It Has Been 20 Years for Design Corps

image for Design Corps turns 20We began in 1996. So, in case you have forgotten, below are some facts and figures about what was happening back then in the headlines and in pop culture. 
   And, as always, we would like to thank all our clients — past, present and future — for making the journey not just possible but rewarding.

Top 1996 News Stories:

– DVDs are launched in Japan

– Mad Cow Disease hits Britain

– UN tribunal charges Serbs, Bosnians and Croats with war crimes

– FBI arrests suspected Unabomber

– South Africa gets new constitution

– Militant Taliban leaders seize Afghan capital of Kabul

– 45 million people use the Internet, roughly 2/3rds of those were in North America

– The world’s first sheep is cloned, it is named Dolly

– Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, get divorced


World Population in 1996:

5.760 Billion


1996 Best Selling books:

Frank McCourt – Angela’s Ashes
Chuck Palahniuk – Fight Club
Neil Gaiman – Neverwhere
Jon Krakauer – Into the Wild
Anonymous (Joe Klein) – Primary Colors
Nicholas Evans – The Horse Whisperer


1996 Academy Awards Best Movie:



1996 Biggest Song:


Read more →

Books without Design

What if you couldn’t judge a book by its cover

Ever thought of what a book would be without design? I mean none — not even with the minimalist background photo and a colored title set in a trending font. How would readers judge it without having to read the entire manuscript? How could they even guess the content? Here below are some possible outcomes. Feel free to try your own crazy scenarios for these or other titles — you can post your ideas on our FaceBook page.


image of Lord of the Rings without design


In the tradition of John LeCarre, a lowly sales rep accidentally stumbles upon the world of corporate greed and espionage when he finds an NSA list of phone numbers. If it were to fall into the wrong hands it could be used to reach hundreds of millions of potential buyers. Such power is too great for any one company and so it must be destroyed. To do this he must break into the government networks where the list was created. There he will need to delete all digital copies if he is to save the world. But he cannot do it alone. Therefore, a band of eight other corporate workers, including one taciturn old programming wizard, pledge to aid him in his quest. But some within the group will be sorely tempted to steal the list for themselves.


image of A Portrait without design


An alternative history in which a young Adolf Hitler finds fame and riches when his artwork is suddenly “discovered.” He is whisked away to promote his “art” in New York City. Meanwhile, things go from bad to worse back in Europe as communism sweeps across the entire European continent. While young Adolf is satisfied to stay in New York and enjoy the luxury of fame, a beleaguered England alone opposes the advances of the Communist International. They are helped on the Continent only by zealous “counter-revolutionaries”, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who see it as their duty to oppose the forces of the growing evil-empire of atheistic Communism.


image of 1984 without design


A new computer company has risen which seeks to enslave the entire population through its “personal computer” technology. Its venue of vapid videos, music, apps, and pseudo-news stories soon enchant the once productive workers. There ensues a state of constant distraction through internet browsing where everything is just a click away. The company quickly develops a cult-like status. The people are oblivious to its ever-increasing product pricing and its frequent software upgrade requirements. All seems hopeless until, during a single fateful power outage, one man will discover the will to unplug, to liberate others, and to start a cultural revolution of physical fitness and meaningful communication.

Read more →

Interior Art: Helping Tell the Story

Adding Continuity to Communication

Albert Einstein said, “Information is not knowledge.” As anyone knows who has had to read a paragraph twice or who has been lost in the midst of an assortment of facts and figures, words are sometimes not enough to convey meaning. Often what is needed is an image. That is why—along with cover design, interior design, and page composition—Design Corps also offers interior graphics that are uniquely crafted for the style and voice of your book.

Both partners at Design Corps come from a background of taking complex information and molding it into a more simple and understandable form. Dan van Loon grew up learning the art of technical illustration from his father who was a technical illustrator. John Wollinka once worked for the University of Florida producing maps, graphs, and illustrations for professors and graduate students. And today both partners are still turning information into communication.

