Anniversary books and design firms: Resolve these five issues first
My March 24th post concerned hiring a design or marketing firm or an advertising agency to develop and produce a book about an organization's history. As I mentioned then, anniversary books are often longer and editorially more complex than the projects typically produced by such firms.
I also noted that the manuscript and art for such an anniversary book might not have received the necessary shaping, trimming, and focusing that a strong editorial hand can supply. So, even if you are confident in your completed manuscript, here are five crucial points to cover before commissioning a creative team. 1. Previous experience
Requesting information as specific as possible on this point always works to your advantage. If the potential vendor assures you that there is no difference between the work he has produced and what you require, ask him why — specifically and in detail. You know much more and about your organization and are likely to have a clearer picture of the end product you want than he does. Once, when bidding to produce the history of an executive recruitment firm, we were summarily discounted because we did not have another executive recruitment firm's history in our portfolio. The client spent fifteen very illuminating minutes outlining why they required such particular experience.2. Communication vs. intimidation
Do the prospective firms understand your business, your organization, your story? Do they effectively present to you your story — in terms related to your business — rather than explain how they approach their own work? I've attended design presentations, both as a designer and a client, at which I have seen too many design professionals rely heavily on design-speak. They seemed to use it as an effective means of intimidation, assuming that the best defense is a good offense. Resist these obvious tactics, and keep in mind that the presenter needs to prepare for the meeting by familiarizing himself with your work, not the other way around.3. Samples of their work
If you want a cloth-bound, hardcover book with a French-fold* dust jacket and five-color, printed endpapers, the firm you hire needs to show you a sample of exactly that. Your vendor should be working with a printer who specializes in printing and binding illustrated, hardbound books. If not, you run a significant risk of cost over-runs, schedule delays, and compromises to the overall quality of the finished book.4. Schedule, front-end and back end
Does the design firm you are interviewing understand the time frame your anniversary history requires? Imagine you have a total of 14 months in which to complete the project, but your designer doesn't realize it may take more than 12 of those months to complete the text and art research, interviews, writing, and editing. Such inexperience will turn into significant rush fees for production and printing, not to mention the chance of a missed deadline.5. Will it last?
You expect the beautifully printed and bound book you have worked so hard to produce — this volume that commemorates the last however-many years of your organization — to have a shelf life of more than a few months. Many print publications incorporate very expensive techniques and materials, but are not expected to have the long and useful life of a well-made book. Printers and binders specializing in fine-quality illustrated books have the resources to offer the best prices on paper, printing, and binding materials that endure. Find out if the firm you are interviewing knows how to provide you with a beautiful book that will also last decades, not just years. Note, too, that the same kind of longevity should be expected from the book's look, feel and design. Trendy seldom equals lasting.
*A "french fold" dust-jacket is one with folded, double-thick edges along the book's perimeter, which assures greater durability and resistance to tearing.