| Desktop publishing has allowed newcomers with little
training to supply print for our industry. This offers new economies for
purchasing type, while at the same time challenging conventional standards
As a result, publishers often have had to choose between the low price
and poor quality of novice desktop operations and the high quality and
high price of traditional compositors.
There are type houses that combine conventional quality with desktop
cost. Generic is in the forefront of this movement.
Selecting a compositor
The initial selection of a compositor entails risk: word-of-mouth recommendation
is subject to bias; and examples from the compositor may reflect the
work of the designer, the production editor, or the printer as much
as they do the compositor.
When selecting a new compositor, review its references and evaluate
books typeset by that company. Recognize that you may be making a mistake,
but place a book with the service and resolve to evaluate closely its
first pages against the original design specs. Such a review will eliminate
outside influences and provide a valid basis for your judgment of the
compositor's abilities and the likelihood of your using that compositor
in the future.
Evaluating first pages against the original design
Familiarize yourself with the book's design and then assess the compositor's
ability to apply those specs to the first pages.
Appearance of spreads
The reader turning a page is faced with a two-page spread of material.
Common practice requires that these pages be balanced and conform to
conventions which help the reader and enhance the presentation.
These conventions include placement of figures, tables, and footnotes;
amount of text following heads near the bottom of the page; word stacks
and hyphenated lines; avoidance of rivers and widows; superscript sizing;
use of old style figures and ligatures; and appropriate letterspacing.
Good composition will follow your specifications, instructions, and
conventional standards to make each spread as inviting as possible.
Evenness across a page
The hallmark of good composition is the production of pages with visual
consistencythat have no uneven light or dark areas despite the
combination of text, art, tables, and display type.
To evaluate evenness, tilt the page and study the white space rather
than the inked letters within the page. Is the printed area evenly gray
or are there lighter or darker areas? Rotate the page while continuing
to look for patterns of light and dark.
The most common cause of unevenness within the text itself
occurs when an operator has too heavy a hand with tracking values. Poor
tracking can result in type appearing crowded (a "tight" word or line)
in one area and "loose" or "letterspaced" lines elsewhere.
When text is laid out well, it will not have light or dark areas.
The placement and final size of the art are significant
factors in the appearance of a page. A figure too large for its complexity
appears as a light area on the page and looks juvenile. A crushed figure
appears as a blob of black, making it difficult to read. Two adjacent
figures reduced to cause obvious variation in the size of their labels
produces an amateur result.
Line weight in drawn art and contrast in photographs can be modified
to help make the pattern of gray and white visually consistent with
the rest of the text page.
Final art should be sized so that it is clear and legible; is appropriate
for the amount of detail expressed; has ample but not excess white space;
and is positioned in the best location to support both the text discussion
and a balanced spread.
The line length (width) of a table is critical for making
data easy to read. A short line length may leave too much white space
in the surrounding text area, making the table appear too dark. Conversely,
a table with too long a line length will appear lighter than the print
area and will be hard to read because of the gullies between columns.
Tables should blend into and be a continuation of the page.
Most of the decisions regarding displayed matter
are made by the designer, not the compositor. How multiple line headings
are broken and how space is adjusted around heads to "bottom out" pages
are usually layout issues for which the compositor is responsible.
Perceived space between letters
Quality kerningthe apparent space between lettersis a hallmark
of quality composition and a common shortcoming of most DTP operations.
A well-kerned typeface gives the perception of equal space between all
Computer fonts typically have atrocious kerning values, especially
in connection with punctuation, quotation marks, and en- and em-dashes.
Every font has character pairs in need of revision.
A quality-conscious compositor will review and revise all kerning pairs
in each typeface required by that book's design before beginning page
layout. Occasionally, a single pair might be missed; but a regular pattern
of poor kerning is an indictment of the compositor.
For further information, please email us, including your name, affiliation, and areas of interest,
and we will get back to you quickly.
152 Starheim Road
Stamford, NY 12167
607 652-BOOK (2665)
815 346-5272 (fax)
Copyright © 2001 Generic Compositors, a Division
of Stonecrest Industries, Inc.
1/27/12 1:00 PM
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