Day 23 of #RPGaDAY has the most interesting topic to me this month: “Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?” While I take a bit of an issue with the “most jaw-dropping” part of the question — other topics used “the best” to provoke a convesation about your favorite ________ — I see where the question writer is going. It’s not the best layout we’re looking for, it’s the most noticable layout that’s pleasing to look at.
Now, while I as a layout artist want to have people blown away by my work, one of the best reviews I have received is one that pointed at 7th Sea‘s layout: It doesn’t do much to overwhelm and mainly gets out of the way. On the surface, that sounds like a bit of an insult. The layout design doesn’t do much. It doesn’t distract the reader. It’s plain. This is one of the best things a layout artist can hear.
Like cinematography, comic book lettering, or editing, book layout is really only noticed when it’s done poorly. Sometimes it stands out, but layout is there to communicate, to deliver the contents of the book. When I hear someone saying the graphic design was fantastic on a thing, I am not certain if that’s higher praise than “I didn’t notice the layout at all.”