I had an email today from Morgen, my editor’s assistant at W. W. Norton, asking my opinion over the design of the time lines for the end of each chapter. The book designer has sent along three variations, which are close in format but not identical. Any opinions about which design is the most readable? (I think Norton outsources their book design to an independent design firm, so I’m not taking the misspelled names in the design seriously. Or not yet, anyway. When the galleys for The Well-Trained Mind arrived, the title “Grammar Stage” in the first section was spelled GRAMMER STAGE. On the top of every other page in that whole section. AGGH. That turned out to be the fault of the outside design firm as well, but it makes me nervous every time I think about it.)

Anyway, here’s the first version:

and the second:

and the third:


Showing 15 comments
  • Beth in NC

    I like the second. The dates in the middle being darker helps me as well as the what is bolded. Other than that, I can’t be more specific as to why I liked it the best but I did.

  • valkett

    I like the second one the best. Having the dates white on black makes them stand out more. Also, the alternating shading in the columns makes it easier to read where things fall in the timeline.

    The third one is o.k. and the first one is very difficult to read.

  • Juanita

    I agree with Beth. I think the second is the most readable. I like the date line in the middle being darkened, as well as the bold print on the second half.

  • Mattias

    The second as well. The spacing in the top portion between the Guden line and the next line makes a big difference as does the bolding in the “End of the Kingdom” section. It’s somehow easier to compare with the top half than in the third selection. Go two.

  • leslie

    I also like the second. I like the alternating dark and white of each section and the dark line in the middle. By the way, I’ll miss seeing you at the FPEA convention this year. Wish you were going to be there!

  • PariSarah

    Number 1 looks . . . amorphous. I can’t “see” what it’s supposed to be telling me.

    I like 2 and 3 about equally–the differences in font help triage the info, and either way of doing it works for me.

  • Kolbi

    I liked the third. I agree with Beth in NC that the first one didn’t have the dating line dark enough, and so I deep sixed the first version in my mind right away.

    I had to really look hard for the differences between the second and third versions, though, and from what I saw the third version has less content that is in bold. For me, having the most important items in bold helps a lot, as long as not *too many* items are bolded. So to me, the third version did the best job of showing what was most important, and showing it in a way that did not seem as cluttered. I hope that makes sense.


  • Staci in MOL

    I would have to go with either 2 or 3. A timeline needs to have a line, so having the darker line is easier for me to read.

  • Jan P. in SC

    I definitely liked the second one the best. It seemed more balanced. I could see the timeline better also.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Laura in PA

    I also prefer the second. It is logical in its layout and shading. I couldn’t determine what the shading rule was for the third. The first was just plain-old hard to read.

    How exciting to be at this stage of production. Looking forward to having the book in my hands.


  • Amy in NH

    I think the third one makes the most sense since the shading really helps delineate the End of Old Kingdom, First Intermediate Period, and Middle Kingdom.

  • Charlie

    (Peter and I are at a coffeehouse in DC, by the way. Our booth looks great. The bookcase you picked out works very well, and the posters look terrific.)

    There’s a lot to process through on those. I don’t envy the job of the designer, trying to make these disparate people and events tie together graphically. And everyone’s a critic, so I know we can’t fully know or appreciate what the designer thought through. But … here are some thoughts …

    I’m not sure what the purpose of the wide bands of shading are on timeline 3. I like how the dark gray vertical lines indicate the years in question, against the gray (or white) background. But I can’t see why part of it as a white background and part has a gray background. I can see that it shows the difference between the Egyptian kingdoms, but why does it then extend above the date line as well? Did the First Intermediate Period (or, perhaps, Intefs I-III) directly affect the Third Dynasty of Ur?

    For that reason, why is the date line centered on the timeline? Egypt below the line; everywhere else above the line? That’s not immediately apparent; perhaps a key somewhere explains that, and it’s a moot point. One idea … have the date line at the top or bottom, with geographic (or geo-political reign) bands running left-to-right, with key people, events, etc. in those bands. Actually, it looks like that’s what you have, but maybe a faint gray hairline would help break up the different areas/rulers.

    Anyway … that’s probably not at all helpful, since we’ve got these three designs on hand. So … some thoughts on these.

    As I said above, I really like the dark date line, v. the light date line.

    I like the dark vertical lines against solid blocks of background color, v. the alternating white and gray background bands.

    I like the bolder date numbers (#3), v. the slightly fainter date numbers (#2).

    I would prefer to see the date numbers truly centered on the dateline (as it is, they’re a little low on the line). But that’s just me.

    I’m confused on the placement of dynasties, pharaohs, and Kingdom titles on the bottom. For example, does Amenemhet I tie to Dynasty 12 (which he’s immediately below) or Dynasties 9 and 10 (which he’s to the right of).

    As far as the type / font choice, I agree, that the bolder titles on #s 1 and 2 stand out more than on #3. I like the bolder contrast there, if those dynasty titles are important. I assume they are, since they’re shading that whole vertical block. If they’re not more significant than the other data, then I don’t see any need to call special attention to them.

    I hope these thoughts help. If this is all-noise-and-no-signal, feel free to dismiss them. Again, what a tricky job that designer has. Good luck with this.

  • Jessica

    #3 would be my choice.

  • Kolbi

    Huh. I guess I was assuming that number 3 had the light shading/white shading for the certain part that that page of text was discussing or something. I figured it was just helping show what that page or the page before it or after it (or that chapter or whatever) had been about.


    If not, then I totally agree that it’s kind of strange to just have that one part white on number three…

  • Sharon

    I already had my mind made up before I clicked on comments, but it will look like I’m just joining the herd… I like the second one best. I think the alternating bands make it easier to distinguish the years. As far as Charlie’s question on the pharoahs, I assumed they were under their dynasty.

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