Book News #Week 13: Update: A Design Journey

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BREAKING NEWS: I’ve just received the proof copy of my book. More to follow soon but for now I thought I’d share with you a brief design story on how my book shaped up.

But first, a little historical sidestep. My passion for photo books evolved through visits to my local library as a child, where I would browse through reading books pretending to be interested, for my mother’s sake who had diligently taken me there to help with my reading. 

Design 1 – Draft splash page placeholder

But I’d quickly be distracted by the travel and landscape books with their large colourful photographs portraying scenes of buildings, cloudscapes or anything, to be honest, where the colour or black and white image simply spoke to me. From then on, I couldn’t resist opening up photobooks.

Fast forward 50 years or so, and I was working with the Government Digital Service when Ben Terrett was appointed Director of Design. Until then, I’d not given any real thought to how the design of something influenced an audience and their behaviour. Through Ben’s stewardship, GDS won the prestigious Design of the Year award in 2013 for designing the Government Design Principles that delivered a simplified government website.

Back to now – and since then, I’ve appreciated the effort that goes into designing, and that’s helped me look more closely at shapes and patterns and anything that I find interesting, intriguing or different. The things that now influence my photography style are patterns, colour boldness and storytelling, and I wanted to reflect that through my book’s design.

Design 2 – 1st Concept Design. Going bold and big

As I neared the end of my first draft, I started to think about ‘how to bring my book together?’ I had a vague notion of how I wanted it to look, but I did not have the skills or the technical tools to know where or how to start.

I spoke with other published authors who had taken a different route, from self-creation using Canva, the online creative tool, to engaging graphic designers for children’s books. Some had recommended searching Fiverr, the online freelance services marketplace, but how to choose? Was it a case of a needle in a haystack – that seemed random and plagued with risk.

Research is essential, and Sarah McGeough, a newly acquired friend and children’s author, connected me with a North London photographer, Katrina Campbell, who had recently published her photobook – When we all stayed at home. We spoke a few times about the process she followed in getting her book to print, and this gave me the confidence to understand better what I was looking for.

Following an exchange with Eleanor Baggaley, another children’s author (do you see a theme here?!), I contacted Jenn Garside, an illustrator and graphic designer who came highly recommended. After a few emails and a long chat, Jenn reassured me that she was familiar with what I was after from her ‘corporate world’ despite her advertised work on Facebook being that as a graphic designer. I sensed we both had something to gain from our partnership, and I’m so glad I trusted Jenn with my book’s creation.

The images in this blog represent part of my book’s design journey, and once I saw Jenn’s creativity, I was excited and delighted that I had asked Jenn to help me.

Design 3 – 2nd Concept Design. Adding a page marker

Apart from the initial design concept, the changes were subtle. My vision was for a significant ‘splash’ page in the appropriate Transport for London (TfL) colour introducing each chapter (Design 1). I had created this literally as a holding page during the writing process, and Jenn has since transformed it into a literary delight.

Design 2 was the ‘WOW’ moment as my idea of a single splash page was changed into a double-page spread. I had always envisaged every chapter opening up on the left-hand side of the book. Still, this design elevated the idea into a simple yet striking statement that opens up the chapter’s opening text about the underground line itself. The title again underscored with the appropriate colour.

Design 3 introduced a chapter reference on the top right-hand corner of the page, repeated through the right-hand pages of the chapter. This chapter reference will help you scan the book when flicking through the pages to identify them quickly at a glance.

And finally, Design 4 introduces the station names as part of the splash page to help you identify the ends of the line I have visited. So if you want to take a short cut to your favourite station or photograph, this will help you along the way.

Design 4 – Final approved design. Adding station names

Watch out for more news about my book’s availability. Subscribe here for regular updates and watch out for more news about my crowdfunder launch on the 15th May 2021.

If you’d like to get in touch, please email me at, and for other news about my travel journey’s, follow my social media channels. See you soon…and thank you for continuing to follow me.

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