50 Hikes: On the Trail to Good Design

With the river books of Ooligan Press (Ricochet River and At the Waterline) sent happily upstream to the printers, the next big project for Team Design is focusing on Ooligan’s revised edition of the Sierra Club guidebook, 50 Hikes in the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests. Originally published in 2001 as a trail guide for Sierra Club members, this collection provides trail descriptions, hiking difficulty rankings, and regional history. The second edition will include updated information, featured photographs, original illustrations, plant guides, and a new introduction. This title offered the design department plenty of creative potential, which began with researching and designing concepts for a fitting cover.
Finalizing the design brief with the 50 Hikes project team produced a few possible design directions that will both capture the historical angle of this guidebook as well as celebrate its renewal. One key question we considered throughout this process was, how do we make this guidebook stand out from the rest? With a whole forest of lush green guidebooks on the shelves, how can we give 50 Hikes a distinct style that will still fit in with its market? The design brief has helped us envision the cover through the trees. One potential direction for a cover design draws inspiration from vintage nature posters with an illustrative style.

Another option is to incorporate streamlined, contemporary typography with a band of bright color and inviting photography to create a look that’s fresh, crisp, and clean.

For a book cover at Ooligan, the process typically stretches over several weeks, from concept to final design. The first round of submissions focuses on the big-picture idea, looking at layout, style, tone, and arrangement of elements. From there, more details are added and refined until the cover concept shapes into a more robust design. Even after a final cover is selected, small adjustments and additional drafts are to be expected. Feedback from the press, other designers, and the author (or in this case, organization) are all taken into consideration when fine-tuning a design.
The design department received fifteen promising cover design concepts to develop for 50 Hikes. After several weeks of submissions, these concepts were then narrowed down to the top candidates via a press vote. Solidifying a cover is an essential part of a book’s life cycle. A cover gives a book its face; it shapes the style of the interior and the overall packaging of the book, as well as being a key player in creating marketing materials.
Next up for 50 Hikes will be envisioning the interior design, and this title offers plenty of possibilities with a variety of elements to consider, such as determining the best trim size, selecting which photos and illustrations to use, and organizing the text and all necessary information to help translate where it will go on the page. While designing a book cover allows for a more organic creative process, approaching a book’s interior requires more intentional problem-solving techniques before adding the first word to the file. However, both cover and interior design need direction to help them arrive at their final designed destination. When it comes to creating a good design for this guidebook, we’re on the right trail.

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