Making architecture books (and opening doors) with London-based architect Terry Jackson

Terry Jackson lives in London, makes truly creative work in London, and built his book in London with Blurb. (Explore Terry Jackson’s portfolio to see what we’re talking about). He’s not an author in the sense of someone who writes stories or novels, but he’s definitely someone who has turned Blurb’s creative self-publishing platform into something truly special.

First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Terry Jackson. I’m an architecture and design graduate from England. This book was created to show my final project work for not just my personal use, but for job opportunities and interviews. My interest lies not only in architecture, but almost anything design-oriented—photography, fashion, graphic design, illustration, and typography. Creating my book allowed me to put my personal touch on it and to incorporate each of my interests—as opposed to just sticking to the traditional clean-cut portfolio image.

Can you describe the architecture scene in London?

The architecture scene is London is brilliant. I love the diverse range of buildings, from St Paul’s Cathedral to The Shard. There’s architecture everywhere to appeal to anyone’s taste! I think the buildings that still interest people though (and the buildings that draw most people to London) are the venerable ones—Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and so on.

I couldn’t believe how much impact a single book would actually have on my career.

The city is changing, though, and it seems newer, more modern buildings are emerging more and more often. The year of the Olympics was great, we had the Olympic stadiums, the Olympic village, and, around the same time, the Shard was also completed—which is now the tallest building in Europe.

When we think London, we think books. Do you think that makes sense? Is it a big publishing town?

It absolutely makes sense—London is a fantastic place for books! Everywhere you go, there’s a bookshop, a library, a coffee shop full of books, and a book market. You couldn’t escape them if you tried. There’s so much inspiration around London and so much culture, with bookshops everywhere. It’s like a huge treasure trove.

What made you think about publishing your own book?

I wanted to produce something to show off my work from my final project at university, something different and unique. Nobody I knew had done anything like this before, and I wanted to create something that would help me stand out from the crowd. I think publishing my own book did this perfectly. Having the freedom to create something so personal was a huge plus!


Why did you choose Blurb to publish your book?

I used Blurb a couple of years ago, when it was recommended to me by a former roommate. The book I made then was terrible, because I rushed it and didn’t really pay attention to what Blurb really had to offer. I created a mini portfolio of 65 pages, but chose the Large Landscape format and basically rushed it for an interview I had.

That was 2009. Four years on, and a whole lot of experience later, I decided it was a better time to create another book. Over these four years I’d gathered so much inspiration, so many ideas that I wanted to incorporate in to my book, that it was easier for me to create something more unique.

For this book, I chose the Standard Landscape size, with 234 pages. The book is a great size and ideal for taking around in my bag when I need to. Blurb also has this fantastic program you can download, called BookWright. The options and settings for this are limitless and simple. This was another main reason I chose Blurb—putting your own book together couldn’t be simpler. I also love the fact that other people can view your book in the virtual bookstore on Blurb’s website.

The quality of the book is flawless. The extras, from premium paper to coloured inserts, are also a great idea to give your book that extra something.

What would you tell other people about publishing your own book? Do you think it’s for everyone?

Absolutely go for it! I think publishing your own book gives your work, whether it’s a design portfolio or a storybook, that extra amount of professionalism. People I show my book to are amazed. They say it looks so professional and gives my work, and myself, that edge over others.


Details: Do you have four tips you’d give to someone about to lay out their own book?

One: Don’t rush! Think about how you want your book to come across and who is going to see this book. This is the mistake I made with my first book four years ago. I didn’t think about it, and I got so excited at the thought of making it, that I didn’t really focus on what was important. I made mistakes and I don’t get that book out to show people anymore. However, I learned from these mistakes and, as a result, created the book you see now.

Two: Think about the size and orientation. For me it was a no-brainer. Most of my drawings are set at landscape, so that was the orientation sorted out. Next was the size. As I said before, I had already tried out the Large Landscape, so this time I went for the Standard Landscape. I wanted something that I could happily place on my coffee table, but also be able to carry around easily in my lag, as well as being a decent enough size to post.

Three: Try out different covers and cover options. I changed my mind so many times that I lost count. In my opinion, leave the front and back pages until last. Only once I was finished did I realize how it should look. I spent so much time doing things like changing the front and back page or changing my mind from dust jacket to ImageWrap covers. It was only at the end that I realized what it should be. Create the whole book first and this should determine the final outcome.

Four: Keep the cover simple. I see many books in the bookstore that basically drown their front covers in photos. Personally, I think this is too much and too “in your face”. The front cover should entice people to explore the book. Keep it simple, but make it stand out so that people want to see what’s coming next.

What do you use your book for? Does it fit into your career or was it more of a personal project?

A bit of both—it was kind of a personal project. I wanted something that showed off my final project, but without having to make one of those A1-size portfolios. This book basically compresses everything I drew into a small book, which I could place on my lap and have a good look through. I added text, photos, and sketchbook pages, something you can’t really do with a large size portfolio. It gives the person looking at it a better understanding of what you’re trying to put across. Having the freedom to do what I wanted with my book, I didn’t stick to a “typical” portfolio layout.

This book allowed me to put my personal touch in to it and incorporate each of my interests. As well as being a personal project, the idea of the book was to show it off, send it to companies for possible jobs, and take it to interviews. The first place I sent it to was a large architecture firm and the process was quite incredible. I posted my book to them on Monday, and on Tuesday I got a phone call saying they loved the book and had never seen anything like it before. I was offered an interview, which I attended on Friday, and got the job there and then. I later found out that the book pretty much got me the job instantly. I couldn’t believe how much impact a single book would actually have on my career.

What is the best part of publishing your own book?

There’s nothing more special than seeing all your hard effort and work turned into your very own book, in my opinion—books are special (and can be sentimental). The feeling of opening the package and picking up the book you’ve created is really quite something. Having your own book published allows others to be able to see your hard work in a more professional form. Today, there is so much technology and there are so many websites that it’s pretty easy to go unnoticed. Your “online portfolio” just becomes another amongst many these days—nobody really expects you to have a book. When people see mine, they’re amazed, not for just the fact that I got my own book published, but how anyone can do it, afford it, and access the software to create it in the first place.

Any last thoughts about publishing your own book?

There’s no other simpler way to say it, but … DO IT, whether it be for personal use or to showcase your work. I feel Blurb has a fantastic platform for people like myself, to help us to be able to create something professional and affordable. Blurb gives you the freedom and accessibility to create something completely unique that you can keep forever.


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