Books that Build Your Brand and Business

In a fun collaboration with RGD, hosts of the DesignThinkers Conference in Toronto, we did a webinar that talked about the evolving design possibilities in the book world. Often, when designers think of books, they think in terms of lifetime collections. We wanted to highlight the innovative ways people are using books to bring out the best in their brands and advance their vision.

As designers ourselves, we know that sometimes all we need is a little inspiration to break our conceptions about what’s possible and spark something new. What we wanted to show was how books can do more than collect content (or even dust!) Self-published books can also work like business cards on steroids.

1. Rylander Design – Every year, Michael Rylander releases a new portfolio book that presents an overview of his work for his fans and clients. His simple and consistent designs use time as a theme, and volumes work together to create a catalog of sample work.

2. Magic City – Magic City is collaboration between Chloe Ferres, Andrew Kaufman, and Daniel Milnor. These books are cut open in creative ways, allowing the viewer to deconstruct the work into unique and modular pieces. A piece that redefines our expectations for how books open and move, the work is so unique that it serves as an attention-grabbing portfolio piece, making a great case for future commissions.

3. Deus Ex Machina – An Annual look-book used for display in stores and showrooms worldwide, this book showcases the tactile experience essential to this apparel brand’s identity. Their apparel lines appear in their own stores and other stores worldwide. They selected ProLine Uncoated Paper and ProLine end sheets to break away from a flimsy catalog and extend the tactile experience.

4. Refueled – Refueled walks the line between Chris Brown’s personal quest for inspiration and pure artistic expression. This magazine also defies the rules when it comes to uniformity and cohesive brand identity. Despite all the variety in their publications—they change their design and masthead with each issue—they manage to maintain an unmistakable identity.

5. Run Freak Run – After publishing the different digital chapters in segments on the Run Freak Run website, the authors thought it would be great to reward their fans by releasing the entire series as one cohesive graphic novel. This is a great example of content that began online and came into its own as it was aggregated into a print publication.

6. The Fourneau Bread Recipe Book – This is an example of a product funded on Kickstarter that offered content publication as a reward. To encourage backing for the development of its specialty oven, Fourneau offered this full color, magazine format recipe book of Strand Design’s favorite bread-related recipes, techniques, and experiments. Blurb handled order fulfillment and helped with the distribution to ensure everyone got their reward.

These are just a few of the books we talk about in our webinar. We also talked about some tips to keep in mind as you create books of your own:

1. Simplify: Show more, tell less. Use fewer fonts and fewer colors. Be brief and to the point. Follow cues from authors or brands similar to yours so that people have a context for your content.

2. Collaborate: No one holds you accountable better than a partner in crime. Also, mashups are in; they provide a fresh perspective in often saturated markets.

3. Establish a routine: Like meditation, creativity is a practice that’s best followed by setting small and attainable goals and keeping a steady pace of work.

4. Use the platform: Make test books, try formats you haven’t tried before. This will get you in a place where you make the book you really want to make vs. the book you think you need to make.

Remember, products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind. To create your brand, put yourself in a fresh, open mindset. Be bold. Try new things. Only through experimentation you’ll find out what works for you and what doesn’t. Often times books and magazines are companions to other passions you are interested in. Find that passion and fuel it with a printed companion piece. Best of luck in your book-making quest!


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