The Importance of Page Structure

The following is an ongoing series from Create Your Own Great Photo Book. The first “Be a Ruthless Photo Editor” covers activities you can use to take control of your image library. The second, “Storyboarding, Not Just For Filmmakers,” presents concepts for creating a theme for your images. Third, Conduct Your Symphony, Visually, introduces techniques to establish a cognitive flow for your photo book.

Structure is Your Foundation

Have you ever open up a book and found it difficult to read because the margins were to small? Not enough space in the gutter? Image placements left you confused? 

Reverse engineering the vision of your finish book, as a product, can ease the pain of bringing all the elements together. It’s more than just the text, images, cut lines and other content; you must take into consideration the overall structure and specifications of the book (print & digital).

This is where a working relationship with a graphic designer who knows how to work with the specifications and your content will produce a professional photo book.

I’m working with my husband, Dominic Sondy, on the updated edition of “Saigon Shuffle”; the first book we self-published in 2009. To take advantage of upgraded print options and distribution, this book will be published via Amazon’s CreateSpace. Since this book is heavy with images, the upgraded paper stock options was a big consideration. 

After reviewing the sizes and other specifications, we decided on a 7″ wide x 10″ height format. I got to work, sketching out page structures for interior pages. Particular regard to how the mostly horizontal images would be placed on the page.

This is a list of key elements that a designer considers when developing page structure for a book:

  1. Spread: Opened, displaying left and right pages
  2. Inside margins (aka ‘gutter’) 
  3. Top Margin + Header
  4. Botton Margin + Footer
  5. Center of Content Area
  6. Body Copy
  7. Font size (points) and line spacing (leading)

The foundation of a page structure is irrelevant in flowing screens of ebooks you’re reading on your mobile device. Ebooks are wonderful; I can devour a fiction novel over a weekend. 

Form Ever Follows Function

Form Ever Follows Function

My tardiness in writing a well-thought out newsletter was delayed due to book* & presentation projects earlier this month.

I’ve been leading an Art Deco skyscrapers walking tour,  primarily along LaSalle Street in Chicago,  since I ‘certified’ in late spring. Art Deco is about ornamentation, these magnificent 1930s skyscrapers got me thinking about structure and the use of ornament (decoration).

Below is a quote excerpt from Holabird & Roche, architects of Chicago Board of Trade (1930):

“the exterior is an expression of the function(s) of the building…”

I think they were tapping into Louis H. Sullivan’s “form ever follows function.” For the CBOT, many would agree, the ornamentation is not merely decoration; it accentuating the overall design of the commodities exchange–all relating to agriculture (wheat, corn, lumber).

Why the architecture metaphor?
Frankly, there are numerous metaphors beyond architecture.
Each project, even an image for your Instagram feed requires structure and planning. We must invest the time into purpose or function, before any discussion of ornamentation. Then the mechanics of structure structure and flow of the publication will designed. Every writer I know begins with an outline or structure. Yes, even graphic designers begin with function and structure.

No amount of stock images, cheeky infographics or trendy color swatches will hide the lack of thought given to crafting a strong message and story structure; including any call-to-actions.

Working with photographic material presents a different opportunity to create a theme or visual structure for a collection. (see previous post)

I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve been asked to work on pitch deck/publication and the first conversation is about the aesthetics versus purpose, theme, content and audience.

Let’s not design from the outside inward. Sticky notes, index cards or whiteboards are simple, yet effective tools to breakdown your storyboard, eliminating the non-essential, shifting sections to improve the flow, etc.

More about structure or storyboarding:




Break out your coloring pencils to ignite your inner creative juices–coloring is the new meditation. Patterns of the Ancient World and Renaissance Patterns were developed for convenience of travel. The 6×9″ size is ideal to toss in your shoulder bag and fits nicely on hard surface like your tablet. AND, I included blank pages for your own drawings or doodles. Available via Amazon.


