As Art Director, I was instrumental in the prototype development for Alive in Christ, an sixteen-book consumable textbook series for grades 1-8. Here is the breakdown of how it all happened.
Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) acquired Harcourt Religion Publishers and its popular K-6 textbook program, Call to Faith, in 2009. I joined OSV the following year.
The debut original OSV textbook series was Alive in Christ (2013). It needed to be:
- a major visual overhaul to Call to Faith (pictured)
- the original six grade levels (grades 1-6)
- consumable (students would interact with the printed book, drawing/writing directly in it)
Grades 7-8 were added to the series by OSV, and a separate prototyping process followed.
Research & Analysis
I analyzed competition's use of:
- Type families and sizes
- Color palettes
- Text to image ratio
- Photo to art ratios
- researched developmentally-appropriate type families
- kept track of iterations of iconography, style libraries for charts, activities and reviews
These efforts were invaluable to our decision-making process.
An external design studio submitted 6 initial design concepts.
Our internal team of 3, including myself, reviewed each concept, discussing big picture likes and dislikes for hierarchy and design elements.
I consolidated these discussions, and communicated to the studio the direction they should go in, combining elements from multiple concepts.
Sometimes, I created pieces of the prototype. The Our Catholic Tradition graphic, whose process is shown here, is an example. The parameters were:
- use of the color orange
- use of the initials O.C.T.
- emphasis on the page number
- compact size
I presented several options, received feedback, and adjusted the design. I presented the refined graphics, placed in the layout, and one was selected. I sent it to the design studio to add to the prototype.
Molding the Pages
With each iteration, our internal group collaborated, discussing stakeholder comments, to improve the visual design and instructional methods.
Then I directed the design studio on increasingly detailed refinements to reflect our vision, balancing editorial and stakeholder needs with design and product usability. For this, product usability refers to age-appropriate typography, visuals, hierarchy, writing space, etc.
Final Grade 2 Design
Once our internal team and stakeholders sign off on the final designs, the studio is tasked with creating specifications (style guides) and templates.
I review and sign off on these documents, which are used in the production process by editorial, design, and vendors.
But we're not done yet, this was just the Grade 2 prototype...
Adjusting for Grades 1, 3-6
The design for all grade levels remained relatively unchanged, except in instances that required change to be developmentally-appropriate:
- single column only for primary grades, double column occasionally for secondary grades
- writing space and depth between lines students write on
- type size and leading
- type families vary but remain similar between lower and upper grades (problem characters are I, l, 1, a, q, g, 4)