Frenetic—that’s what publications have become. To stand out, everybody tries to eclipse the competition with fashionable exaggeration, bursts of color, weird patterns, eccentric type, extravagant visuals—all in a frantic attempt to startle, to be different, to be creative. As a result, everybody looks like everybody else, and instead of standing out, they disappear.
How does one not fall prey to this disappearing act? Of course, content justifies our existence, but for now, let’s assume our content is perfect. Instead, let us concentrate on form, which is perhaps even more important than content in helping a publication find its audience. What is the use in assembling all that marvelous content if nobody notices you? And the more competitors tempt our targets, the more vital it becomes for our publications to stand out from the crowd.
This is where the value of “design” clearly affects the success of the venture and its ultimate bottom line. It all boils down to creating an immediately recognizable product that has its own unique character and personality. In practical terms, this publishing strategy implies two parallel disciplines: simplification of the image and repetition.
Both of these essential techniques demand self-control and, therefore, are unpopular with editors and especially designers. Editors believe that “variety keeps the reader interested,” and so it does, if it is variety of intellectual subject rather than visual form. Designers pride themselves on their professional “creativity,” which inevitably results in visual innovations. Those eye-catching surprises may well startle the reader’s attention, but the price paid is the disintegration of personality and character of the book as a whole. The more abundant the superficial visual variety, the more the product looks like every other product, as well as the ads. Consistency of look from page to page is the foundation of successful publishing today. Artificial variety is the kiss of death.