Fair warning – This is a walk down memory lane tied into our library’s early literacy program planning. It’s also going to be a pretty long post. But there’s a product review and some ideas that you may be interested in borrowing/stealing/reappropriating.
Here we go!
When I was young, I loved drawing clothes. I think it’s probably because “shopping” for me meant getting the back of hand-me-downs from the shelf above the coat rack in the church foyer when no-one, hopefully, was looking. Don’t get me wrong, I loved those bags, but there was never much choice in what we ended up wearing. And, do you wear those clothes to church next week, knowing that the person who they’d belonged to was in your Sunday School class? But I digress.
I loved to draw clothes. I got a dictionary from my Grandma Ritmanich for Christmas one year. Don’t judge her. I still have that dictionary in my office. She was also the grandma who wrote arithmetic problems in the covers of my coloring books when she babysat.
I loved this dictionary. It’s illustrated in full color and was tremendously engaging for an elementary school student. Inside, the cover, however, is also evidence that I’ve loved conceptual fashion for awhile. Again, don’t judge. It was the 80s.
Our library is developing an family literacy program (H:EART – Hagerstown: Every Age Reads Together) that includes an early childhood component (of course) utilizing the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten concept. One thing that we REALLY want to do is customize the program in such a way that it represents a truly value-added thing for our community. To that end, rather than just put together a binder for family’s to track book titles, we are putting together a special journal that will also serve as a keepsake for each child involved. The guts of the journal are done, but now it’s a matter of deciding on a cost effective but quality binding.
I like to troll the internet. You can find all sorts of interesting things. I think I was actually looking at some stuff posted by a cartoonist/fan artist, Karen Hallion, and she mentioned Lulu, an online self publishing/printing service. I’d looked at these before on other sites and had thought about modifying a photo book…but anyway. I liked what I saw at Lulu. I liked the prices most of all, but before we put together the 1KBBK journal, I wanted to test Lulu’s product. So, I put together a journal that I’d enjoy testing. It’s a fashion plate design notebook (with a model that’s not about to blow away). Below, you can see the journal and how it met, fell short of, or exceeded expectations.
I was pretty impressed with the cover. It’s a laminated, 100# paper. I think my only complaint is that I couldn’t find an option for a heavier weight backer board. 100# paper is nice and stout, but it’s not stout enough to support the weight of a notebook if you want to, say, set it on your knee to write. It is, however, plenty strong enough for laying flat on a table or other rigid surface.
Oh, did I mention the spine? Well, that was one of the most disappointing things. First, you should know that I chose the coil binding for cost but also because it would allow the book to lay flat when it’s open. I really want the 1KBBK journal to be something that encourages interaction with the entire family and there are few things more annoying that spine breaking and inadvertent page flipping. Also, one of the highlights of our journal will be space to add pictures. We need a binding that can accommodate the expansion that these pictures will cause. That said, I was disappointed that the coil in the test journal/my fashion experiment was too short to stay consistently through all the holes of the journal. Also, when the journal was bound, one of the pages was not in correctly so the holes weren’t punched evenly. I torn this page out. Too bad. You pay for each page in these publications (even if it’s just a couple cents).
So, the next test was the paper. First, I have to say that I was very impressed with the print quality on both the cover as well as the interior pages. It was very crisp. It’s important to note that much of the impetus for good quality print does fall on the publication designer (in this case, me….in your case, you). One thing that I wasn’t particularly keen on was the thickness of the paper. It’s a 60#- 90 gsm paper which is alright if you’re just reading it or writing in pen or pencil. If, however, you want to do anything using a water soluble ink, be forewarned. It does grab the color well, but it also bleeds if you have a heavy hand. I used a pencil, a Sharpie (for about one stroke), and India Ink pen (yes, I have one laying around at work. I need to remember to take it home as I’ve missed it there), and highlighters (we make due with what’s on hand).
What’s the moral of this story? First, test stuff before you order a million custom products. If you can’t test it, don’t do it – especially if you’re tax funded.
Second, make it fun. I like to draw fashion. I needed to test the quality of a publication through a specific vendor. I learned a bunch of valuable stuff and had a few minutes of fun while doing it. I’ll be passing it off to my staff so that they can also test it and leave notes. Hmm…I think my own male employee may be less than enthusiastic. Maybe…