Tag Archives: Biography & Memoir

An Accidental Advocate

Kathryn Burke is a health care administrator turned education advocate who wrote a compelling and honest roadmap for parents of children with exceptional needs. (Her son Colin has learning disabilities and ADHD.) See LDExperience.com for more information about the book and other testimonies concerning LD. I scanned Collin’s dysgraphic handwriting and used it throughout the design.


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Champagne and Meatballs

The brash, irreverent, informative, and entertaining adventures of a Canadian Communist. 

The leftist rogue and protagonist, Bert Whyte, on the fly leaf with cigar in hand. Active for over 40 years with the Communist Party of Canada, Whyte was an underground historical rogue who challenged the illegality of left-wing politics during the 1930s and onwards. Brought to light and introduced by editor and historian Larry Hannant.

A hammer and sickle pin made it on to the left lapel on the spine.

The display face is Stephen Rapp’s Raniscript, which I paired with ITC Cheltenham (Tony Stan) and Trade Gothic (Jackson Burke). It was printed on 60 lb Rolland Opaque with two photo inserts on glossy paper (80 lb Sappi Flo).

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Gut Instinct

The Doctor.

I recently helped the Allard Foundation self-publish a 412-page biography on the late Dr. Charles Allard. The text was researched and written by Allard’s associate Hans J. Dys, of Filmbratz Productions. This “Edmontonian of the Century” led a remarkable life.

By request of the family, I worked with a portrait painted by Danielle Richard on the cover.

The title was de-bossed and stamped with a bronze foil on the grey hardcover. It was a much appreciated opportunity to break from the usual matte lamination and glue. The book was set in Adrian Frutiger’s Apollo MT and his sanserif face, Frutiger. It was printed with two colours (black and metallic PMS 8582) on 60-lb Cougar Natural Text by McCallum Printing Group. The monotone images and bronze screens turned out well. The dust jacket is the textured 80-lb Gilbert Oxford, in Path, from the Holly Hunt Collection.


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A story about Alzheimer’s, a mother, and a daughter.

I was fortunate to oversee the design of a graphic novel by the Vancouver-based writer/cartoonist, Sarah Leavitt. Sarah kept detailed notes and sketches for the duration of her mother’s illness, which will be coming to you in book form this summer from Freehand Books.

In spare black and white drawings and clear, candid prose, Sarah shares her family’s journey through a harrowing range of emotions — shock, denial, hope, anger, frustration — all the while learning to cope with a devastating diagnosis, and managing to find moments of happiness.

The font was built based on Sarah’s handwriting.

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Bitter Medicine

I decided to post this as a response to the many skeptical looks I’ve received after stating that I design books for a living.


This is what a book looks like pre-design. Basically, a massive pile of paper containing:
– Multiple versions of the manuscript typed up by the author in Microsoft word
– An editorial “road map” designating what might go where
– Lists with spelling, grammar, and stylistic corrections that need to be inserted from 3 or 4 rounds of editing
– Loose drawings torn from sketchbooks
– A reference guide labeling illustrations (in this case, 240 of them)
– Handwritten notes from all involved on $30 worth of post-its


This is what it looks like post-design and printing.

I designed a 6 x 10″ horizontal landscape format with 5″ wide jacket flaps that hold the author portrait drawings and bios. Olivier Martini is on the front flap and Clem Martini on the back.

The interior layout follows a 3-column grid system, running the illustrations on the verso pages and the text on the recto pages. I broke this rule occasionally to strengthen the dialogue between Clem and Olivier, when one brother’s story needed to take the spotlight.

Over the years, the various treatments Olivier experimented with affected his composure and the steadiness of his hands. So his mark-making changes throughout the book, reflecting side effects of medication like Stelazine.

On the back of the jacket:
“In 1976, Ben Martini was diagnosed with schizophrenia. A decade later, his brother Olivier was told he had the same disease. For the past thirty years the Martini family has struggled to comprehend and cope with a devastating illness, frustrated by a health care system lacking in resources and empathy, the imperfect science of medication, and the strain of mental illness on familial relationships.

Throughout it all, Olivier, an accomplished visual artist, drew. His sketches, comic strips, and portraits document his experience with, and capture the essence of, this all too frequently misunderstood disease. In Bitter Medicine, Olivier’s poignant graphic narrative runs alongside and communicates with a written account of the past three decades by his younger brother, award-winning author and playwright Clem Martini. The result is a layered family memoir that faces head-on the stigma attached to mental illness.

Shot through with wry humour and unapologetic in its politics, Bitter Medicine is the story of the Martini family, a polemical and poetic portrait of illness, and a vital and timely call for action.”



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