Design Corps is often asked to produce art for book interiors. As with any form of communication, a book works best when it speaks with a single consistent voice. So when we produce interior art we strive to give it  continuity, consistency, clarity, and craftsmanship:
• continuity with the branding of the author/organization,
• consistency with the look and style of the design of the book’s cover and interior;
• clarity in the conveying all information with readability, simplicity, and accuracy;
• and craftsmanship in its aesthetic refinement and quality.

Charts & Graphs

Even when we don’t do the cover of a book ourselves, the interior should feel as if it has a single look and feel that it shares with the cover. Therefore the existing cover is always for us the first guide which we use for all subsequent art. The other guide is designing to help the reader navigate through the text. The final design guide is, of course, to make all art look as aesthetic and appropriate as possible.


Illustration has been used to add value to books since at least the time of the illuminated manuscripts. In the 15th century woodcut illustrations caught on and quickly became popular. Our illustrations today are more humble but can be just as beneficial to your manuscript.


Whether working in Adobe Illustrator or in Adobe In Design, Design Corps seeks to design data that can pick up styles within the book and be duplicated throughout. Using character and paragraph styles speeds up this process and ensures a consistent application of all styles for a unified look throughout the book.

Special Section Page Art

Section pages and chapter intro pages are important visual elements in a book. We try to use these as opportunities to give extra visual “punch” to the interior design.
A book is more than just the sum of its parts. From graphs and charts, to icons and illustrations, attention to style and communication can help make a book work more effectively in communicating its message as well as in conveying a unique look and feel from start to finish. Uniformity of style and message is what makes a book speak more deeply than any other form of communication.

Read more →

Publishing 2015: Books by the Numbers


In past articles on books and publishing, we have shown you where books have been (see PUBLISHING IN PERSPECTIVE) and where they might go in the future (see THE FUTURE OF THE BOOK), but now, in 2015, everyone seems to be wondering where books are going. E-book sales have leveled off and the dystopian young adult novels which dominated the publishing world last year, have some real challengers this year in the traditional adult literature arena. There have been a plethora of predictions for the publishing industry, so below is a list of our favorites with links to sources so you can try to forecast for yourself what the future of books will look like. We have also created some very helpful graphs so you can visualize the state of publishing.

12 Facts and Predictions


1. The proportion of books now sold through independent bookstores.  “Amazon’s arrival on the scene is only part of the story here, of course; the decline of the indies started with the debut of big-box stores like B&N and Borders.” (1)



2. The number of independent bookstores is less than half of what it was 20 years ago.  There used to be about 4,000 in the U.S.; now there are fewer than 2,000. (1)


numbers-33. Amazon’s annual revenue from book sales compared to its total yearly revenue.  Amazon’s current annual revenue from book sales is $5.25 billion. That means books account for 7% of the company’s $75 billion in total yearly revenue. (1)


numbers-44. Growth of Self-published titles between 2008 and 2013. “…the number of self-published titles in 2013 was up 437% over 2008. Not only that, but a small but growing number of indie authors have been making incomes in the high six figures—and sometimes more.” (2)


numbers-55. The average number of books sold for a self-published book. “With all of the hundreds of thousands of books published, many more of those (more than ever) will go unnoticed. Right now the average sale for a self-published book is 100 copies. I believe that number will drop to 10 or less.” (3)


numbers-66. Bigger phones mean a bigger mobile reading market. “…technology analyst Gartner has predicted that next year alone consumers will buy 2.4 billion smartphones.… In Asia large-screened “phablets” have been popular devices … for some time. This trend has spread to Europe and the US too, with the phablet form factor getting the official seal of approval when Apple launched its 5.5-inch screened iPhone 6 Plus this autumn…. As phones around the world get bigger, both physically and as a category, we will certainly see more people use them for reading books in the coming year.” (4)


numbers-77. E-book purchases from tablets alone.  In the U.S. there are almost 300 million tablets, smart phones, and e-readers combined. Betty Kelly Sargent writes in Publishers Weekly, “… publishing analyst Thad McIlroy’s “11 Topmost Digital Book Publishing Trends & Opportunities” report cites data from the Pew Research Center and Nielsen Book Research indicating the following:

