562 Press

When I started using vim a few years ago, I began to get annoyed with having to type my school papers and similar documents in Microsoft Word or (what was then) OpenOffice, and I wondered if there wasn’t a way to edit formatted documents in a text editor. This soon led me to LaTeX. LaTeX proved to be a rabbit hole for me; combined with a general previous interest in text design, I quickly got deep into the world of typography.

I’ve since created a number of books and other documents using it, for myself and for others. Most of the interesting ones have been personal projects done in my spare time, but sometimes I decide to go over-the-top on the design of an assignment for one of my classes.

My projects are labeled “562 Press” (usually with 562 written out in words) because Soren is 562 in a mnemonic system I use.

For the curious, here are a few of my projects and some design notes on them.

Best of Random Thoughts

For information on Random Thoughts, a document I maintain, see this blog post on the project.

This booklet was a Christmas present to my parents. Out of some five thousand entries, I selected about 150 of the most interesting (and intelligible to other people) to include.

This was the first time I’d used the Garamond font included with LaTeX (garamondx). It had a few minor kerning issues that I had to fix manually, and as is usual for Garamond copies, it looks dreadful on the screen but beautiful on a moderately high-resolution print, but otherwise it was very nice to work with. The one real challenge is that it doesn’t have a bold. That’s generally good because the original Garamond was designed before bold fonts existed, so there’s nothing to copy and the bold would be largely made up, but it means you’re missing one of the methods of differentiation that modern users are used to. This actually led to what I considered one of the best design choices I made, hanging the item numbers in the margin in tiny font – that serves to set them off appropriately and point out that a new item is beginning while not getting them in the way of the actual content (since the number is usually irrelevant to the content).

If I did this again, I might reconsider the inclusion of the running heads at the top of each page; I put them in more out of habit than anything else, and I don’t think they’re really necessary or particularly helpful in this booklet. Otherwise, I’m very happy with this project, and I haven’t yet found any errors in the final version (though no doubt there are a few).

Close Reading for Theology

This is one of those over-the-top class assignments. The assignment was to present a list of all the things God was said to do in two books of the Bible and then add some brief conclusions at the end.

I came back to the LaTeX Palatino font (mathpazo) for no particular reason other than that it’s a bit less conventional and I’ve found it looks good in small columns. The one annoyance with this font was that it doesn’t include sloped small caps, which is ordinarily rather unremarkable but here proved seriously aggravating because the book of Judges uses the word LORD every few lines, and this is traditionally set in small caps (I tried with full caps, as I’m using here, but it looked dreadful). I wanted to italicize the most important parts of every quotation, but this meant that that section either couldn’t include LORD or would have to display it unsloped in the middle of an italicized section. After wasting quite a lot of time on this, I decided to adjust my sections of emphasis so as to only include the verb, which was reasonable in the end since the actions were the point of the assignment.

The actions section badly needed multiple columns to avoid running onto tens of pages, and the two columns in portrait orientation were too wide, so I went to landscape and three columns. I was not entirely happy with the horizontal rules under the section titles, but without them it was a bit too difficult to tell where the sections started.

For the conclusions section I went back to a traditional paper/manuscript format, except for it being set in large Palatino and justified. Double-spacing isn’t generally good typography, but I thought it looked pretty decent here, and it matched the purpose of the assignment.

Amusingly, the single comment I got on the fact that my document was designed rather differently from other students’ was the comment “I like” on the table of contents on the first page, which was not really necessary in the first place and which I threw in with the default style at the last minute because I didn’t have time to do it in a way that matched the document better.

More projects to be added later.