Mockup of Connection process book

'Connection' Process Book

Process book to record the live branding brief for Wessex Museums

The Brief

We were tasked to design a process book to document the process of a collaborative live branding project for Wessex Museums’ upcoming Hardy’s Wessex exhibition, where my team was shortlisted.

As a designer who loves to take a practical approach, I dived into text manipulation, book binding, laser cutting and learning about print and paper. I found designing, printing and binding a book from scratch to be such a rewarding process and I am hoping to continue using the skills I developed.

Grid & Layout

Showing grid layout on InDesign
Final grid

When making a grid, I added bleed for print and decided from Briony Hartley’s talk that I wanted to have thicker margins. As my grid is quite complex, I tried to simplify it at first but was not happy with where the lines were when I did, as I liked how my grid gave me a nice hanging line for text and more flexibility for placing images, which helped me to stick to the grid when designing.

Briony also advised us about creating hierarchy, varying pace, maintaining structure and consistency, and using character and paragraph styles. She encouraged us to be generous with the amount of negative space throughout the book and to use wayfinding by having a contents page and page numbers, so I added ruler lines to my grid for page numbers to sit on.

Book Binding

Binding the spine of a book
Creaing the cover to fit around the book spine
Adding vinyl lettering to book
Completed book

To support the process book project, I went to a perfect binding induction where we learnt how to glue, score and add string to bind the pages together, then we used a machine to score the cover at the right measurements to leave room for the spine. We also learnt about printing the right way with the grain of the paper in order to bind the pages successfully and that paper around 150gsm is ideal for book binding.

The induction helped me to realise that I want to use a much thicker card for my cover and that I will have to bind the inside of my book and measure the spine before I make the cover. It also reinforced that I need a wide inside margin so that none of my work gets lost to the spine.

Laser Cutting

Image of a laser cutter at AUB
Completing my laser cutting induction

I completed a laser cutting induction where I learnt how to set up a file for the laser cutter to read, which involved the line stroke and colour, with different colours telling the laser to engrave, score or cut. I also learnt about focusing and aligning the lasers, and the safety aspects of using the machines.

After the induction, I spoke to the technicians about using the laser cutters to cut card, and they said the lasers can leave a brown residue on lighter coloured card. Where I originally wanted my cover to be orange, I changed to black from their advice. I used the laser cutters to cut out the front cover of my process book in black card, which is why I filled in the holes of the O’s, as these would fall out when cut. The second page, which shows through my cut cover, is plain orange.

Initial Type Experiments

Several images scattered on floor showing type that has been distorted with a scanner
Scanner distortions

I decided on the title ‘Connection’ for my process book as it links the theme of map lines from our branding. Rather than just using the same typography from the branding project throughout my process book, I wanted to experiment with creating new typography to give my book its own, slightly different style.

I printed out the book and chapter titles and used the scanner to make distorted copies of the words. I enjoyed the more practical approach to distorting the typography, and the unpredictability of the outcomes, which I used to make double page chapter spreads in order to vary the pace of the book, make the book cohesive and add more negative space.


Flatplan of process book
Process book flatplan

After listing everything that I wanted to include in my process book, I made a simple flat plan to map out my content - showing the order and page colours for each spread. It was helpful to refer back to when I began designing and helped me to maintain consistency throughout the book while ensuring it didn’t become too repetitive.

Sustainabilty & Printing

Comparison of same image printed using different printers
Comparing printers

Before deciding on which paper to use for my process book, I wanted to learn more about paper sustainability and the things that have the most influence on environmental impact. Using the G. F Smith website as a starting point, I learnt that the most important things to consider when choosing paper are whether the wood is sourced from a sustainably managed forest, and whether or not the bleaching of the pulp uses chlorine, a harmful chemical.

I decided on 160gsm cartridge paper from Seawhite of Brighton, which is acid-free, chlorine-free and FSC certified, meaning the pulp is made from responsibly sourced wood from sustainably managed forests. It was also the perfect weight for book-binding as the bindery technician advised, and I liked the matte feeling to it, as I think the tactile aspect of a book is important. Using my chosen paper, I printed a series of colour experiments, exploring saturation and ink usage in the printer settings until I was completely happy with the look and feel of my pages.

'Connection' Highlights

Below are some of the highlights from my process book, however if you would be interested in seeing a physical copy, please contact me, I would love to share it with you.

After spending most of last year designing digitally, I threw myself into the practical side of designing the process book, and how it would look when printed was always at the forefront of my mind when making design decisions. I made the most of Alex’s knowledge and advice throughout to ensure my book reached its full potential in printed form. I really enjoyed the hands-on approach of exploring formats, browsing paper options and consistently making printed experiments, as I considered the physical outcome through every design stage.

The most enjoyable part of the project was learning new skills through workshops, something I also enjoyed last year through a series of printmaking inductions, as I have realised how much I love the practical aspects of design. I was excited to learn how to use the laser cutters as it’s something completely new to me, having never used the workshop before, and I enjoyed meeting the technicians and finding out about the equipment and how it can benefit my projects and bring my ideas to life. It was also nice to stray away from graphic design and do something out of the timetable, knowing I was doing it because of my personal interest. I also really enjoyed my refresher into book binding as I see it as a very valuable skill to have.

The process of designing a book has also helped me to develop more technical skills as I become more confident using InDesign, setting up a document for print and creating layouts. It was a very different experience to making my zine last year, which had much less structure and was more experimental, although I wanted my process book to still have some experimental features, which I expressed through my cover and chapter titles. I have learnt a lot more about a technical approach to book design, for example using a hanging line, sticking to a grid and creating a good wayfinding system through a contents page and pagination.