  • About 70 million people in the U.S. have tablets. Roughly, one-third of these people use their tablet for reading, and they’re the source of 42% of e-book purchases.
  • Around 175 million people in the U.S. own cellphones. About 12% of them (that’s 21 million people) read books on their devices. They account for about 7% of e-book purchases.
  • Sales of dedicated e-readers are on the decline, but about 50 million people in the U.S. have them, and e-readers are still the source of one-third of e-book purchases.” (3)

blogimage_ebook sales sources


numbers-88. E-book pricing finds its groove. “Now with agency pricing back in full swing, and publishers putting whatever price they want on their eBooks (per the Hachette/Amazon dispute), I think you’re going to see a surge of pricing changes in 2015. Readers won’t pay high prices for an eBook, and Amazon’s figures have proven that the sweet spot is $2.99 to $5.99 for eBook pricing. Yes, it’s low, but also consider the average reader. The best market for digital is genre fiction and these fans tend to be avid readers, meaning they could blow through a book a week, or two books a month. So pricing books high does not make a ton of sense, because this market won’t support it. Maybe your book isn’t in genre fiction, and that’s fine, but these price points affect all of us.” (3)


numbers-99. Print books outsold e-books in 1st half of 2014. “According to Nielsen’s survey, ebooks constituted only 23 percent of unit sales for the first six months of the year, while hardcovers made up 25 percent and paperback 42 percent of sales. In other words, not only did overall print book sales, at 67 percent of the market, outpace ebook sales, both hardcovers and paperbacks individually outsold ebooks.” (5)


numbers-1010. Amazon’s percentage of control of the e-book market (but Apple is about to challenge them).  “Ever since it was sued by the government for conspiring to fix e-book prices, Apple has been forced to slow its inevitable crawl into book publishing. But in 2015 the crawl may build into a sprint. The early indication is that Apple will likely win its appeals hearing, now that the (new) judge seems to appreciate that Amazon monopolizes 90 percent of the e-book market. My prediction here is simply that Apple will win its appeal in advance of Apple vs. Amazon: The Great Publishing War of 2016.” (6)


11. Large publishers step up usage of FREE (and FREE will lose more mojo). For some time now the e-book market has been skewed due to the proliferation of the trend to offer FREE books. (7)


12. The proportion of all books sold in the U.S. that are Kindle titles.  “E-books now make up around 30% of all book sales, and Amazon has a 65% share within that category, with Apple and Barnes & Noble accounting for most of the balance.” (1)



We hope you have enjoyed this modest list of publishing stats and forecasts. At Design Corps we love books — no matter if they are old and dog-eared, print-on-demand, or e-books. And we love designing books from cover design, interior design, and page composition through the final production for all forms of books (whether printed or digital), as well as illustrations, graphs, charts and diagrams. You can check out all our samples at here at



(1) — (“Book Publishing Predictions for 2015” By Jeff Bercovici Forbes Staff,,  February 10, 2014)

(2) — (“Self-Publishing Predictions”  By Betty Kelly Sargent, Publishers Weekly,,  January 26, 2015)

(3) — (“12 Publishing And Marketing Predictions For 2015”  By Penny Sansevieri, The Future of Ink,  December 26, 2014)

(4) — (“Five Trade Publishing Predictions for 2015”  By Michael Cairns, Publishing Technology,  January 14, 2015)

(5) — (“Print Books Outsold Ebooks in First Half of 2014” By Claire Fallon, Huff Post Books,,  October 06, 2014)

(6) —  (“Book Publishing Predictions for 2015” By Jonathan Sturgeon, Flavorwire,,  December 30, 2014)

(7) — (“2015 Book Publishing Predictions: Slow Growth Presents Challenges and Opportunities” By Mark Coker, Smashwords, December 31, 2014)


Read more →

Understanding the Generations

First let me say that there are two free PDFs that you can either download now or wait and do it at the end of this article. They provide a wealth of interesting and accessible information on the generations in two fun formats. Click HERE to download our “Understanding the Generations” Infographic PDF. Click HERE to download our “Understanding the Generations” Trading Cards PDF.

