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Lectures & Projects

Redesign Alice in Wonderland (Part I)

We are going to redesign the classic story Alice in Wonderland to help further your training in Adobe InDesign and the fundamentals of typography, layout, and maybe some illustration. Why Alice in wonderland? It’s popular yet open to interpretation. It’s difficult to redesign something that’s too popular and too exclusive, because subconsciously, we’re comparing to the original and it can negatively impact the opinion of whomever is viewing your work. It’s like a student trying to redesign Nike or Starbucks, the battle is lost before you’ve even begun because those problems have already been solved (and have good solutions).

Let’s Begin

Before we dive into producing this book, we are just going to create a few sample spreads that demonstrate the fonts and layout. In real life, this is what you would show to the client and get them to sign off on, before producing the book. Just like a blueprint for a building.

I would recommend creating a different file for each sample spread you create. Because each file will give you a chance to set up different page sizes, styles, margins, etc. and it will serve as a template to layout the rest of the book.

Your template should answer as many questions as possible. What will the margins look like? What fonts will be used? How will things like page numbers and running headers be treated? For chapters, will you use a number or actually spell it out? How about Roman numerals? Will you use the word “Chapter” or omit it? Maybe the chapter title is on its own page or spread, with some cool visual treatment? Or maybe you take a more traditional approach where you have the chapter title right above the text? Will you use drop caps? Will you indent your paragraphs or use space after (hint: using a first line indent will take up less space – less space means less pages – less pages means a less expensive print job)? Maybe the first paragraph for each chapter gets special treatment? Or maybe just the first line of the first paragraph? Will there be any paragraph rules? Will the body text be left justified or left aligned? Will you start each chapter with an image, or will they be spread throughout the book? Will the images be inset with a text wrap or isolated on their own page? Will the images bleed? Hopefully that gets your thinking on the right track and will help you see there is more than meets the eye to what appears to be a simple layout.

What’s Your Budget?

I have two important pieces of advice: number one, don’t start a graphic design project until you have REAL content. In this case, I’ve supplied you with the text and images so you’re good there. If the client says you can start working now and they’ll get you the content later, here is what happens: you spend hours on your design, using Lorem Ipsum or some other fake content. They you get the real content from the client, and it doesn’t match or fit your design at all. So you end up starting over. Design with real content as best you can.

Number 2, make sure you have everything lined up with the printer. You don’t want to get a design to the finish line only to have the printer estimate come back and you find out it’s out of the client’s budget. Instead, involve the printer at the beginning of a project. Pitch them your idea as far as size, colors, estimated page count, type of paper, etc. And go back and forth with the printer until you reach a price that works for you and the client.

So with real content in hand, and the printer lined up, you’re ready to get to work. In the case of this project, I want you to check out In the past, you would need to order a minimum number of books from the printer, usually in the hundreds or thousands. With, you can order a single hard- or soft-cover book for the price of a normal book and it looks great. Go to and explore the pricing and options. Figure out a size that works for your budget, and if you can afford color or just black ink. Please use the Blurb Book Calculator to figure out your specifications.

To estimate the page count, create a new InDesign document based on your desired size. Make sure your default paragraph style is styled close to what you expect your body text to look like. The text must be placed, not pasted, but hold down shift when you place the text – and pages will automatically be added and that will give you a rough page count.

Note that there may be alternatives to, but it’s up to you to do your own research.

Get Inspired

Below is a link to a pinterest board I made as if I was doing this project and trying to get inspired. It should be obvious that not everything on this board is a perfect fit for this project – it’s not supposed to be, it’s really just a mood board. I included items that might have one small element or detail I could see myself using and didn’t really worry about what the item really was. At first, Pinterest might not seem to return a lot of results for books, but as you dive deeper, it starts to become almost addictive. Besides the board I made, here is a sample list of search terms I used, but there were more. I’ve probably spent 1-2 hours looking through Pinterest to give you an idea. And don’t feel limited to Pinterest – you have the internet, library, old book stores, etc.

