Book History Network

29 June 2004

When I was a PhD student at Reading, I was a part of the Book History Research Network which was a great place to meet fellow researchers engaged in similar areas of research. John Hinks, who was responsible for coordinating the network asked for my help in designing some marketing material for the Network. The BHRN is a non-profit, volunteer-run enterprise so there was little to no budget – all of which had to be retained for the printing.

It was possibly my first real freelance job in Reading. I learnt a great deal from the process of working on these simple postcards which were later placed in various libraries and universities as hand-outs.

Having no ‘contacts’ or network in this new country I had chosen to call my home, I had to research and find available paper stocks and cards and find a printer who would be able to print the cards. The print run was small – just 1,000 in total – so we could not afford offset printing so I had to explore various printing options.

The first task however, was a design problem. John was keen on a contemporary yet crafts-based feel and preferred some kind of illustration or imagery rather than plain typography. He wanted to steer clear of the usual kitsch that accompanies such marketing material.

Being crap at illustration, I resolved the design problem by trolling through tons of good quality clip art online (yes, there is such a thing) and finding my final selection of possible images in the wonderful Briar Press archive (pointed out to me by fellow Reading student Ben Weiner). Here are some of those that we considered as possible images:


Rejected as it implies that the Book History Research Network is mainly about printing (which it is not)



Rejected because she looks really worried about joining the Book History Research Network



Rejected as it is too ‘Aubrey Beardsley’



Rejected for being too generic and directive (i.e. you must join the Book History Research Network!)

As it was a low-cost job, we chose to go with two-colour digital printing. Armed with Reading’s telephone directory and yellow pages, I rang around and asked for quotes. We finally settled on using a good quality printer in Caversham called Conservatree (whom I use till today and would recommend) who offered to do it at reasonable cost and was quick to respond to my query.


Front of the postcard

The entire job took 20 days from design concept to final production and delivery. I’m reasonably happy with the final product except for some horrific justified type on the back of the card. The quality of the digital printing is pretty damn good.


Back of the postcard

Importantly, I learnt some crucial lessons about freelance graphic design which are relevant no matter where you work:
1) Trust your contacts and network and ask them for recommendations. I would not have found Briar Press without Ben’s recommendation.
2) Be confident in approaching printers for quotes and samples. They are usually keen to establish a relationship and areĀ  approachable. Go with the one who treats your job as valuable even if it is small budget.
3) Print your work to check it before it goes to final production. Test, test, test. Check, check, check. Clearly something I did not do for the back of the postcard!
4) Never underestimate the power of clip art.

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