Los Angeles InDesign User Group

Conquering Complexity in Non-Fiction Book Design

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Bridge Publications, Inc., 5600 E. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90022

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By Alvin Takamori


The nomadic Los Angeles InDesign User Group, in its ongoing effort to spread knowledge throughout the county, met for the first time in East Los Angeles. The meeting took place on July 18, 2019 at the facilities of Bridge Publications, Inc.


The entry area is a very clean, modern space with displays built into the walls showcasing L. Ron Hubbard books, which is primarily what they print there. Yes, this is a Scientology operation. On behalf of Bridge Publications, Ann Arnow welcomed us and gave us an overview of the company and how publishing has changed. The complexities of setting up a print run used to require a minimum production of 2,000 books to make printing profitable. But after switching to digital printing, they can affordably print very small quantities, for instance only 20 books.


The digital printing process is also much cleaner. When printing involves the use of plates and dies, the facilities are usually messy and full of chemicals. After remodeling the entire production area to adopt digital printing, Ann noted that Bridge Publications earned a “Facility of the Year Award” from the California Water Environment Association.


Bridge Publications also carefully planned the redesign of their facilities to work more efficiently. By analyzing the process of producing a book, they were able to reorganize their space, so that production flowed more smoothly from station to station. It saved time and minimized mistakes.


They also included the capability to handle specialty printing processes like fine art, foil stamping, gilding, coil binding, etc. By having everything in-house, they have full control of the production process.


Next, LAIDUG member Alan Gilbertson discussed how he uses InDesign to design non-fiction books.


He begins with a typical chapter and builds a grid that frames how he’s going to layout the information. It’s important to breakdown what the elements are going to be: titles, headlines, subheaders, categories of information, etc. Then consider how to divide up the page. Should it have two columns or three? It’s best to stick to simple ratios like ½, ⅓, ¼, and ⅕ to organize blocks of information.


Alan recommended several books: The Complete Manual of Typography, Grid Systems and The Elements of Typographic Style.


Next, using dummy text Alan creates a hierarchy of information using InDesign’s Paragraph Styles, Character Styles, and Object Styles. He’ll design a base style that becomes a foundation for other Styles. Then he creates Styles for all the elements in a book: a title, a chapter header, body copy, etc. He generates a specific Style for everything. It’s better to have a long list of Styles to choose from than to have any modified Styles.


Alan also introduced GREP. Using code you can describe a pattern and automatically apply changes anytime the pattern occurs. He explained one designed to automate avoiding short words at the end of a paragraph. Create a No Break Style and apply it whenever you have less than 8 characters before a return. The GREP code looks like this: {8}\r

Another example he gave avoids having a single letter or number at the end of a line using the following GREP code: \s+[IaA\d]\s  This represents a space followed by the letter “I” or “a” or “A” or a single number followed by a space. Similar to the previous example apply the No Break Style anytime this pattern occurs.


Gilbertson emphasized that it was important to organize information on a page to make it as easy as possible for a reader to find the information. Have navigation and markers that are consistent and stand out visually. If something is important, make it easy to identify.


Alan’s talk seemed relatively brief, because time for the meeting was limited. In an effort to expedite the proceedings, attendees had the opportunity to pay in advance for attending the meeting, which entitled attendees to raffle tickets that they received as they arrived. The raffle was conducted quickly at the end of Alan’s presentation.


The second half of the meeting was a tour of Bridge Publications led by Camila Miranda. We began in the hallway next to the entry in front of shelves displaying Dianetics books. We were told they are printed in 51 different languages. Previously, using typesetting, the process of changing machines for each language was labor intensive and time-consuming.


Camila pointed out some special edition books that are leather bound and boxed with embossing and gold gilding. They are designed specifically on a city by city basis for places like Tokyo or Dublin with images colors and symbols that are culturally appropriate. These books are sold to pay for the cost of translating books into other languages.


Next, we were led into the production area. It was a vast warehouse space that looked remarkably clean. Close to the entry, there was a large wall chart. It listed every step in the process of making whichever book was currently in production. Laid out on a timeline, it started with a list of materials needed, and worked its way to binding and packaging.


Looking around the facility, it was organized into various production processes. There is a black and white printing area, a color printing area, a lamination area, a coating area, a cutting area, a folding area, a binding area, etc. Each area is identified by a sign hanging from the ceiling, like sections of a department store.


Beyond the production area is another vast warehouse space for storage of finished books. It seemed endless, which brought to mind the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, except this facility was clean and well lit. There was aisle after aisle of large industrial racks holding palettes of books. Orders are filled and shipped from this area. However, it is all well-organized using a system of barcode labels on the racks and on the books. This system is so efficient, it allows the entire storage warehouse to be run by only a handful of workers.


After visiting the production area, the tour and the meeting ended with the expectation that we’ll return with an opportunity to see more of the equipment in operation.



Farthest Attendee Prize Winner


Mighty Deals—Marty Safir



Raffle Prize Winners


GoProof from Oppolis Software. 3 month subscription for 2 users—Robert Cardenas

MT from Markzware. 12 month subscription—William Baughman

Expo Creative Asset Manager for Mac from Insider Software—Elias Wondimu

Suitcase Fusion 8 from Extensis. 12 month subscription—Candice Ota

Font Agent Pro 8 from Insider Software—Lisa Beck

InMotion Hosting. Web hosting and free domain—Terry Hayes

DTP Tools Cloud for InDesign. 6 month subscriptionMarty Safir

Multi-Find/Change 3.0 from AutomaticationMarty Safir

Adobe Stock. 15 image licenses—Myron Ran

InDesign Magazine. 6 month subscription—Robert Cardenas

LA Web Professionals Group meeting tickets—Terry Hayes, Victoria Hunter, David McCullough, Elias Wondimu


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