Pinterest Board for Alice in Wonderland Inspiration

If you see something on the board and wonder why I included it, please include it in your post and ask me on here. I tried to choose things that I know are within my own skill set – so I don’t recommend just grabbing everything and anything that looks cool – choose things that you could see yourself actually doing.

Select Your Fonts

Note: In modern times, font vocabulary has become muddy. I use the word “font” to refer to something like “Times New Roman”. I use the word “Font Style” to refer to variations of the font, like “Bold, Italic, etc.”

Think of fonts like tools, and you need to use the right tool for the job. Does your project have a lot of really small text? Then choose a font that reads well at small font sizes. Do you have a table where you’re having trouble fitting the text in narrow cells? Then choose a condensed or narrow font. Does your project have a lot of body text like a paperback book? Then you probably want to use a serif font, since studies show that it’s better for reading. And only use display fonts for display text. Bottom line: study your fonts – learn about their history and what they were intended to be used for.

So for any project, try to plan and anticipate your typographic situations. In this case, we are dealing with a number of items, including: body text, chapter titles, possibly subheads, page numbers, possibly page headers and footers, and some poetry. Make sure the font you choose can handle these situations to your liking.

Don’t use a bunch of different fonts, it’s a calling card for amateurs, and never looks good. The more of a beginner you are, the less fonts you should use. For example, choose a single font like Minion and just get a feel for using the four basic styles: Regular, Italic, Bold, and Bold Italic. Use techniques like capitalization and tracking to create variety.

Once you feel like you can handle a single font, then you can spice things up a bit by trying to pair two different fonts. Font pairing is very much like pairing wine or beer with food.  Here are few of my favorite articles on font pairing, but as always, do your own research:

A Beginners Guide to Pairing Fonts

Best Practices of Combining Typefaces

Choosing and pairing typefaces for cookbooks

Font pairing is very objective and I don’t necessarily agree with all the examples, but the point of this is to expose you to this concept (because I wish I had it when I was in school).


Choosing a font is only the beginning – now you need to actually use it. You need to choose an appropriate font size, leading, justification, and line length (in the past, I’ve been astonished by how many students were poorly using full-justified text). You must make your judgements on actual printouts which many students fail to do. Always make your font decisions based on a real printout. Do you want your job to come back from the printer with the font is too small and the client getting upset all because you were too lazy to push “print?”

A good strategy is to take a paragraph, any paragraph, and duplicate it a bunch of times on a new indesign document. Then for each paragraph, apply a different combination of font, font size, and leading. Under each paragraph, make a note of your settings, like “Minion 10/14”. Then print it, look at it, and choose whatever is easy to read and looks the best. The video below shows an example of this.

Setting Styles in InDesign

This includes paragraph, character, and object styles and it is critical that all students know how to do this. Sure, if you are working on your own, it doesn’t matter as much. But most of you will not be on your own right out of school, so get organized … your senior designer or art director won’t be happy if they have to spend time they don’t have trying to figure out how to navigate your file. Make sure it’s a clean file with no style overrides – see me if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

What to Turn In for Part I

You will design sample pages with all of these parts typeset in an interesting, aesthetically pleasing, and legible manner. How many samples you do is up to you, but get into the habit of doing at least three. So choose your fonts, choose appropriate font sizes, margins, and leading, and setup all of your styles in InDesign being as organized as possible. In addition to your InDesign file(s), print and trim your samples and bring them to class. I’ll review individually or as a group critique.


Download the Text

Download The Images

Here is a demo of a sample spread with with styles, margins, and guides in place.

The following video should be a combination of review and things relating to this assignment. Note that if any information in the video conflicts with the instructions on this page, follow the text on this page.

More Inspiration

Annual Reports

Magazine Spreads

Adam’s Picks

And I found this book at Curious Iguana in Downtown Frederick: