Project Focus: Exotic Life by Lisa Alpine

POSTED ON Apr 21, 2010

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

Home > Blog > Book Design, Interior Design, Project Focus, Samples, Self-Publishing > Project Focus: Exotic Life by Lisa Alpine lisa alpine exotic lifeTravel writing, never out of fashion, seems to be pretty popular at the moment. And when you get great travel writing imbued with personality, you’ve got something special. lisa alpineThat’s why I was really pleased to be called on by Lisa Alpine to design the interior of her new book, Exotic Life: Laughing Rivers, Dancing Drums and Tangled Hearts: A Collection of Too True Stories (Dancing Words Press). Lisa’s a longtime traveler, and a longtime travel writer. She teaches travel writing and, with her partner Carla King, runs the Self-Publishing Boot Camp. (Check this link for an upcoming Boot Camp.)

Here’s the description of the book from the back lisa alpine exotic life

From wanting to push her boyfriend out of a plane over the Andes in Colombia to finding a giant dildo in a toilet tank that followed her friends through Mexico, to dancing wearing only a diamond necklace, this collection of too true stories will inspire you to follow the call of a wild life and leave home with your doors unlocked.

Collections of short stories and novels are my favorite design projects as a book designer. Lisa’s book would be 5.5″ x 8.5″ for digital printing, and she already had a cover design completed. All that was left was to devise some different looks for her stories and see which one Lisa felt most comfortable with.

Devising and Designing

The stories were mostly short to medium in length. I knew Lisa wanted the book to run about 200 pages at the end. It made sense to create a big drop for the story opening pages, and to put some air into the typography at the same time. Nothing makes a book easier to read than a little extra space on the page and between the lines.

Here’s what I came up with: lisa alpine exotic life

Click to enlarge lisa alpine exotic life

Click to enlarge lisa alpine exotic life

Click to enlarge


  • The first sample is typeset in Adobe Caslon Pro with Herculaneum heads.
  • The second is Minion Pro for the text and Fertigo Pro for the heads.
  • Third, Chaparral Pro for both the text and the heads, and a Zapfino swash character for a drop cap.

The snake you see in the first two samples came from Lisa. She had used it something like a text break in her Word manuscript. Honestly, it was so small I actually spent some time looking for other images of Mayan snakes. Not finding anything, I took another look at the drawing to see how big the file was, and discovered it was actually quite a nice piece of line art.

In the first sample, the snake adds an exotic element since it’s now large enough to be seen clearly. But I felt it competing with the typography, and came up with the second.

In this opener, the snake both recedes and complements the typography. It was this design that Lisa chose. Here’s what the final opener looked like when we went to press, and a spread from the finished book. lisa alpine exotic life

Click to enlarge lisa alpine exotic life

Click to enlarge

I was really quite happy with the design in the end. It’s approachable, easy to read, with just enough of an exotic touch to help transport us to the destinations her travels take her to. Check out Exotic Life. Go along with Lisa Alpine for the ride.

Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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