I’ve always been mystified by how proudly unconcerned your average vanity press is with good design. I’m not just talking about books; it’s the marketing materials, too, whether an overwrought logo or a website that looks like it hasn’t been updated since 1997. Why on earth would anyone want to publish a book with a company that can’t even put out a decent piece of letterhead?
So what London-based ico design has done for ubyu books, a company that publishes “bespoke books for you by you,” is pretty damned remarkable: It’s a chic identity package that owes more to the aesthetic of a hip graphic design company than to that of a hacky vanity press.
Granted, hip graphic designers are precisely who ubyu wants to lure: The publishing house is aimed squarely at “image makers and creatives” and distinguishes itself from other presses by offering authors high-quality printing and finishing services, not to mention a variety of design choices.
Ico approached the assignment by emphasizing quality and clarity. The logo is just a simple lower-case rendering of the company’s name, which Ico also helped develop. U-by-u: Ya’ get it? It took me a second; I first read it as “u-b-yu.” Other names they considered included indelible, selfex, inkalink, inpictu, buy the book, bookish, and byyou. (Yikes. Are all the good vanity-press names taken?)
Okay, so maybe the name isn’t terribly good. But the website makes up for it. The homepage features big porny shots of silk marker ribbons and colored headbands and other little flourishes by photographer John Ross to whet visitors’ appetite for all things bookish. The rest of the site is an exercise in minimalism, with white space galore and crystal-clear architecture. It only takes one click to find out exactly what ubyu has on offer, from assorted book covers and end papers to foiling and debossing options. “Visually we find a calmness that suggests sophistication and promotes confidence in the service,” the designers say. I’ll say. If I were an author, I’d lose confidence pretty quickly if I had to spend an hour on a publisher’s website just to figure out what kind of book I’d get out of them.
More small presses should follow ubyu’s lead. With Amazon elbowing its way into the self-publishing industry–and, perhaps, elbowing out traditional publishing houses–the world of vanity presses is bound to explode. That means more competition for authors’ eyeballs. One way companies can set themselves apart is through design, both by improving the online user experience and by branding themselves in such a way that writers using their service won’t end up with a book they’d be too embarrassed to show their mother.
[Images courtesy of ico; hat tip to Identity Designed]