Wednesday 13 March 2013

How to make a visual dictionary

One thing I was most curious about when flipping through Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary, is a sort of chicken and egg question: Does the choice to use certain images determine the text? Or do they pick our pictures to fit what they've decided to write about? A recent interview with the author, Paul Ruditis, reveals how they did it:
It started with DK sending me an outline that covered pretty much every page of the book. I tweaked the outline to add things that I felt were more important and remove things I didn’t consider crucial information. When you’re putting together a visual book that covers over seven hundred hours of television and movies, it’s impossible to include everything. There has to be some give and take in choosing the importance of a subject. Once we came up with the outline, CBS had some additional input then I set about pulling the photos.

Selecting the photography was quite intensive. The design of the book is a bit like a puzzle in finding the right pieces to fit together and then hoping the images are a good quality and properly represent the topic. I’m sure there will be a lot of questions of why we focused on a certain character over another in the visuals and it usually comes down to the fact that the image fit a variety of needs for the section.

Once the images were selected, DK designed the pages so that I’d know how much text was needed to fill in around the pictures. Every single entry had to meet a fairly specific word count or else it would alter the design of the pages.
You can read the full interview, which explores Ruditis writing background, and how he ended up writing this book, at You can also read my review of the book, or see sample pages here, here, here, and here, plus pages from the German edition, here.

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