My favourite book cover designs from 2012


My resolution for 2013 is to blog more regularly! Anyway, here at long last is a new posting. I’ve listed my favourite book cover designs from 2012. I did notice as I was looking through the different publishers sites how often I saw monotone designs with a pop of red appearing somewhere, and a few below use this technique. It always reminds me of Schindler’s List…

1. Grimm Tales by Philip Pullman (Penguin Hardback Classics)


2. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Headline Review)


3. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (Hesperus Press)


4. The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman (Sceptre)


5. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (Granta Books)


6. The Lighthouse by Alison Moore (Salt Publishing)


7. The Lewis Man by Peter May (Quercus)


8. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Vintage)

The Night Circus UK

9. Umbrella by Will Self (Bloomsbury)

Will Self-Umbrella

10. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Quirk Books)






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Book design and typography books for children


My partner and I both work from home so our children regularly ask what it is that we do. They are five and three at the moment and both book mad – hardly surprising with the number of books in our house. I’ve been trying to find a book to explain book design and typography to them. I’ve listed a few I’ve found.

The Serif Fairy by Rene Siegfried and Joel Mann

This is a really lovely book for children interested in type design and layout. Plus it is ideal for my little girl who is fairy mad. It is published by Mark Batty Publisher. The book is about a little fairy who has lost her wing and the book takes us on a journey through landscapes made up of letters from different typefaces.  You can use it to help children identify and find different letters as well as explain the different elements of letters. I think this book would be a nice gift, not just for a child, but anyone with an interest in type.

Design Dossier: Graphic Design (for kids) by Michael Bierut (foreward) and Pamela Pease (author)

This is published by Paintbox Press and is probably aimed at a slightly older child but even adults would find it a useful tool. It is a very useful introduction to the world of graphic design. It is very interactive and had big tabs separating out sections covering different elements of the graphic designer’s craft. You can find out about the history of typography, and look at different elements of design including colour, shape and composition. There are wonderful pull-out sections looking at iconic and contemporary designers and a useful timeline showing how design fits into our world.

Bembo’s Zoo by Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich

The subtitle of this book, published by Macmillan is “An Animal ABC Book” but this is no ordinary ABC book. Each letter is demonstrated by an animal made up of the letters in the word. It doesn’t really teach anything about graphic design or typography (unless someone wants to contradict me!)  but it is a beautiful and interesting book which gets children to think about words and their meaning. There is also a very cool website to enjoy alongside this one:

These are just a few I’ve found. I’d love to hear if anyone else can recommend any. There are obviously many children’s books which have beautiful typography and sometimes that is the best way to demonstrate how wonderful good typography can be, and can be appreciated even at a very young age. I suspect that might be have to be another blog topic fairly soon…

All of the books above here are available from Amazon or follow the links to the publishers. All the pictures are copyright of the author, illustrator or publisher of the books.



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Alasdair Gray’s A Life in Pictures


Alasdair Gray’s A Life in Pictures which I worked on for a number of years (five!) has just won the Saltire Society’s Scottish Book of the Year Award. Hurray!

Details of the award can be found here:

You can also find information about the book on my blog here:

You can buy the book from Canongate or Amazon.

Kind regards,


© Sharon McTeir

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Indesign shortcuts


Here is a nice panel showing Indesign shortcuts from

Regards, Sharon

Complete List of InDesign Shortcuts

Courtesy of Business Stationery

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Quotation by Steve Jobs, 1955–2011

Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.

— Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005

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InDesign CS5 running slow?


When I upgraded from InDesign CS4 to CS5 I was surprised at how slow my documents were running, particularly when bringing in large XML files. I found adjusting a couple of settings really helped:

Live Screen Drawing

InDesign CS5 now has a default setting to redraw the page if any changes are made to it. This is particularly problematic when you have a file with a lot of pages in it and it’s redrawing heavily-tagged XML (as is standard in dictionary work). If any changes are made to the lines on the page it seems to reflow the full document. You can fix this by going to:

Indesign – Preferences – Interface – Live Screen Drawing – change the selection to Delayed

Overprint Preview

The overprint preview allows the user to get a more accurate view of how a document will print and if there are any likely spot colour, transparency, blending mode and overprint issues in the document. CS5 has set the Overprint Preview to be automatically on. When you load XML into InDesign you can see easily where the individual tags are within the document by the colour-coded square brackets at the start and end of the fields. This is useful when editing the text – ensuring you are editing inside the correct tag. However, the Overprint Preview really slows down InDesign and you will be amazed by how much quicker everything is when you turn this setting off.

View – Overprint Preview – unselect

Hope this is useful!

Regards, Sharon

© Sharon McTeir


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Collins Cobuild English Learner’s Dictionary with Arabic

Although I’m used to working with many different languages, working with Arabic text always has its own difficulties. When I worked at Chambers Harrap Publishers, we used the Middle Eastern version of InDesign which worked very well and we had an Arabic keyer come in-house and work directly in the files. When I was approached to work on a series of semi-bilingual dictionaries for Collins, the one title that gave me pause for thought was the Arabic dictionary.

There are a number of issues when typesetting Arabic. The text must run from right to left and range to the right. The Cobuild dictionaries are actually ELT semi-bilingual learner’s dictionaries, which means that English dictionary entries have, in this case, Arabic translations so that the Arabic user can be reassured that they have correctly understood the meaning. This meant that the English read from left to right and the Arabic translation at the end ran from right to left. In InDesign you can set a tag to reverse the text direction, but this keeps each Unicode character as an individual character. In Arabic, characters need to be combined to produce ligatures and floating characters.

I was recommended to use a little plug-in for InDesign called IndicPlus by MetaDesign Solutions. This allowed me load the XML supplied by Collins into InDesign CS5, then style specific tags containing the Arabic text to reverse the text direction and enable the ligatures.

The fonts used in the book are Collins Fedra, a font adapted for Collins which allows great clarity at very small sizes, as is often necessary in dictionary and reference material. If you want to find out more about Collins Fedra, there is a nice article at The Arabic is set in Arial Unicode.

The book also contains an index which allows the Arabic user to look up a word in Arabic then find the correct English entry and sense. There is also a handy double page spread showing prepositions.

You can buy a copy of the Collins Cobuild English Learner’s Dictionary with Arabic directly from the Harper Collins website or from Amazon. Other languages available in the series are French and Portuguese. Turkish and Russian will also be available later in the year.

Regards, Sharon

© Sharon McTeir

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