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Book designer Alex Miles Younger explains his art: Seth Godin’s 800-page behemoth, This Might Work

When Seth Godin ran his wildly successful Kickstarter campaign (he raised over $280,00), one of the bonuses he offered backers was “the mammoth limited edition 275,000 word best-of-the-net hardcover collection that won’t be sold in stores” – as he described it.

Intrigued, I signed up to back his book project and receive a copy (as did about 2,000 others). This Might Work, as it’s titled, arrived in the mail recently. Holy moly, I had trouble dragging the box into my house because it was so heavy.This was ridiculous.

When I lugged the book upstairs to the bathroom scale, it weighed in at almost 10 19 pounds. That’s several pounds more than a healthy newborn. Correction: bathroom scale is broken. The book weighs nearly 19 pounds. Triplets?? The behemoth is so big that it’s now laying on the floor underneath the coffee table rather than on top.

Note: thanks to Seth and Squidoo for the baby / book photo.

Design defines “This Might Work”

The design of the book is spectacular. In fact, design is what defines it. So I asked Alex Miles Younger,  who designed the book (and also designed all The Domino Project books), to give us the backstory.

Full disclosure: Alex is also designing the first Voxie Media imprint book, to be published in January 2013. We are wildly excited about that. Details to come.

Here’s my interview with Alex:

DW: What does the unusual size (is “bigness” a word?) of Seth’s limited edition book mean?

AMY: This Might Work is unforgettably large and, to quote Seth, “heavy enough to kill a small mammal.” Here are a few of the reasons I believe a book of this size makes sense:

1. There is a tremendous amount of content in this book: the last six years of Seth’s blog, all of the posts from The Domino Project blog, and one ebook, Stop Stealing Dreams, to be exact. It measures 11 inches by 15 inches by 4.7 inches [DW note: it looks bigger] and it clocks in at 810 pages. If you tried to fit this all into a “normal” sized book it would be so thick it would come out looking like a cube instead of a book.

2. The impact of Seth’s blog on our thinking is unforgettably large, and an equally large book is befitting of his words.

“It’s hard to weigh the impact of digital content… If you’re going to take something that’s already out in the world for free and repackage it for print, it better be remarkable.”
Alex Miles Younger

3. All of the content in this book already exists in the world for free, on Seth’s blog, but digital content is weightless. It’s hard to weigh the impact of digital content. It’s hard to see the edges of where it starts and where it ends. If you’re going to take something that’s already out in the world for free and repackage it for print it had better be remarkable.

This book is so large and heavy, it’s noteworthy. The fact that you’re asking this question means we did a good job of making an impression with the packaging of the content. We got you to refocus your attention on something that has been available for years.

DW: The book is stunning. Tell us about the challenge of designing it and exactly what designing a book like this means. It must have been exhausting.

AMY: It was equal parts exhaustive and exhausting.

Exhaustive because, as I talked about above, if you’re going to repackage something in a remarkable way you need to consider every element of the project from an organizing structure for the content to the size, feel, weight, cover design, paper stock, colors, typefaces, layout templates, how it arrives, when it arrives, and all the other details that go into the impression the book makes. Thankfully, we had a wonderful team. I couldn’t have done it without Bernadette Jiwa (author of Make Your Idea Matter) or Michael Quinn.

Exhausting because it took more hours than RescueTime can count.

“You need to consider every element of the project from an organizing structure for the content to the size, feel, weight, cover design, paper stock, colors, typefaces, layout templates, how it arrives, when it arrives, and all the other details that go into the impression the book makes.”
– Alex Miles Younger

DW:  Were the logistics of getting the book to everyone who supported it on Seth’s Kickstarter campaign more difficult than expected? I understand it was printed in China and then shipped to Seattle.

AMY: In a word: yes.

Kickstarter offers a wonderful advantage to authors who need funding up front to afford to hire their team and pay printing and shipping costs. It’s also a really useful way of gauging the number of copies you should order for your initial run of the book since a Kickstarter campaign is essentially a fun way to pre-order.

The things that Kickstarter doesn’t make easy is actually doing the thing you promised when logistical problems arise, when shipping costs more than you expected, and when you’ve got to coordinate a lot of different moving pieces.

DW: My take on the size and weight of the book was that Seth was making a tongue-in-cheek comment about print books vs. digital books. As in “Ha! You want a print book… take this!” Do you think he’s open to various interpretations of why the book is so big?

AMY: I think he wanted to make something beautiful, remarkable, unexpected, and worth making. I also think he’s entirely open to both of our interpretations of why it’s so big.

DW: What’s the difference between the limited run This Might Work and Watcha Gonna Do With That Duck? to be published by Portfolio? Both are compilations of Seth’s blog from 2006 – 2012.

This Might Work is an oversize format,  over 800 pages, printed in full color, on art book quality paper, and is unabridged. I designed each spread individually, weaving illustrations, photos, and hundreds of quotes throughout the book.

Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck? is smaller, abridged, and printed in black and white without (and I’m guessing about this last part because I haven’t seen a copy yet) the illustrations, photos, or quotes.

“Seth’s blog is the original package: these two books are two different ways to re-imagine the content in a new framework.”
– Alex Miles Younger

Both books chronicle Seth’s thinking over the past six years. Both are volumes of incredible insight. The differences are almost entirely about packaging. I talked about this a bit above. Seth’s blog is the original package: these two books are two different ways to re-imagine the content in a new framework.

This Might Work is best displayed as art and read a few pages at a time. Set it up on your coffee table (note: or on the floor, see above) and flip through it whenever you need inspiration. Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck? is something you could actually carry with you and read front to back. It’s more for people who want to read the blog, but don’t want to use a screen to do it.

I happen to think This Might Work is more remarkable and creates a longer lasting impression, but I’m obviously biased.

In case you’re wondering, only about two thousand copies of This Might Work were printed. You can’t buy it anywhere. But if you want to read a print version of Seth Godin’s blog from 2006 – 2012, you can order Watcha Gonna Do With That Duck? – DW

  • sethgodin

    Thanks Debbie! Alex is both talented and delightful, and working with him every day was a treat.

    One small aside: I’m sorry to break it to you, but your bathroom scale appears to have been broken by the book.

    PS Alex is right: the Duck book has no fancy typography or other artistic elements…it’s “just” a book.

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