I recently found Jan Tschichold's The Form of the Book: Essays on the Morality of Book Design on Scribd (proper real-word editions are still available on Amazon, as long as you're willing to smash the studio piggy bank). The book collects various things that he wrote on design and typography throughout his career, but there's one bit that I keep returning to (possibly because it's a nicely-digestible list): ten common mistakes in the production of books. It was written in 1975, but it all remains pertinent today.
Everything in the book is worth your time, but I thought it'd be handy (for myself at least) to extract the list for future reference:
- Deviant formats: Book that are needlessly large, needlessly wide and needlessly heavy. Books have to be handy. Books wider than the ratio 3:4 (quarto), especially square ones, are ugly and impractical; the most important good proportions for books were and are 2:3, Golden Section and 3:4. The hybrid format A5 is particularly bad, while the hybrid format A4 is at times not entirely unsuitable. The inner book, or book block, of books that are too wide – square books in particular – will drop at the face. It is not easy to shelve or otherwise store books that are wider than 25cm; 97/8 in.
- Inarticulate and shapeless typesetting as a consequence of suppressing indents. Unfortunately, this bad habit is encouraged by business schools, who teach, quite erroneously, that writing letters without indents is < modern >. One should not believe that this is merely < a matter of taste >. Here readers and nonreaders separate.
- Opening pages without any initial, pages that begin bluntly in the upper left-hand corner and look like any other random page of text. One thinks he is seeing something other than the beginning. The opening chapter must be marked by a wide blank space above the initial line, by an initial letter or by something distinctive.
- Lack of form, a consequence of the stillness if using only one size of type. It is difficult for any reader to find his way around in a book where chapter openings are not accentuated and where title and imprint have been set in lowercase only in the size of the basic font.
- White, and even stark white, paper. Highly unpleasant for the eyes and an offence against the health of the population. Slight toning (ivory and darker, but never crème), never obtrusive, is usually best.
- White book covers. Equally confounding. They’re about as delicate as a white suit.
- Flat spines on bound books. the spines of bound books must be gently rounded; if they’re not, the book with be cockeyed after reading, and the middle signatures will protrude.
- Gigantic vertical lettering on spines that are wide enough to carry a horizontal inscription. Titles on the spine need not be legible from far away.
- No lettering on the spine at all. Inexcusable for books more than 3 mm thick. How does one relocate such a booklet? The author’s name must not be missing. It often determines the position of a book on the shelf.
- Ignorance of or disregard for the correct use of small caps, cursive and quotation marks.