Making the Audience Want to Listen
Now that you know what you want to say and who you want to reach, you have to figure out how to make those people pay attention to your message.
The good news is that you've already done half the work. By tailoring your message to your target audience, you've interested them in your content; if they'll just flip through a few pages, they'll discover clever titles and loads of exactly what they've been wanting.
Now you just have to get them to pick up your book.
This brings us to the visual design or style of the book. Good design resonates with people. A combination of smart planning and impeccable visual styling appeals to a reader on an emotional level, making them want to read your book. We can't get into an exhaustive list for visual design here, but let's consider a few general guidelines:
- Style the book consistently with your message/content, tone, and audience. The tone of your writing and the personality of your audience persona should inform your design choices.
- Differentiate your book from other books in its genre. Color can be a powerful tool to single out your book cover and make a bold statement. Just be sure that the statement gels with what you want to say.
- Use conventions that are familiar to readers or that can easily become familiar as readers peruse your book. For example, InterACT with Web Standards uses a set of icons that introduce the different types of side notes within the content, as shown in Figure 3.
- Validate your design with your target audience. Test your design on someone who falls within your target persona. Ask your test subject what would make him or her respond better: Simplicity or flourishes? Red or blue? Geometric or floral?
- Finally, don't let ornamental elements get in the way of your content. Use visual graphics that reiterate your ideas, and know when to edit. Remember, less is more.
Approaching book design holistically requires a "big picture" mindset with an eye for detail, creative energy, and a solid plan. All parts of the designing process are interdependent. Leave out organized content, and your message won't connect with your audience and will be difficult to style. Leave out your audience persona, and both your content and style will lack focus. While each of the parts must be approached independently, and perhaps by different people, always consider the parts in conjunction with each other. The puzzle pieces not only must fit together, but must create a single cohesive picture.
Jessica Taylor is a graphic designer living and working in the greater Chattanooga, TN area. When she isn't designing, you can find her behind a camera lens. Jessi works with the Web Standards Project Education Task Force (WaSP EduTF) and helps shepherd the evolution of the InterACT brand. You can find more information about Jessi at her website or follow her on Twitter.