[Alyson Kuhn] Last week, we spoke with Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker, the authors of PANTONE: The 20th Century in Color. Their encyclopedic, meticulously illustrated book has just been published in eight languages. We also had a chance to chat with designer Brooke Johnson at Chronicle Books, who worked on the book “from November 2010 ’til the last possible second in June 2011.” She tells a Pretty Mesmerizing Story (P.M.S.).
I see from the spines that Chronicle Books is not the publisher of all eight editions. How does this work?
The Chronicle Books edition is in English only. We sold rights to publish the book in specific territories to seven foreign publishers. They each translated the text and provided us with their translated files. Our rock star production coordinator, Yolanda Cazares, tracked the files from each publisher and coordinated with our printer to output all eight editions at the same time. Needless to say, this got confusing, especially when we had text corrections at the last minute!
And where are the foreign publishers located?
They are in: South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Spain, France, Italy and Germany. Chronicle Books will be selling our English-language edition in countries throughout the world — with the exception of the territories where we sold foreign-language editions.
Exactly how did these eight versions get produced?
When we have foreign editions, the text must all be set in black. All editions have identical CMY [cyan, magenta and yellow] plates, and the printer swaps out the K [black] plate for each different language.
Did you work on the cover designs of the foreign-language editions?
Each publisher has the option to design their own cover. Some of them chose this route, and some decided to go with our cover design. I wanted the book’s overall design to convey visual cues as to the progression of time, starting with the gradient blocks on the cover. The color builds from page 1 through the Table of Contents and progresses from left to right on each chapter divider. [You can see photos of these in our interview with the authors.] And I think the book sans jacket will appeal to the purists in the crowd!
With one brief essay — and great illustrations, of course — for each palette, the book strikes me as almost seductively readable. Who do you think will use the book as a tool?
We think — and hope others do too! — that this book is a must-have resource for designers of all disciplines, as well as artists, art historians, historians and anyone interested in color, art and design.
How much did the number of images and the diversity of sources add to the complexity of the project?
As with all books, and this one especially, it was a team effort! Bridget Watson Payne [editor of art books and paper goods at Chronicle Books] worked directly with the authors and an image researcher to collect the images. The authors, of course, had very specific things that they were looking for in terms of content and color palette.
The authors wanted all the colors shown in images on each spread to correspond as closely as possible to that spread’s palette. There were some cases where the quality of the first images that we saw wasn’t totally there, so we did some back and forth with the authors and image researcher to find better examples. Actually, there was a lot of back and forth through the entire process, swapping new images in, taking them out. I was photographing and scanning images from the authors’ personal collections, our intern was scanning things at the public library, etc..
I am quite curious as to how the index was compiled — from Abstract Expressionism to Peter Zumthor. What an undertaking! How many entries does it include?
When the book layout was nearly complete, we sent it to an indexer. There are people who do this for a living. I have no idea how they do it — and I kind of don’t want to know. All I know is that they don’t do it electronically. The index contains over 400 entries.
Brooke Johnson also designed Pantone 100 Postcards and two Pantone journals (Honeysuckle and Pantone Chips), which we wrote about here. The Pantone notecards she designed are guaranteed to make the recipient feel chipper. Additional colorful products will be forthcoming.