Generational Shifts and Their Causes

You have probably heard the quote: “You do not truly understand a person until you walk a mile in their shoes.” We are all so different. In addition to our personal idiosyncrasies, there are differences that stem from our nationality, our culture, our gender, etc. It starts to add up to a lot of walking.

But when it comes to understanding different generations the best way to “walk a mile in their shoes” is to reflect on history. Specifically, we need to try to understand a generation by looking at the decades in which they came-of-age. For example, many Traditionalists were born at the start of the Great Depression and came of age during WWII. Many Baby Boomers grew up in an era of unprecedented affluence but also marked with social upheaval and lack of trust in the government, while the Millennial generation grew up with the internet.

Affluence or economic upheaval, war or peace, social conformity or counter culture: these create a huge difference in a generation’s psyche. Along with the more earth-moving events there are also the subtle but constant changes in popular culture through entertainment trends, news headlines, or technological advances. Understanding these eras can be a great benefit to understanding, and getting along with, the people of other generations.

Generally Recognized Demarcations of Generations

Although names and dates vary, the consensus is that there are four different generations currently active in the work force today. These are most commonly referred to as:
Traditionalists (born 1929 to 1945),
Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964),
Generation X (born 1965 to 1982), and
Millennials or Generation Y (born 1983 to 2001).

One source reported that, as of 2012, the workforce was composed of the following percentages of generations: “(Traditionalists) make up 5%-6%; Baby Boomers, 43% – 46%; Gen X, 30%- 40%; and Gen Y, 15% – 20%.” 3 Each generation has attributes that can greatly benefit an organization. But also weaknesses. We may need to admit our own generational perspectives with its inherent flaws and blind spots if we are to appreciate all the generations and grow as well. Below is a list that can give you a rough idea of characteristics that one may find in each generation.

Traditionalists-Trading-card_433x587Traditionalists (born 1929 to 1945):
Grew up in the Great Depression and WWII “and were raised with strict regimen that taught them to value quality, respect, and authority.”5
– tend toward patriotism
– respect for authority, rules, and conformity
– loyalty to company
– success is from hard work, dedication, and perseverance,
– rationing, thrift, and spending wisely
– believe in division of labor
– duty before fun 5
– value discipline, working toward a greater good, and traditional values 2
– like messages that convey respect and appreciation 2
– clear distinction between boss and worker 5

Baby-Boomers-Trading-card_433x587Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964):
Grew up or came of age in the most financially secure and affluent time recorded in the USA — 1964 to 1982. They “embraced value of having to sacrifice to get ahead. That sacrifice made them very loyal to their employers and colleagues.” 5 Also grew up with the paranoia of the cold war with its threat of nuclear annihilation.
– distrust of government 2
– individualistic and self-empowered, 2
– competitive
– seek personal gratification
– interest in health & wellness 5
– always learning 5
– workaholics 5
– job status and symbols important 5
– focus in workplace on process and output not implications and outcomes 5
– of the four generations they have the most disposable income 2
– prefer face to face communication 5

Gen-Xers-Trading-card_433x587Generation X (born 1965 to 1982):
“Grew up without the safety net of a flourishing economy”2. Many “were latchkey children who watch(ed) their parents forge a new work environment, they were the first generation to grow up with computer technology. They care more about productivity than they do about the number of hours spent on the job.” 5
– tech savvy
– widespread cynicism, distrust of institutions
– world weary, pessimistic, skeptical,
– pragmatic, independent, self-reliant
– knowledge seeking & sharing 1
– balance work and family 5
– like to have fun at work, prefer flexible work hours and informal work environment 5
– more focused on earning a living than staying loyal to a company 2
– less work-focused than previous generations 2
– like to get the most out of their money 2
– approach authority casually 5
– focus in workplace on relationships, outcomes, their rights and skills 5