Cosmic Journey of Three

Cosmic Journey of Three

A walk through the Adler*

A recent walk along the three levels of the Adler Planetarium guided me through the exhibits to the theaters with ease. Reminding me of the graceful, yet powerful of use of THREEHow do we consciously or unconsciously incorporate this into our work?

The use of three segments or divisions can be used to construct a presentation, write the speech or develop visuals. Artists and architects have used “3” for centuries. It’s simple, keeps us focused; more importantly, our audience focused.

Note the three parts of this stalwart advise for speech:

  1. Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em.
  2. Tell ’em.
  3. Tell ’em what you told ’em.
Patterns of Ancient World Coloring Book
Simple. 1.  2.  3.

Three most recent projects on my desk:

  1. Book by illustrator and writer, a family legacy story. Limited edition, printed.
  2. Expanded version of my husband’s first book Saigon Shuffle, which we self-published almost ten years ago. Projected release end of September.
  3. Coloring book for grown ups, I self-published a Patterns of the Ancient World coloring book, available via Amazon.
Three products to assist with your projects:
  1. Slideshare is now part of LinkedIn. Post slideshows, PDFs directly to your LinkedIn profile; great for entrepreneur and business profiles.
  2. Canva: online and tablet platform to to create visuals online; tap into library of free and paid assets. 
  3. Adobe Slate new free iPad app to create visual stories quickly; might be a new method to present to clients or blog. entries.
My youngest is beginning her SENIOR year of high school… where has the time gone
Joann Sondy
Designer & Publisher
mobile: 231-633-0945
social media: @joannsondy
* Adler Planetarium, located along the Chicago shoreline, was the nation’s first planetarium. Opened May 1930, designed by Ernest Grunfeld for Max Adler; the twelve zodiac bronze bas reliefs by Alphonso Ianelli grace the exterior. National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmark.
Storyboarding, Not Just for Filmmakers

Storyboarding, Not Just for Filmmakers

The following is part of a running series of posts, from Create Your Own Great Photo Book; the first “Be a Ruthless Photo Editor” covers activities you can use to take control of your image library.

Storyboarding, Not Just for Filmmakers

How do you organize your images? Stay true to your theme.

Developing a structure based on your time is the foundation to create your own great photo book. And, keep you focused. It can be overwhelming when you’re confronted with a volume of images. Refer to my previous post, Be A Ruthless Photo Editor, to eliminate the unnecessary, poor quality and non-relevant images.

A screen shot of one folder.

Example: My Family Archive. On a rainy Sunday afternoon, I decided to make a dent in scanning the negatives and photographs––which I have two or three large Rubbermaid storage tubs––from my family’s photo archive. I pulled out an armful of ‘stuff’ and began sorting the pieces. Tossing items that had little relevance to the long-term integrity of the archive, poor quality and extremely damaged. Things like out-of-focus shots, unrecognizable subjects, generic birthday & holiday cards, etc. The result, spending time on quality pieces that would convey the story of my family.

Stay Grounded to Your Theme

As mentioned above, developing a structure will serve as your foundation. Using images and text creates your visual story. Most stories are typical: a beginning, middle and end. Let’s take this further.

Tapping into a more sophisticated organization can add more interest to your photo book. Try one or a combination of the following:

4 types of story organization to add interest to your photo book.

Storyboarding your content gives you a ‘roadmap’ to a finish product. Naturally, we want to be flexible as the project progress. Image sequencing and storyboarding is time well spent!

After you’ve experimented with your visual storyboarding with your first photo book, it will become easier the next time. Eventually, challenging your creativity to try new concepts.

Interested in more? Download “Create Your Own Great Photo Book.”

Next: Add cognitive flow within your theme.

Happy self publishing.

Great Photo Book: Be A Ruthless Photo Editor

Great Photo Book: Be A Ruthless Photo Editor

Using as many images in your Great Photo Book maybe your first inclination; this is the absolutely wrong approach.

