Shape of Design


Project by Abish Martin. PDF available here.

Project by McKinnon and Madi. PDF available here.

Project by McKenna Zohner.

Project by Brenna Rich.

Level: ,
Duration: 4 weeks
Category: , , ,
Filed Under: , , , , ,
Bookmark Project

Project Brief

The original idea for this project came from Charmaine Martinez who does something similar to this using the Elements of Style.

Working in pairs, students design and layout the book "The Shape of Design" by Frank Chimero. The book is divided into four sections Front Matter, and Parts I-III. The students must collaborate with one another to match style including type hierarchy, illustration, grid, and layout. They are graded individually on how well they execute these ideas.

Learning Objectives

Through the process students demonstrate the following:

  • Ability to work together as a collaborative team.
  • Competency in InDesign using master pages, character and paragraph styles, and grids to help with layout and type setting
  • Ability to create a strong hierarchy with clear distinction between titles, lead paragraphs, section heads, pull quotes, paragraphs, captions, and footnotes.
  • Ability to properly type set large amounts of text, while avoiding bad rags, rivers, excessive hyphens, widows and orphans.


Each pair of students turn in a total of 4 pamphlet stitched books, along with some form of combining them into a complete set. For example a book box, belly bands, book binding stitching etc.


  • Each student will complete different sections of the book.
    A. Front and Back Matter +Part I
    B. Part II + Part III
  • As a group use a similar illustration and design style and grid. You will need to create character and paragraph styles that you share with one another.
  • Each booklet will measure 5.5in x 8.5in. Make sure your design uses a multiple of 4 page count. Consider ways to make the book a solid set such as a book box, or other ways to bind the books together.


The Shape of Design by Frank Chimero



  • The amount of text in this project is used to force students to use the tools in inDesign to speed up the typesetting process.
  • I have them do a first draft of just one section to work out the style, grids and hierarchy issues. We use that draft to pair them in groups with other students, and discuss proper type setting.
  • I've had students opt to do the entire project on their own, but I don't think I'll allow this in future semesters. Part of what I want them to experience is working together as a team, collaborating, and compromise.
  • The content for the book is interchangeable. I currently use this because I like the content, its CC BY-NC-SA license
  • I encourage my students to create their own visuals for the beginning of the chapters as well as interspersed in the book to create a stronger more cohesive visual style but sometimes it's a little overwhelming to them.

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