Millenials-Trading-card_433x587Millennials (also known as Generation Y) (born 1983 to 2001):
“Grew up without the safety net of a flourishing economy”2. Also grew up with the internet. They “are entrenched in technology. They multi-task, and bore easily. They understand how to maximize and leverage new technology better then any generation before them, and they value a balanced life style.” 5
– goal-setting a priority 5
– team players,
– political 5
– respect norms & institutions
– technology-based peer community, connected, generation of e-everything
– a complex, extremely diverse group, global, multicultural
– exist to consume, materialistic
– confident, opinionated, self-reliant, optimistic and positive
– empowered by their command of digital technologies 1
– incredibly tech-savvy 2
– accepting of alternative lifestyles 2
– self-absorbed 2
– more optimistic as entrepreneurs 2
– appreciates humor, creativity, and image 2
– trust internet more than direct-mail 2

Understanding the Generations is Different from Understanding Individuals

One book critic on Amazon has cited that the use of generational personality is “gross stereotyping”7. And it is true if it is misapplied. But the point we are making is that we need to try to understand where people are coming from. We are not trying to make them all fit in one category. As a person born in 1964, I find I identify much more with the Traditionalists in some areas than I do with Baby Boomers or Generation X. In other areas I identify with the characterization of other generations. As individuals we all are unable to be stereotyped. But when looking at population segments these differences are undeniable.
Understanding the Generations infographic image

Summary and Tools

No matter your role, in work or society, it is good to realize just how varied different generations can be. There have been a lot of articles done on marketing to different generations — and we have included some links below  — but here we simply want to offer you tools that can summarize the generational differences. So, along with the list above, we have created an info-graphic that shows a timeline of major events that influenced each generation as well as shows changes in the work place.

Look around you at those you know best from other generations. An easy place to start is with your parents, grandparents, children, or grandchildren. If they ever seem to have expectations that seem different, outdated, or just plain bizarre, it could be because they are reasoning according to the context of their generation’s values and perspectives. These perspectives of other generations could prove to be a real benefit to ourselves. We should all try putting on a little humility next time we are with someone from another generation and see what we can learn from them. It might surprise each of us.

FREE Resources

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, we would love to share with you some free resources we have designed that present the information in this article in a fun and easily accessible way. There is our “Understanding the Generations” infographic which presents the experiences, characteristics, and birth statistics of the different generations all on one page. Or you can download and print out the “Understanding the Generations” trading cards that we have designed for each generation.

Click HERE to download for free our “Understanding the Generations” Infographic PDF.

Click HERE to download for free our “Understanding the Generations” Trading Cards PDF.

Enjoy, and vive la différence!



1 – ROCG, 2007,’s-your-daddy-marketing-to-different-generations

2 – YAHOO! Small Business Advisor, September 5th, 2013,

3 –

4 – Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman, “When Generations Collide: Who They Are. Why They Clash. How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work”, HarperBusiness; Reprint edition (March 4, 2003)

5 – Mary Mack TASC Conference PDF,

6– chart content from “The Rest of the Story with Rob Gurwitt, How Generation X is Shaping Government”, Posted by Kent Wyatt on May 20, 2013 at 10:53am, “”

7– “A Trendy Idea That is Wrong”, a review of the book When Generations Collide: Who They Are. Why They Clash. How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work by Nero J. Pruitt on May 13, 2002, (found on November 9th, 2013.)



Read more →

The Future of the Book

A History of the Future of the Book

Recently movie critic Bob Mondello looked at how films pictured the future and wrote:

“When Hollywood imagines the future, from Logan’s Run to Avatar, it tends to picture living spaces as sterile and characterless, without any cultural clues to the person who lives there. No record library, no DVDs, no Hemingway on bookshelves … often no bookshelves.

And here we are, catching up to that vision of the future. Sales of physical books dropped 30 percent last year, while e-book sales more than doubled…. ”1

blogimage_future-books_ab-2014Books and media once inhabited our shelves and were a visible indicator of who we were, or wanted to be. Now these are becoming invisible bits stored in a computer device, enriching the reader but making our living environments more sterile.

The evolution of books has often been predicted:

– In 1910 the French artist Villemard showed that we would have audio books by the year 2,000. Of course the process he imagined was much simpler than even that of creating an e-book today — just drop the books into a grinder while some poor lad (perhaps a graphic designer?) turns the crank.