You MUST be a ruthless photo editor! Focus on quality over quantity.* 

Image from

As you review your big pile (or folder) of images, ask yourself repeatedly:

  • Does the image support my theme?
  • Does it add visual interest to the message?
  • Is this image the BEST quality?

Every image selected must have purpose to the theme.

Intuition plays a huge role and powerful role. Removing your own emotions from your review process will allow you focus on quality and the image(s) contribution to your book.

Conduct research at the library and/or local bookstore, I find used bookstores have fabulous stacks of photo books. Observe the sequencing of images and how each leads you through a process of the visual story. What story are your images telling?

* Select images that express concepts and support the main story or theme of the book. 

An introduction to self-publishing techniques to create your own amazing book using your photographs or illustrations.

Create Your Own Great Photo Books cover
Download Free eBook 

Discover techniques to create and publish of your own photo book, plus an introduction to self-publishing options (print and digital formats). Ideal for photographers, illustrators, architects, chefs, historians and many more.

Topics covered:
Image Sequencing & Storyboarding
Page Layout and Structure
Cover Design
Image Preparation
Overview: Shutterfly, Lulu and Blurb

Create Your Own Great Photo Book

Create Your Own Great Photo Book

Create Your Own Great Photo Book

  • Have you ever wanted to create your own photo books?
  • How do you start?
  • What are techniques to make it look professional?
  • How do I get it printed?

Just released a few days ago to select list of followers, now available for you.

An introduction to self-publishing techniques to create your own amazing book using your photographs or illustrations.

Discover techniques to create and publish of your own photo book, plus an introduction to self-publishing options (print and digital formats). Ideal for photographers, illustrators, architects, chefs, historians and many more.

Topics covered:

  • Image Sequencing & Storyboarding
  • Page Layout and Structure
  • Cover Design
  • Image Preparation
  • Overview: Shutterfly, Lulu and Blurb

* eBook format is 21-page PDF, compatible on desktop and mobile devices.
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Dancing In The Dark

Dancing In The Dark

Wow, it’s been a couple of months since I’ve posted anything new for you.  Frankly, I’ve been immersed in some very exciting projects.

Don’t let the title of this post send you looking for Bruce Springsteen on iTunes. 

Can you deliver your speech/presentation in the dark? 

Without the support of visual aids? Ditch the PPT?

Image courtesy Choose Chicago

Many of you know that I’m a docent with the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and this year I’m ‘sponsoring’ a trainee. One of my responsibilities is a walk through or demonstration of one of the core tours. 

Due to scheduling, my trainee and I could only agree to meet after work. This is Chicago, it’s dark by 6 p.m. and this week it’s been cold (again) and damp. Not the best conditions to display my expertise. 

Midway through the two-hour tour, Ben, docent-in-training, complimented me on the descriptive speech I used to describe details of buildings on the Chicago Old & New Tour.

After I thanked him, I was surprised when I realized that the darkness added a new and highly disciplinary behavior to my tour. A way to reduce and eliminate some bad behaviors and crutches. 

I wasn’t relying on the illumination of daytime, as I usually do. Instead, recalling specific details expressed with highly descriptive language. Clearly articulating the core concepts, coherently making comparisons to describe details that are seen vividly during the day.

Plan B–No Crutches
This exercise recalled the disastrous and feeble attempts I’ve witnessed over the years when technology fails. You know what I’m talking about: microphone cut outs, the presentation file doesn’t load, the computer shuts down, the projector lamp burns out, you don’t have the right cable, its the wrong file/version, etcetera, etcetera.

A Challenge
I challenge you to deliver your speech or presentation without the use of visual aids. Take it further and step away from the lectern and turn off the microphone. 

Can you express the core message(s) and support it with details to your audience coherently? Delivered with passion and confidence? 

Here’s the link to your 80s rock-n-roll fix, “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen.