country for centuries.
The book is called WRITE on RACE to be RIGHT on RACE, and it is the heart of authors Bukata Hayes and Stacy Wells, supported by the Greater Mankato Diversity Council. WRITE on RACE started as a community journaling initiative in 2016; a way for people to challenge their biases and examine aspects of race and social systems they hadn’t considered before. I am so grateful for the opportunity to support Bukata and Stacy in their important work. I was honored to take their words and create an engaging and usable journal that allows people to examine race and how it intersects with our social systems.
PLEASE NOTE: This blog post is not about the important work the authors and their organizations are doing; I will leave the explanations of their work to them. I hope, especially in the context of the death of George Floyd and so much more that has happened in recent weeks, you will take a minute to learn more about the work they’re doing at the links above. I will share the links again at the end of this post.
Here, I am using the context of the book to explain how we were able to take complex and interconnected topics and lay them into a book in a way that is engaging and allows for deep thought and processing of ideas.
The key to this book is usability. This isn’t a book that the user will curl up under a blanket and immerse themselves in. This is a guided journal with online resources that pull the user out of the text, then they’ll need to go back into the book and find their place again. This context helped guide my design choices.
The book is divided into sections, each examining different social systems, including the criminal justice system, education, income, housing, and health. We decided to color-code the different sections, as each section contains several chapters within it. The color-coding helps guide users through the journaling process and through the different topics. All sections begin with a full two-page spread. To help accentuate these section breaks, I used a light color gradient, a tab in the upper right hand corner, and the text is in the chosen color for that section.
All chapters start on a right-hand page with that same color-coded tab in the upper right. This is to help users quickly and easily find the start of a new chapter but keep track of which section they’re in at the same time.
Headings & other elements
Headings and rules within each section are also color-coded throughout the book; this was again to help the reader identify their place in the text and separate the different topics within the book. I paired the clean fonts with plenty of white space to make it more inviting and easier to follow.
On journaling pages, the headings are color coded, but the rules are a light grey throughout the book to provide the user with a bit of guidance but not too much rigid structure.
Fonts & typefaces
We chose to use san-serif fonts – Bebas Neue for headings and Proxima Nova for text. The font size is also rather large; again, this was intentional for usability. Because this book is a workbook, not a text book, there isn’t a simple flow to reading it – the paragraphs are broken up with questions, outside articles to read, and images. We want the reader to easily keep their place as they move from the printed book to the online companion resources and back again. You may notice that the header text and page numbers are in a serif font (Georgia); this is to delineate those pieces from the main body.
When the text refers to an online article, the title of the article is bolded, then the link to the article is italicized beneath it. Consistency helps the reader know what to expect; also, the next step is to create a fully usable online version of the book, so this formatting with help with that process as well.
I can’t take credit for the cover art of the book, but I did do some tweaking to align it to the clean look of the inside. I removed the drop shadow behind the project logo, took the subtitle out of that box, and aligned the authors’ names to the book formatting and colors.
Project goal: achieved
The goal of this phase of the project was just to get the book to print before the authors were to present at a conference. We have plans for a next phase, which includes creating an all-online version with “flippable” pages and clickable links.
SIDE NOTE: We are also working on a new WRITE on RACE 8-week series on COVID-19 that is being emailed to journalers, allowing them to engage in a deep dive about the global pandemic and its disproportionate effect on people of color. The series of 8 short PDF files follows the same design format as the book, which will allow us to easily compile the series into its own book in the future. (See link below for more information.)
As you can see, this project (like all of my projects) was designed with the user in mind. I make design decisions with this lens: I am always thinking about how the finished product will be used, the environment that it will be used in, and how I can make it easier for the reader.
And that’s what you should be thinking about when you are designing something too, whether it’s a simple one-page document or a full book. Always start (and finish) with the user in mind.
Learn more about the WRITE on RACE project & book
Purchase the WRITE on RACE book
Join the WRITE on RACE COVID 19 series
(At this link, please provide your name, email address and type “WOR COVID 19” in the comment box.)
Greater Mankato Diversity Council
photo credit: pixabay.com