Hey, all. This is Rina again, your “welcome personette”, reporting from the 31st century with some of our software archaeologists’ finds. Back in 2011, Pink Noise: A Posthuman Tale by Leo Korogodski won the Indie Excellence Awards in three categories: (1) Science Fiction; (2) Book Cover Design, Fiction; and (3) Book Interior Design, Fiction. Having searched extensively through the centuries-old records in the obsolete “internet” formats, our software archaeologists have been unable to uncover some details of the Pink Noise design.
NOTE: All PDF and JPG links used in this post are low resolution versions of the actual design.
The width-to-height of a single page is 2:3, corresponding to the musical interval of the perfect fifth. A two-page spread is 4:3, the musical interval of the perfect fourth, complementary to the perfect fifth. The textbox (the rectangle occupied by the main text on the page) has the proportions of the golden section, approximately equal to 1.618. The margins are also well-proportioned: top/bottom = 2:3, in/out = 1:2, in/top = 2:3. The placement of other page elements is also hardly accidental. For example, the vertical positioning of the chapter number in the margins—and at the beginning of a chapter—is governed by the square of the golden section.
As the author (who is also the designer) explains in the colophon, the Optima nova font family was chosen as the principal typeface for thematic reasons. Even though it is a sans-serif font, its glyphs have such delicate tapering curves that they effectively play the part of serifs in how they affect the brain. In fact, the subtle variations of stroke are more attuned to the way our brain wants to see things, in agreement with the patterns of pink noise that play such an important part in the book. Because of this, the original Optima font, designed by the legendary designer Hermann Zapf, is one of the hardest fonts ever to translate to digital format. Optima nova, by Hermann Zapf and Akira Kobayashi, is the second attempt to do it justice in the digital. So what other font could have been more appropriate to set the story that talks about the difficulties in transferring a human mind to a digital format—and what may be lost in the process?
The choice of a sans-serif font for the main typeface meant that its “sans-serif” sidekick companion had to be really simple. Neo Tech was considered at first, being simple and futuristic yet neither boring nor gimmicky. Nevertheless, it was rejected in favor of Agilita, a font with a certain tension despite simplicity and a spring in its step. Neo Tech was still used in a couple of places in the book: the folios at the bottom of the page, and the heading of the spaceship entry.
The interior illustrations are printed in the so-called “rich black” (60% cyan, 40% magenta, 40% yellow, 100% black) and covered with UV gloss. That greatly intensifies the contrast. The author conceived of the posthumans (the “uploaded” minds) and the AIs as beings of light—which dovetails well with the Zulu traditional thought that all colors are reversed in the “world of shades” (the main character is a Zulu-born posthuman). Thus, there is a lot of “shining” quality to their images. And, since the emotions run so deep and intense throughout the story, the high contrast in the illustrations helps a lot. It goes without saying that rich black is also used in the dust jacket, as well as on the endpapers (although for another reason: the endpapers feature some quite picturesque Martian landscapes, the swiss-cheese terrain and the layered terrain).
Our software archaeologists have been also able to unravel the mystery of the “trademark character” at the end of a quotation in the Malayalam language in the margins of page 72 (the link shows the corrected version). Apparently, it had something to do with the way that InDesign CS4, the software tool used to design the book, mishandled the Malayalam font. Although normally good at showing the so-called ligature glyphs, it refused to show some of the more complex Malayalam last-position ligatures properly, breaking up the glyphs into their constituent parts. Thus, the author had to manually edit the font. Indeed, the bound galley shows the correct version of the final glyph in the quotation. Unfortunately, the computer used to output the final PDF didn’t have the edited version of the font, which was discovered too late in the printing process. This, however, appears to be the only problem found in the text; it’s rather clean.
As to the dust jacket, it must be appreciated in its entirety: not just the front cover, but also the back cover, the spine, and even the flaps—especially, the back flap that shows not just the author’s but also the illustrator’s photo, in an interesting arrangement of design elements. However, the link provided in the previous sentence is not enough, for the dust jacket features a combination of UV gloss and matte spot coatings that must be felt by touch. This is not a normal strike-through, where a UV gloss is flooded over a matte spot varnish. On the dust jacket of Pink Noise, the matte is also a UV coating. Since it’s much stronger than a varnish, it doesn’t quite absorb the gloss without trace. Instead, a “sandstone paper” feel is created without requiring an anilox roll. In the original design, the matte spot coating was meant to be half-toned in some areas (over the photos, for example), laid more heavily where the image was darker. But in the end, since he couldn’t attend the press run in India, the author opted for a simpler choice of uniform matte.
NOTE: A reader with the professional version of Adobe Acrobat would be able to view plate separations for all coatings by using the Output Preview functionality.
What happened, however, to the pearlescent varnish mentioned in the colophon? As our software archaeologists have found out, the printer in India didn’t have the pearlescent varnish (apparently, there was no demand for it in India, so the ink manufacturers didn’t sell it there). So the author bought the varnish and had the ink manufacturer ship it to India. However, when the package with two kilograms of varnish arrived at Indian customs, it had one extra zero in the declared price. This made it subject to an import fee, which the printer clearly didn’t have to pay. Explaining things to the custom officials didn’t help much. Like lions with prey in their mouths, they weren’t about to let the package go away for free; they even tried to bargain with the printer over lowering the fee. The author was considering paying it, but the printer made an interesting suggestion: do nothing, wait until customs confiscates the varnish and put it on auction, then purchase it dirt cheap—after all, there is no demand for it in India. This indeed happened; but it took so long for them to put it on auction that the author finally decided to go ahead without the pearlescent varnish.
Where was that varnish to go, as originally planned? According to this screenshot of the pearlescent varnish plate, it was going to appear in the bright highlights of the Dragonclaws weapon, half-toned.