Behind the scenes: making the book ODO YAKUZA TOKYO

ODO YAKUZA TOKYO - book cover

ODO YAKUZA TOKYO - book cover

So here are the first details of the book ODO YAKUZA TOKYO to see the light of day. I promised some insight into how I went about all this, and here it is. Although the finished product will look "easier" than the magazine layout, actually a lot more work went into this one... Thinking about creating a good "package" was crucial.

That package meaning everything from images to paper to size to aspect ratio to typography, binding, number of pages, all had to match up perfectly. To get started, here is the cover, front and back, folded open all the way (see the blue dotted lines for folds):

ODO YAKUZA TOKYO - book cover

ODO YAKUZA TOKYO - book cover

The image of a door I can barely see through, Yakuza members in a meeting and a bodyguard at the door, the mystery that surrounds them, is as always present, yet enough is revealed to be able to take a peek into their world; it felt like an image that sums up the story well.

The title, ODO YAKUZA TOKYO, hopefully speaks for itself, ODO (or 桜道 - which is translated as "the way of the cherry blossom") being the official sign of the Yakuza family in Tokyo that I have been following for more than two years now. Also notice that the title of the book appears on the backcover. I though long and hard about this one, and in the end I believed it wouldn't do me any damage. At the same time it's a tribute to Japanese books, which due to the language, usually start "at the back" and make their way to the front.

Oh, and of course it's gonna be a softcover... with flaps on the cover folded inside... so much more real, like a book...

I could never have designed the cover without first knowing the entire package; and that took a long time to figure out. Especially because I had nothing to hold in my hands to compare to, to feel, to pick up, to leaf through. It's always so different to actually hold a book in your hands, compared to looking at a design on the screen. So I started collecting many different books that were interesting in some way or another, and I finally found a book that was almost completely a perfect package like I wanted to create: softcover, portrait (so the opened book can be as accompanying as possible for double page pictures), folded flaps, ±220 pages, a version of lay flat binding, thick paper with a personality, laced with thin tracing paper per chapter, and a size of 8.89 x 11" (225.9 x 279.4 mm)...This was going to be it.

Double page pictures... I wanted this to be possible but I needed to be sure about the binding, so I could be confident the book could lay flat without breaking. here's a sample pic, and it works beautifully. I've had this particular book for about 5 years now, and the binding still doesn't show any signs of wear:

ODO YAKUZA TOKYO - sample binding

ODO YAKUZA TOKYO - sample binding

Once I knew that was possible, I could start to look at the double page spread as a canvas by itself, and I could start thinking about giving each individual image the whitespace (or bleed) it needed in my eyes. It turned out that all of my images coped extremely well with the double page layout, and I was very happy to see that many images even gained strength because of the depth the fold created in the middle. This was my biggest hurdle and my greatest fear, but now that I look back at it, that decision was a very good one to be made.

ODO YAKUZA TOKYO - sample spread

ODO YAKUZA TOKYO - sample spread

On to typography... I wanted to use a favorite and very old typeface Plantin, but because I used that for the logo and design of BURN Magazine, I decided not to got the same route for this book. I moved on to a digital font, with a slightly lighter reading impact on the eye for longer text: Arno by Robert Slimbach. All text in the book is set in versions of the Caption, Italic, Regular, SmText, or Italic SmText, depending on the situation.

ODO YAKUZA TOKYO - typefaces

ODO YAKUZA TOKYO - typefaces

The number of pages for a book using this binding and this aspect ratio/size, would ideally be around 200-220... so that's what I aimed for. A total of 92 images will grace the pages of this book, and reproductions of 12 works of Japanese calligraphy by Ginryu (Taka's artist name).

After a long search and many print tests, the final paper choice ended up between Fedrigoni's Symbol Tatami or Périgord's Condat Mat... at 175 or 150 gr. I went for the Tatami, which has more personality to the touch. Also, the ever so slight ivory colour perfectly matches the yellow cast which seems to be present throughout the images of the Yakuza story. And the beautiful tracing paper between every chapter, accomodating the calligraphy, hopefully give the book that "little extra".

ODO YAKUZA TOKYO - sample spread

ODO YAKUZA TOKYO - sample spread

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I'm genuinely happy. I feel I'm creating a book that is completely what I envision it to be. The story I want to tell in exactly the way I would love it to be told. To me, this package perfectly fits the bill: paper choice, size, aspect ratio, binding, top quality printing... it all adds up and the different parts seem to complement each other nicely.

Mind you, this all adds up to quite a printing bill.... One which I cannot pay. But I firmly believe in this package, in the way I want to present the YAKUZA story. And rather than sacrificing quality to accomodate limited budget, I'm going to be seeking support from you guys so I can pull this one off.... details on this, and on my thoughts on distribution, very very soon... please stay tuned. I'm gonna need all of you.

peace

a