A screen-grab of a page in progress.

A screen-grab of a page in progress.

I ran afoul of one of my truisms this week. “Things take longer than I think they will”. That’s not always the case but it seems to be true a whole lot of the time. This time is was about my “Little Red Sketchbook” project. In and of itself the project is taking longer than I thought it would but by now I’ve settled into the idea that it isn’t getting done quickly. But this week it was part of the design process that was taking so long.

The design process itself has been taking a while. I thought I had it down but then I went and changed things. I’m designing this whole book for the iPad and originally I designed it so that the iPad was held horizontally and two pages of the sketchbook would be one page on the iPad. The left hand side would be text and the right hand side would be the drawing. Turned out that didn’t work for me. It was too small. So I redesigned it to be vertical and show one page at a time. First you see a page of text and then as you turn the page you see the drawings. I liked that better but now the size of the sketchbook was too narrow.

I went back and widened the book background to a suitable size but I couldn’t just stretch the artwork too. So now I had to figure out what to do with the extra inch or so of space on the page with the art. Of course my answer was “More art” but that meant making more art. I didn’t have that in me so I instead decided to repurpose some art I already had made. I ended up using some of my “Message Tee” drawings from a couple of years ago, minus the type, and had them peering through the page at the viewer. That worked for me. It took a while to get done but I got it done.

That was half of the eighty two pages done but I still had the other half to go and that was the half with the most design work. My concept for the book wasn’t just a page of type on the left hand side but type and some small images. I wanted to used some little photos and drawings in with the type. But which small photos and drawings? That was the work. But before even that I had to decide on if I wanted borders around the photos and what they should look like. These are the details of design that always take up more time than I think they will. Design is like that. So much of it is paying attention to small details.

I ended up deciding on hand drawn borders for the small bits. That took and is taking way longer than I thought it would. First of all I tried drawing the borders digitally. I used my Wacom tablet and pen and drew some rectangles in Photoshop. Somehow I failed at this and after about twenty minutes I decided to draw them on paper and scan them in. It took no time at all to draw about ten different shaped boxes and scan them in. Then I decided I needed even more boxes and drew and scanned another ten. So with twenty boxes to use as borders I was ready to go. Almost.

That’s when I discovered that I liked the line quality of the boxes but some of the shapes were a bit off. I had to spend some more time straightening some of the lines without making them too straight. They had to still look hand drawn but without any distracting curvy flaws in them. These are the kind of design details that take time and drive me crazy. They’re just boxes but it’s important that they’re done right. And it’s tedious and boring to do them right. It’s not like making a drawing where I’m trying to make something interesting. It’s a boring box that I’m trying to get to blend in and not stand out and be distracting.

After a few hours of making boxes I had twenty of them ready to go. That still wasn’t enough. I’ve found that sometimes I need one that was a little wider or a little taller so I adapt one that I already made. That at least takes less time then making one from scratch. It was at this point I also have to decide which photos and bits of art to use in the boxes amongst the type. That takes time but at least is a bit more methodical. I open my photos, pick one, decide if I want to apply one of my filter recipes, crop it, and add the border. Same with the bits of art. Then I got the idea to add some bits of type in.

Along with the story on the left side of the book (which I still haven’t finished writing by the way that’ll take more time) I wanted some small bits of type that looked like hand written notes or some such with cryptic bits of writing in them. You want to know another thing that takes up more time than it should? Try picking out fonts that you want to use. It’s insane. I first tried looking on the internet for fonts that I wanted to use. Sometimes this is easier than looking through the ones already on my computer.

Font management on a computer is and always has been a nightmare. Font management programs barely make it easier. I’ve used a variety of them but the always fail me in the end. I’m back to using the default Apple program “Font Book” but the problem with it (and others like it) is that the fonts have to be open to sample them. I have thousands of fonts and to have them all open all the time slows things down too much. I keep only the ones I use a lot open at all times. The best viewing solution ended up being the “Cover Flow” view of the Mac OS. When viewing the font file that view gives you a couple of sample letter and then a sample alphabet. But then I have to scroll through endless font files. That takes a long time. And don’t get me started on why Font Book won’t even open some fonts. You drop them on and it does nothing. I had to spend more time finding a work-around for that. Lots of things take a long time. Way longer than I think.