Researching Existing Book Layouts…

As part of research into book design and layout for this module, I took myself to the library to look at existing photobooks and also just photography books in general. I was keen to see their layouts and the placement of their text as well as how the narrative flow was established.

One of the first books I took a look at was Trish Morrissey’s ‘Seven Years’. This photobook looks at the lives of a family over the seven years and depicts them in a very unique and stylish way for this particular era. The images are well shot and composed, with a very strong photographic front cover. I noticed the book was landscape in its layout which I did think was strange at first because the book is not dealing with landscapes and so this is not a typical convention. However, once I started viewing the images I noticed that this layout actually suited the images that were being presented. Majority of the images, depending on their orientation, go almost full bleed in the book, with a smaller border. This allows the full attention of the reader to be on the images. Each image also tends to have a full double page spread to itself, there are never two images on a double page spread, always one. In terms of image layout, it is quite simple. It is the text that is played around with more. It can appear staggered or in paragraphs, depending on the image it is placed with, and how much text there is. This means there is plenty of white space in the book so it is not overcrowded. However, I do find this layout a little bit boring because it is all the same. Whether this is the intention so the focus is more on the images than the book layout itself I am not sure. But I know that I personally find the images really interesting but that they do not have the layout to go with them necessarily. It does work for them, but it is not greatly inspiring.


John Myers’ ‘Middle England’ is a project I keep coming back to. I found the photobook in the library and thought it would be brilliant to explore the layout of the book and the images as I have recently looked at his images but not in their book layout. Majority of the images are shown as big as he can get them with a border, and have been either placed separately or together with another complimentary image. Again he doesn’t overcrowd the photographs and still leaves white space to showcase the work. There is much less text in the book but there is still some in bulk on certain pages. Having text in bulk does make it hard to read as you can only get so far before getting to the point that you may feel bored and just skip to the images. But it is good that there is some context there. I particularly like the fact that similar images have been placed together because this really compliments the entire aspect of the narrative he is creating. He has used a full bleed effectively when he needs to and has experimented a little bit with unconventional sizes or placements of his images throughout, almost to jolt up the layout a little bit and wake people up to continue looking and engaging with the project. It is effective I think and works well, and the layout is quite simple, but I think it needs to be because of the actual complexity of some of the images. If it were to become more complex I think there would be too much going on that distracts from the images themselves.


I got particularly carried away looking at this photobook by Sylvia Plachy. It is called ‘Signs and Relics’ and I found it to have some of the most interesting images as well as the most fantastic styled layouts in it. It seems no two pages are the same in a lot of cases, and it gives rise to this unique expression of what the images are actually about. Some of the images appear larger than others, and some appear next to them quite small. It doesn’t mean the image is any less important but it does give off this idea that there is a certain emphasis placed on other images in the sequence. There is very little text again, except at the point where there is an introduction near the beginning, in which case there is a bulk amount of text. The layout is fantastic because it is so varied and so well considered. I particularly like the layout with the bit of text written one it that reads ‘birds of a feather’ because I love how much bigger the text is compared to the rest of the text. It stands out and makes a statement and you are instantly drawn to the text and then the image. The image, small as it may be, still makes a continued impact because of its context. I think it works well as a whole layout and the white space is used well throughout the entire book. You are drawn to each image and each page because it is different and unique. The narrative has a way of hooking you by making it noticeable and making it jump out at you so you want to read it. There is also not too much so it is in readable chunks which helps. The orientation is portrait, but not far off from square. This is a better convention for photobooks that deal with portraits and other images, and I think it works really well to engage with the space available. I love how the space has been used and the chance to spread into the gutter has been made available. It is a good example of a well executed size book for the material it hold inside.


Simon Norfolk’s book ‘Bleed’ is less of a narrative book because it is more landscape based, but I picked it up because of the simplicity of the layout. His front cover is just a plain colour with his name and title on it and throughout the book there are pages of just colour with text opposite, or just pure image on one side and then a blank page next. He has a very minimalist style within this layout and design that keeps it neat and ordered, but at the same time allows the landscape and the shapes in his images to be explored. I thought it was interesting to see and contrasted to the other books I have picked up to have a look at so I was very pleased to see how a book of this nature may appear. Again this is a landscape format, so it is more suited to landscape work, but it does still utilise the space it has been given very well.



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