On design and professionalism

A friend just passed along this post of Tobias Buckell’s about the sale of Realms of Fantasy magazine to Damnation Press.

His comment? “I thought, how bad could it be? Then I clicked. Now I know better.”

It’s true – that website is painfully bad. I was trying to browse their titles, and what I was able to read looked quite intriguing, in several cases – but I cannot bring myself to order one of their books, lest it turn out to be as utterly unreadable as their website. The content of the books might be incredibly, mind-blowingly good…but if it’s presented as badly as their site, my retinas would dissolve before I was able to process said content.

That’s unfortunate.

I mean, truly unfortunate.

Design is one of my great joys in life; I take pleasure in well-designed objects and well-designed media. I like pretty things and I’m not ashamed to admit it. This is one of the reasons I firmly believe that print books will never die – if you get a well-designed one, it’s a treat for all your senses AND a delight for the mind. That’s an incredible thing.

But at the same time, poor design can kill. It’s one reason I hate coding up books for ePub and Kindle production. I take a lot of pride in how I typeset and design a book, and I believe that the PDF format we at Candlemark & Gleam produce is a lovely product, something as pretty as a finished paper book would be. Stripping out the fonts, the formatting, the loveliness of the thing and transforming it into a blah Times New Roman justified file so that it will display on any eReader in equally generic terms is…well, it pains me. Literally. I get this little knot in my stomach and this pinching between my eyes and then I whimper a little and scare the parrot.

Now, I can’t speak to how Damnation Press formats and designs their eBooks – I can’t get far enough past the web design to take that chance. I’m not that big a person. When I have to squint and stare and start having my eyes swim and I get physically nauseous from navigating the website and trying to read book descriptions, I can’t brace myself to tackle a book.

Not good, gang. Really not selling yourselves well here.

I hope that Damnation steps up its design and keeps Realms of Fantasy as the well-designed, well-developed media we’ve come to know and love. Hell, I just hope it steps up its design. It’s not that hard to create an easy-to-read website, one that invites readers in and tempts them to try a book or two on for size. I like to think I’ve pulled that off here. Just…avoid the blue on black, okay, guys? You’ll look a hell of a lot more professional if people can actually read your site without going into convulsions.

Tags: ,

  • Sam Kelly

    I’m not sure I’d go as far as unreadable, but I’m lucky enough to be able to do lightish text on dark background. What it does say to me, though, is that a) all their target market are under 21, and b) their web designer learnt all his web coding before the turn of the century.

    It’s certainly a great deal less professional than (for instance) Abaddon Books ( http://www.abaddonbooks.com/ ), who sell into the same market.

  • http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com Candlemark & Gleam

    Abaddon really does do a much better job. It’s a shame that the company that will be running a magazine with such potential seems to have such disdain for decent design. Or even legibility.

    (the blue links on the black background simply make my eyes ACHE)

  • http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com Candlemark & Gleam

    Abaddon really does do a much better job. It’s a shame that the company that will be running a magazine with such potential seems to have such disdain for decent design. Or even legibility. (the blue links on the black background simply make my eyes ACHE)