Book Design for Publishing

WRIT: 2900: Book Design for Publishing / Instructor of Record
Fall 2017—Spring 2019
University of Iowa Department of Interdisciplinary Studies

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While completing her MFA in Book Arts at the University of Iowa, Sonia also taught Book Design for Publishing, an independently-led semester-long course familiarizing students with Adobe’s InDesign for the purposes of designing books. Five major projects tackled a consideration of design in books-typography, paragraphs, spreads, grids and images, and front matter—culminating in a final sixth project of a total book designed for a print-on-demand service.

View some sample pages of final books designed by students:
Book Design for Publishing – Student samples – Sonia Farmer

An existing syllabus, a reading list, and six projects were assigned to Sonia, however she had the freedom to modify the syllabus with extra readings, small assignments, and field trips that supported the class material. A major addition to the course that she introduced was a letterpress printing session in the first two weeks of the course which gave students a hand-on understanding of typesetting language rooted in traditional printing practices, providing a experiential context for material new to them. She also introduced a publishing panel at the end of the semester to introduce students to professionals in the design and publishing field (From Manuscript to Book – publishing panel – Spring 2019). This was particularly helpful for the students, the majority of who were taking the Publishing Certificate to accompany their English or Creative Writing studies.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Read a classroom observation about Sonia leading one of these class sessions:
Classroom observation for Sonia Farmer by Dylan Nice

One of Sonia’s former students, Rebecca Cammenga, reflects on the impact this class had on her creative pursuits as a writer in this article from the Daily Iowan by sharing: “I thought it was an extremely beneficial process to learn…One thing I hadn’t really thought about was that writers write the words in such an intentional way, but how people design their books affect people too.”

About the class, Sonia’s students have also shared:

“Sonia has been an amazing instructor. She encouraged student learning, made a concerted effort to learn each student’s name and interests, and gave helpful and insightful feedback on assignments and on our work in InDesign. This is one of the only classes I have taken in four years at Iowa where I feel like I will walk away with real-world skills that could actually be applied in a work setting or included on a resume. Sonia was a positive presence at the end of some very long days this semester, and I appreciated how she helped each student work toward THEIR vision of their final project instead of interjecting her own opinions on our work. She is a natural instructor and I would definitely take a design course with her again.”

“Sonia is an enthusiastic, understanding teacher, and her coursework was clear and manageable to complete–challenging but not impossible.”

“I really enjoyed this class. I would have never thought I’d be any good at designing, but I feel much more comfortable with InDesign and book production in general. I appreciated the one-on-one help when I couldn’t figure out how to do something.”

“Sonia was patient when teaching us beginners how to use InDesign, and was very helpful when anything went awry. I am especially glad I took her course this semester.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s