– In 1935 microfilm was being shown as the solution for making reading easier. “The April, 1935 issue of Everyday Science and Mechanics included this nifty invention which was to be the next logical step in the world of publishing.”2 No more heavy tomes to lift, nor those bothersome pages to turn, and (we assume) the text would be scalable to make it easy on the eyes.

These predictions did not exactly come true, but they established a vision that is driving some of the sweeping changes happening in publishing today.

The Current Future of the Book

What was once idle speculations or marketing ploys has now become real in ways no one could have predicted. The main force behind the change is the digitizing of information with computer devices capable of advanced graphic interface. But even as books have begun to evolve there is a typical backlash due to people missing aspects of traditional book reading. Inventors are beginning to try to incorporate traditional aspects of books that some will miss as content becomes completely digital.

– In this 2008 article we hear a humorous accounting of predictions for the next 100 years.3

blogimage_future-books_cd-2014– Infinite Books is a company that wants to bring back page-flipping into the experience of reading. “Through the infinite book it is possible to scroll through a digital book or media by flipping pages, like a normal book. This makes it possible to read a digital book with analogue navigation.”4

– A few companies have been involved in the attempt to develop not just flexible computers with flexible screens. Fujitsu is one company and it has already developed screens that use e-paper which can be folded.5 (SEE ARTICLE.) One current problem is that the flexibility tends to make touch-screen technology difficult.

– At least two companies, E-Ink and Xerox, have been working for decades to develop e-ink. The basic concept for both is that a page is “printed” with millions of tiny balls that may appear black or white, depending on an electric charge. The difficulty is in the application of the charge, specifically in “wiring the pages to create an electrical charge while still maintaining a paper-thin page”.6 SEE ARTICLE.

The Continuity of the Need for Design

blogimage_future-books_100-years-of-style-videoAs book designers we are living in an age of incredible change. In the end, if all book content is digital, we have to ask if this is really the end of art and (gasp) of design? We don’t think so, not because of how technology is changing, but because of how people do not. In looking at the history of societies one learns to distinguish between the forms of society and its functions. The forms change drastically over the millennia, but the functions do not. As an example, watch the video below which creatively demonstrates the change in styles throughout the last century.7

blogimage_future-books_f-2014The clothes, the mannerisms, and the dancing styles all change—but the two people are still performing the same basic function—dancing together. Styles and technology (the forms) change, but the functions do not. To see this same principle not over time but across many different cultures, take a look at this.8

As in society so in design. Creativity and art will play an essential aspect in the process. Design’s vital role is to meet basic requirements, in this case for communication. In the short term the functional advantages of e-books will limit design to technological rather than creative aspects. But design is fundamentally important both for improving the legibility of information as well as for making it aesthetically attractive. Technology can store and transmit data, but it takes design to organize and convey meaning. Books are not simply about data but about meaning, and conveying meaning is a human function that will remain, no matter what form the book takes.


So what does this mean for book design? While the form of books may change drastically, humans will retain a need for all the functions books perform. This includes the transmission of content, but more importantly the organization and display of content into meaningful segmentation and intuitive presentation. And that will still require good design. After all, a book without good design is no better than a simple Word Document.

1 – “Our Media, Ourselves: Are We Headed For A Matrix?”, by Bob Mondello, npr, February 20th, 2012,

2 – “The iPad of 1935”,, March 7th, 2012,

3 – “The Future of Books”, by James Warner,, June 20th, 2008,

4 – “infinite-book-future-gadget-ewald-neuhofer-01.jpg” and “infinite-book-future-gadget-ewald-neuhofer-05.jpg”, from article Infinite Book, by Ewld Neuhofer, from,

5 – “How Fabric PCs Will Work”, by Isaac perry Clements,,

6 – “How Electronic Ink Works”, by Kevin Bonsor,,

7 – “100 years of East London style in 100 seconds. Sept 13th 1911 – Sept 13th 2011.”, by WestfieldStratford, YouTube, August 26th, 2011,

8- “Where the Hell is Matt? (2008)”, by MattHarding2718, YouTube, June 20th, 2008,

Read more →

Publishing in Perspective

The World Is Changing

The world of books is changing, and along with it the publishing industry. We can see this in a myriad of details: sales of traditional books are down 25% across the board, sales of e-books are up 160%, Borders has closed and other book store chains are struggling. These changes are often attributed to the growing use of e-readers. But even before the Kindle took off there were already other factors that could be considered game changers: a sluggish economy, the rise of the super stores, the growing popularity of Amazon, and more. And these “game-changers” did not just affect book stores. They also affected publishers and those of us who love and work with books.

To help us put all these modern changes in perspective we thought it would be a good exercise to look back at history and review the adaptations, inventions, and other changes that have affected writing, reading, and publishing throughout the ages.

A Brief History of Writing, Reading & Publishing

blogimage_square_hieroglyphics1. Pictographic writing (developed between 7,000 BC and 4,000 BC) — first as mnemonic symbols which became ideograms or pictographs. “The Sumerian archaic cuneiform script and the Egyptian hieroglyphs are generally considered the earliest true writing systems, both emerging out of their ancestral proto-literate symbol systems from 3400–3200 BC with earliest coherent texts from about 2600 BC.” (2)

blogimage_square_papyrus2. Paper (2400 BC) — “The word “paper” is etymologically derived from papyros, Ancient Greek for the Cyperus papyrus plant.” (3) “Papyrus ( /pəˈpaɪrəs/) is a thick paper-like material produced from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt.” (4)

blogimage_square_phoenician3. First alphabet (1800 BC)   — “West Semitic people from the eastern coast of the Mediterranean (where Phoenician and Hebrew groups lived) are usually credited with developing the world’s first alphabet.” (5) “The early alphabetic writing systems of Mesopotamia, such as the Phoenician alphabet, had only signs for consonants.” (6) Technically this meant it was not a true ‘alphabet’ in the narrow sense but a syllabic (glyphs represent syllables) because letters did not represent vowels and consonants.

blogimage_square_greek4. Vowels (800 BC)    — “The Greek alphabet for the first time introduces vowel signs.” (7) This is thought to have come about in order “to transcribe the meter (dactylic hexameters) of the great epics, Iliad and Odyssey, attributed to Homer, and the works of Hesiod.” (5)


blogimage_square_codex5. The codex (between 100 AD and 400 AD) — The book, before its modern form, was a continuous roll. Today’s codex form, multiple pages bound together between a hard cover, is more convenient than the scroll for finding information quickly, as well as for carrying and storage. (8)


blogimage_square_wordspacing6. Spaces between words (7th century AD) — The earliest Greek inscriptions used interpuncts, as was common in the writing systems preceded it, but soon the practice of scriptio continua, continuous writing in which all words ran together without separation became common.” … (in Medieval times) “the Greek style of scriptio continua became fashionable. In the 7th century Irish monks started using blank spaces, and introduced their script to France. By the 8th or 9th century spacing was being used fairly consistently across Europe (Knight 1996).” (6)

blogimage_square_press7. Printing press (around 1440 AD) — “The Western book was no longer a single object, written or reproduced by request. The publication of a book became an enterprise, requiring capital for its realization and a market for its distribution.” (8)

8. Steam printing press and steam paper mills (before 1820 AD) “Together, they caused book prices to drop and the number of books to increase considerably.” (8)

blogimage_square_ereader9. First e-book (1971 AD) — “Among the earliest general e-books were those in Project Gutenberg, in 1971.”(9)

10. Digital printing (1993 AD) — “The main difference between digital printing and traditional methods…is that no printing plates are used, resulting in a quicker and less expensive turn around time.”(10)

The E-Book and the Continuing
Need for Design Excellence

The innovations in the history of writing, reading, and publishing can be seen as innovations in handling ‘information’. Therefore, we can divide publishing into the following four sub-categories:

– content development of books (writing and design of communication),

– production of books,

– sale and transmission of books,

– and storage of books.

