Behind the scenes: writing a design book

Logo Design Love book

It was December 2008 when out-of-the-blue I received an email from Nikki McDonald, senior acquisitions editor at US-based publisher Peachpit. One year later, in December 2009, I received a box filled with copies of the resulting book Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities. Here are some of my experiences along the way.

Logo Design Love book

Self-publish or work with an established publisher?

By self-publishing I earn all profits, but by working with an established publisher I get the experience of people who know what they’re doing — copy editors, marketers, production staff.

I’d been reading about the experiences of designers Mark Boulton and Eric Karjaluoto. Both chose to self-publish their most recent books, but both had more design and writing experience than me. So I also turned to friends for advice. I was told not to expect riches from the sales of a design book — fine by me, that wasn’t my motivation — and that as a first-time author I should use the experience of a proven publisher, trading what possible financial gain might result from self-publishing for the ability to reach a wider audience, helping share my thoughts with more readers.

I saw the project as a challenge and as a way to establish a reputation as a brand identity designer who knows what he’s doing.

Logo Design Love book

The proposal

I had to submit a book proposal before a contract was signed. The proposal included draft chapter headings and details of my design background and writing experience.

A proposal form was supplied by my publisher, and there was some back and forth before it was finalised. I’d use these details to help grow my thoughts about the book content, and it’s worth noting that the proposal can be quite different from how the completed book turns out (looking back, mine definitely was).

Logo Design Love book

Finding contributors

It was during the proposal stage that I started getting in touch with potential contributors. I didn’t want to write a book filled with my work, because readers would get more help by learning from a range of designers from around the world.

I contacted studios and independent designers, pitching my idea and asking for specific logo contributions. Those interested were asked for EPS files, sketches, and the rationale behind each design. From concept to completion, I sent a total of 1,330 emails (touch-typing a bonus).

Logo Design Love book

Design responsibilities

I’d seen a lot of design books that were poorly designed and difficult to read, so I designed the layout: cover, title page, copyright page, resources section, index. When the content was final, I’d give Peachpit’s production team the packaged InDesign files and print-formatted imagery.

Logo Design Love book

Contract negotiations

With the completed proposal in the hands of my publisher, we’d then negotiate the contract offer. Everything is negotiable, and if you’re thinking about becoming an author make sure you’re happy with the terms. You’ll be taking on a huge amount of work and you don’t want to get second thoughts halfway through because you’re being underpaid.

The offer I received included an advance payment of the book’s royalties. This figure was split into four, with a cheque for 25 percent mailed to me at the start, and the remainder paid at pre-determined stages of completion. A one-off fee for the book design was also agreed (to be paid upon completion).

It was four months after the initial out-of-the-blue email when I signed the contract.

And so, in April 2009, the deal was official.

Logo Design Love book

Setting a schedule

When we were ready to begin actually writing, my copy editor sent me a submission schedule, mapping the time frames for each chapter pass (1st pass, 2nd pass, 3rd pass, etc.). I was told upon receipt that we were already behind schedule, so no pressure, David.

Logo Design Love book

The initial writing stages

The process worked like this: I would email a Word document to my editor, and a day or two later she would ask me to rewrite it completely, and I’d receive guidance about where I was going wrong. During the first few weeks, not only was I off-target with the writing, but none of my draft content was suitable for use. Twice I was asked to resubmit the first chapter, and although I was told how the initial chapters were always the most difficult, it was a little demoralizing.

Once the first chapter content was finally agreed upon, I needed to transfer the text and images to InDesign, then supply Peachpit’s design team with a sample PDF. This was so my preferred design and layout could be given the go-ahead.

They were happy with my design proposal, so from there on, we would edit the chapter content using Microsoft Word documents.

