classic science fiction

Design of A Traveler in Time

Photo Book | Cover, Layout, Typesetting, & Content

Although I enjoy working in many different book genres, science fiction has always held a special place in my heart. Maybe it is my early career as a physicist, or maybe just the feeling of unbridled possibility that scifi brings.

And an excuse to use the wonderful Futura typeface in its native setting, so very appropriate here.

But whatever the underlying reason, in this project I wanted to collect and share early science fiction with a real audience. This commercialized personal project allowed me to bring several 1950’s era (and earlier) time travel science fiction stories together under one cover. And test out my academic-press style typesetting skills. It also was an opportunity to explore Amazon’s self-publishing portals of CreateSpace and KDP.

Traveler in Time Cover

First edition

Three Stories in Time, Cover

In its first incarnation, an economical 6-3/4 x 10 saddle-stitched book, I combined 3 stories from different sources together, essentially 3 short stories under one cover. I experimented with the layout in this larger page format book, reflecting the original text sizing of pulp fiction books of the time, but offering a far more generous amount of white space on each page.

Three Stories in Time, Cover Three Stories in Time, chapter break

The running header, table of contents, and so on were created to make navigating the book easy and convenient. Wide “classical” margins have been utilized to offer the reader more visual white space to rest on; the extra margins space was utilized for illustrations and notes, allowing the original “paperback” aspect ratio of the text to be utilized.

Three Stories in Time, chapter break

In the interior I’ve utilized original line art when available, as well as other relevant period visual pieces, combined with a “space age” divider line which I created for this publication.

A really fun personal project for me, one that I know succeeded at least at a personal level, because I kept finding myself taking breaks to actually read (and reread) the stories in this format.

Second edition

A Traveler in Time, Reimagined. Cover design by Paul Nylander

However, I wasn’t satisfied with the original cover. And, in an entirely selfish way, I wanted more of these fun stories to read. So I decided to expand the project to six titles, including the seminal “The Time Machine,” by H. G. Wells, originally published in 1898.

This updated cover concept incorporates a silhouette “cut-out” effect to add visual interest, while still maintaining the original idea of stark clarity.

Second edition, Second Printing

A Traveler in Time, Reimagined. Cover design by Paul Nylander

Save for a publishing deadline, when is a book every actually done? Like any art form, it really never is. In this case, in the first printing of the second, expanded, edition it was brought to my attention that I had been quite sloppy in my typesetting. Done or not, my standards have changed since this book first came out, and I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until it was . . . corrected.

In addition to taking the opportunity to reintroduce the “arrows of time” texture to the cover, I reset the entire 200 page text, taking the typographic refinements to the highest possible level.

Do these sorts of details matter, outside of the designer circle? I believe they do, very much so. Even to the untrained eye of an “average reader,” the visual balancing of good typesetting is pleasing; it is comfortable to read, and stays out of the story’s way.

To this end, I cleaned up the layout to produce something fitting for the highest standards of academic publishing, while also choosing a typeface more suitable to the digital printing used for this book. By changing from the Adobe rendition of Baskerville to the more modern (and slightly heavier) Warnock typeface, eye fatigue is reduced through a more even appearance of the text. Page lengths were adjusted, stacked words eliminated wherever possible, and micro-kerning adjustments applied throughout.

Explore Other Projects…

Design is process of creative problem solving as applied to challenge of controlling how a user (i.e. a reader) interacts with their environment (i.e. the book). While Book Design isn’t writing, editing, or illustration, it affects the success of all three. It is part production minded, and part visual story-telling.

learn more about paul nylander and illustrada design

I encourage you to step through my recent projects and learn for yourself how I have applied a design process to a variety of different challenges. Or jump back up to the overview.