At Design Corps we are, of course, primarily concerned with the first sub-category — design of communication. With the latest digital technological changes, such as the e-book, the last three sub-categories are greatly advanced — cost of materials can be reduced, transportation can be done over the internet, and storage is achieved on any hard drive. But in the first subcategory, the area of communication design, it may be argued that there have been a few setbacks.

• First, with the quick proliferation of many titles there is the complaint that e-books contain many distracting typos. Hopefully this is just an aspect of the rush to market. One would expect this if the titles published with typos only including those old public domain titles that have been scanned and sold to make a quick buck. But some have complained of the same lack of attention to detail in new best sellers. Since proofreading does not change whether books are printed or published digitally we hope this is a momentary lapse attributable to massive changes in publishing.

• Second, in terms of layout e-books can be compared to the first web sites. They offer many benefits at the expense of design. Design is not just art for art’s sake but, rather, the crafting of the presentation of information to make it more accessible, interesting, and navigable for the human mind. In other words, there is something lost in e-books compared to traditional print books when it comes to page design for clear communication. The good news is that, as we have seen with any other technology from web sites to i-pods, design will be introduced as software improves.

• Third, digital books can introduce elements to reading that may enrich reading but also distract. Advantages like links, easy to scroll through text, and instant comments may increasingly sacrifice our ability to give the text our focused attention. As Steve Johnson wrote:

““I fear that one of the great joys of book reading — the total immersion in another world, or in the world of the author’s ideas — will be compromised. We all may read books the way we increasingly read magazines and newspapers: a little bit here, a little bit there.…This fragmentation sounds unnerving — yet another blow to the deep-focus linearity of the print-book tradition. Breaking the book into detachable parts may sell more books, but there are certain kinds of experiences and arguments that can only be conveyed by the steady, directed immersion that a 400-page book gives you.” (1)

But we believe e-books will go the way that the history of writing, the history of books, even the history of web sites has gone. In all of these the technology advanced to allow design to better organize information to be more easily understood by readers. At Design Corps we are committed to “TURNING INFORMATION INTO COMMUNICATION”. That is the fundamental role of all design, especially book design, and it is especially needed in this era of these transformative recent technologies.

(1) — (

(2) — (

(3) — (

(4) — (

(5) — (

(6) — (

(7) —  ( and (Millard, A. R. (1986). “The Infancy of the Alphabet”. World Archaeology 17  (3): 390–398. doi:10.1080/00438243.1986.9979978)

(8) — (

(9) — (

(10) – (

Read more →

New Web Site and New Look for Design Corps

Change Is Good

Design Corps new web site home pageDesign Corps is staying current with a new website, and with this comes new branding. The new web site is responsive—which means you can view it on your smart phone, tablet, or desktop. We have moved over samples of our work and articles from our old web site — and added some new things! To see more samples you can click on the social media links such as Facebook or Twitter at the bottom of any page.

Our branding has changed with the times to match the constantly evolving needs and expectations of our culture. The purpose of branding is to communicate who you are to your target audience. A change in branding is required whenever a company significantly changes its business strategy or marketing efforts, but also when their target audience changes. And in our culture audiences are always changing. (To see how, please take a look at our posted article “Understanding the Generations” and download our free resources, an infographic and trading cards, which explain how generations are affected by events and become different in character.)

Our History

When we opened our doors in 1996 the worlds of design and the graphic arts were vastly different. The internet and today’s most common electronic publishing options were in early development. Over the years we have transitioned and adapted from one technology to another. But one thing remains constant and will never change—the process of finding creative solutions to our customer’s communication challenges. Communication transitions from one technological form to another, but despite changes in distance, duration, form, and speed it remains a fundamentally human and (more or less) social interaction. That is why creative intelligence is essential, working with technological changes, in order to craft a message for your audience that resonates and connects.

Ongoing Updates

Our primary areas of work are with branding and marketing design, as well as book design. Over the next few weeks and months we will demonstrate on this site some of our latest creative efforts. We continue to strive to serve both our publishing and marketing clients using the latest technology and highest quality of design.

Read more →