The road to "havana" – filed under ‘endpapers’


Well-considered endpapers are key to setting the tone of an illustrated book. They are, after all, the first thing a reader sees upon opening the book, and thoughtful endpapers will encourage the reader to press on to the front matter (and thoughtful front matter will encourage them to go even further, and so on). Whenever I encounter plain endpapers I always think: “Okay, what other aspects of this design won’t be taken into consideration?”.

The first person to point out the importance of endpapers to me was the quiet Knopf superstar Archie Ferguson. I remember seeing the endpapers he spec’d for Life Turns Man Up and Down, a book of Nigerian pamphlets from the ’40s & ’50s: wild, richly embossed patterns on solid oxblood paper stock. The endpapers were integral to the energy of the overall design. I thought, “He must’ve spent a hundred hours tracking down the proper patterns, scanning them all in and piecing them all together.” When I asked if this was the case, he said, “Are you kidding? It’s a standard embossing pattern that the printer offers, it’s just that no one has used it in fifteen years. I did pick the color, though.”


When I first began talking to Michael about¬†Havana, I asked him to send me “everything you’ve got” when it comes to Cuba-related paperwork, pocket change, receipts, certificates, etc. Two pieces that jumped out at me immediately were “Cuba Travel Advice” and Michael’s Cuban customs report:

While I liked the bright gold color of the travel advice flyer, I knew that Havana was going to be published in a Spanish edition as well, and the travel advice flyer was available only in English. The customs report, however, was in both English and Spanish, and so it became obvious to use it, but print it in the bright gold color (as shown at the top of this post).¬†I also get a kick out of the fact that the first thing the reader sees upon opening the book is “WELCOME TO CUBA” . . .

(Not to be ignored, this design is best achieved with two colors, even though we had budgeted for four. It never hurts to point out any cost savings to production and accounts … )


CORRECTION (May 24): I mentioned a Spanish edition of Havana, above. There will not be a Spanish edition; there will instead be a German edition.

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