So you want to make a coffee table book. What now?
At OH! Design Studio, we have designed and created a number of coffee table books. Some were corporate coffee table books which were commissioned by businesses and few published by individuals for a much more defined target audience.
To make a coffee table book, just like any other book, you need to focus on the following aspects:
However, there are certain aspects which varies from other non-fiction book or marketing brochures:
- Coffee table books tend to be more visual. They are mostly full of mesmerizing photographs or beautiful illustrations accompanied by captions and small blocks of text.
- These books tend to have larger dimensions to enhance the visual impact.
About coffee table book publishing
For coffee table book publishing, traditional publishers handle tasks and costs related to design, layout, printing, distribution and marketing. In fact established traditional publishers offer the advantage of negotiating for shelf space in strategically chosen book stores and special arrangements with online retailers like Amazon.
The other approach is self-publishing, which many people do especially for corporate coffee table books and those looking to create personal copies related to family, etc. In such cases, project owners are able to manage and control all aspects themselves, without any profit sharing or the need for a middleman.
Here are the main steps involved in creating a coffee table book:
How to create or make a coffee table book?
Theme: Take time to think it through
It doesn’t matter whether you intend to sell the book, or gift few copies in family or your organization or just make one copy for your personal reference.
To make a coffee table book, start with the purpose and work out a compelling theme.
Our team of coffee table book designers at OH! Design Studio recently completed a project for a leading Indian business house in the steel sector. They wanted to create a coffee table book to mark the 25th Anniversary of their business unit. Here the purpose of that 350 page corporate coffee table book was to show the legacy and the achievements of the company.
On the other hand, if you intend to publish the book for a niche audience, what’s the point of creating one if the theme is not unique? While working on the theme ask yourself what is the new angle in the story. Is the theme intriguing and compelling for the intended audience? Just because you have a collection of compelling images, keep aside the obvious theme and invest time in finding out how you can combine few of your subjects to present it with a twist.
You might be interested in: Purpose of coffee table books with examples
For instance, ‘Folk Yatra’ was designed for people interested in Indian legacy. Our design team worked closely with the author to create a road map to the unexplored art forms of tribal India and take readers along that journey. The result was a true ‘Yatra‘ that left the readers in wondrous amazement of the vast fabric of Indian art and culture.
The point is that if you put enough thought behind the components of your story, you could get creative ideas about how to put them all together and unite them behind a compelling theme.
Design and Layout: Add the wow-factor
Coffee table books are meant to be inspirational and bring aesthetic charm on the table tops.
So how to make a coffee table book with a strong pickup appeal?
(2a) Create Bespoke Coffee Table Book Design:
As important as the theme and content are for any book, graphic design and layouts are equally crucial for the success of coffee table books. Going for an average template-type look and feel cannot do justice to your story or impressive collection of images which you wish to share with others.
Work with a team of professional coffee table book designers to bring that bespoke awe-inspiring look to your book which offers its readers a visual treat.
(2b) What size should a coffee table book be?
Size of a book can be in terms of the dimensions as well as the number of pages.
As for the number of pages in your coffee table book, imagine picking up a huge book with just 60-70 pages in it- what an anti climax that would be for the reader!
As far as dimensions are concerned, these books are meant to be oversized to create the desired impact. Some may suggest standard sizes like 18×12 inches, 12×9 inches, 19×13 inches etc. In fact, the common advice is to create coffee table books in landscape format.
But at OH! Design Studio, we believe each coffee table book deserves a different treatment. Depending on the purpose of the book and the type of images, we decide the dimensions and the orientation i.e portrait or landscape.
Check out these two wildlife coffee table books designed by OH! Design Studio with different orientations.
(2c) On-board the designer while writing for coffee table book:
Don’t just get the designers at the end when your content is final.
Firstly, visioning the project from the eyes of designers early not only serves as a template to content writers. In addition, it also offers a world of insight to project owners.
Secondly, experienced coffee table book designers give a better idea of what’s possible or likely to be successful in formatting the book. Above all, such designers have expansive knowledge-base for the sizes of book trims and what different paper stocks printers carry in-house, which is crucial in your production costs.
(2d) Don’t rush to design the cover image while making coffee table book:
The cover determines the pick-up appeal of the book. But, it’s also true that the cover image and title represent the soul of the book. So what’s the rush? Wait till the major part of the book is designed and then think of making the coffee table book cover image and it’s title. While creating a coffee table book, the content writer and the designers dive deep into the subject matter. Let them come out with a better understanding of the essence of the book and then start work on the cover image.
Written text: Polish like a pro
Just like any other book, when writing for a coffee table book, there should be a proper content flow throughout the book supported by a polished manuscript.
(3a) The Content Flow:
Out of the two, for getting the content flow right, identifying clear objective at the beginning of the project really helps.
And how does preparing the content flow help in making a coffee table book?
Well, at times, writing for a coffee table book can become really overwhelming. But having a predefined flow helps in staying focused. At the end of the day, you want to give your readers original content that’s directly supportive of the selected theme.
(3b) Polished Manuscript:
Having a professional editor and experienced content writers by your side makes this task much easier. For example, while designing coffee table books for our corporate clients, our content partners help in researching the archives and in conducting interviews of key stakeholders.
Also, no matter how much importance images have in such book, that doesn’t make any space for weak captions or body text. Best is you work with editors to create a polished manuscript with professional introduction, index, captions, etc.
In case you’re planning to publish your coffee table book, an effective manuscript combined with images will also help in pitching to publishers.
Images: Make or break your coffee table book
Speaking of images, the main attraction in coffee table books is that of captivating images- photographs, illustrations, etc.
The quality of images is a make or break issue in such projects.
Cost cutting is very tempting, isn’t it? But don’t make the mistake of settling down for sub-standard photo shoot or skipping image cleanup process. Else you’ll be compromising with the soul of your coffee table book!
Printing: Bring out the best in your book
Coffee table book, like fine art books, are expected to look outstanding and last longer.
Only high quality printing ink can do justice to the superior quality photographs for the smooth look.
Then there are other major aspects like press check procedure that includes color and contrast, the bindery, adhesive quality, etc.
For coffee table book printing, OH! Design Studio works only with selective few high-end printers in India who are familiar with large format hard-cover books and can be creative with sharp images, fold-outs and extraordinary covers.
Summary of how to make a coffee table book:
- To make a coffee table book, start with a theme.
- Use bespoke and aesthetic design and layouts. So best is to take a professional’s help.
- Have a proper flow and a polished manuscript.
- Do not compromise on the image quality.
- Go for high-end printing
About OH! Design Studio
OH! Design Studio is a branding & design agency in Mumbai.
OH! Design Studio offers end-to-end creative services for coffee table book designing in India. We craft coffee table books from concept to content, design, art direction for photography and printing. We partner with selective high end printers to deliver everything from perfect color accuracy to crisp, black and white to deliver superior quality. Here’s a glimpse of some of the coffee table books designed by OH! Design Studio.
Founded in 2006, OH! Design Studio is an integrated creative and digital agency with a passion for launching, re-branding and accelerating brands. Our goal is to create lasting and meaningful relationships between our client’s brand and their audience through distinct brand experiences.
At OH!, we believe that design has the power to change behavior. We excel in designing the visual language brands need to tell their story.
For more information contact:
OH! Design Studio