Logo Design Love book

Keeping track of chapter drafts

A basecamp-style FTP site was created to keep track of the documents, with all content being uploaded to a central server. The folders on the FTP site worked a little like this:

  • A: 1st pass Word file (to my copy editor, from me)
  • A1: 1st pass copy edits (to me, from my copy editor)
  • A2: 2nd pass Word file (from me)
  • A3: 2nd pass copy edits (from my copy editor)
  • A4: 3rd pass Word file
  • A5: 3rd pass copy edits, ready for setting in InDesign
  • A6: 1st pass PDF (set in the actual design, from me)
  • A7: 1st pass copy edits (from my copy editor)
  • A8: 2nd pass PDF
  • A9: 2nd pass copy edits
  • A10: 3rd pass PDF
  • A11: 3rd pass copy edits

If you consider that every chapter, from one to eleven, needed to pass through these folders, there was a lot more work than I first anticipated. With each pass, however, the content became tighter, more focused, and in much better shape than it was when I first wrote it.

I owe a great deal to my editors Jill Marts Lodwig and Robin Drake, without whom the book would be a shadow of what it is.

Logo Design Love book

Second thoughts

It wasn’t until we passed the halfway stage when I ditched the second thoughts I was having. I knew I’d be taking a cut in earnings to write the book, but didn’t appreciate how much work was going to be involved, so when things weren’t running smoothly I questioned myself until I could see the finish line.

I’m glad I stuck with it, and I have nothing but praise for those I worked with at Peachpit.

Print production choices

Production was handled by Peachpit, but I got to make choices about the book’s size and cover stock. The size was determined back in the proposal stage (physical dimensions and page count), and I was asked whether I wanted a matt or gloss finish on the cover.

After the book was printed (and just a week or two ago) I asked Cory Borman, production guru at Peachpit, for specific print info:

“The cover stock is Matte UV with embossing, 12pt color 1 side. The interior is 60# Influence Matte (88 bright) 588.

“The interior was printed at the Courier Kendallville plant, with the cover embossed and printed at Moore Langen, a part of Courier Printing Co.”

8,000 copies of the book were printed for the first run, with 1,800 of those sold prior to release.

Promoting the book

When the writing, editing, and production was complete, the promotional work began. I was told the most successful books are those where the author takes an active role in the promotion, and of course I was only too happy to help.

Working with Peachpit’s product marketing manager, Glenn Bisignani, I did what I could to get the word out, including the following:

  • I launched a book-specific website at
  • I created a Logo Design Love Facebook page and gave free copies to fans
  • I showed my readers the book’s table of contents and asked which chapter they wanted for free, then, once their preference was learned, I offered a free PDF chapter download
  • I supplied my publisher with a list of review copy recipients around the world — designers I know and trust
  • Coming soon, I’ll be giving away signed copies (as soon as my box of books is shipped from my old address in Ireland to my new home office in Scotland)

What you’re saying

Judging by people’s updates on Twitter, book orders are now being received every day, and I’m seeing some great feedback. You can view a number of reviews on Amazon.

Would I do it again?

Peachpit has kindly asked me to think of another project for this year, and it’ll be a pleasure to work with the team again. I’ll see how I get on with this first book before deciding to write again, though.


My biggest is contacting too many potential contributors. Many designers took the time to send me artwork and explanations, but I ended up with too much content for the page count that needed to be set at the beginning of the project. Choosing who to cut wasn’t easy. Not at all.

To those who helped, but weren’t featured in the book, you have my sincerest gratitude, and I hope to feature your contributions on the Logo Design Love site before too long.

Thank you

To the thousands who have already ordered a copy, thanks so much. I hope you enjoy the read, and if you have any questions — about design or writing in general — please ask.

More info on the book website.

89 responses

  1. As a self teaching student I’ve looked around a lot for Logo Design books. And somehow very few have been helpful. Some just give a brief outline of the design process (The secret life of logos) while some gives us insights in form of interviews (Tashcen’s Logo Vol.2) and not to forget the inspiration ones (My former teacher loathes such books. Top contributors of sameness in the industry, he says. Not quite sure if I should agree or disagree with him). What are your thoughts on it?

    You’re book will help us because it is what we are looking around in the internet. Sketches, and words about the idea gathering rather than a simple brief description or the experiences, etc..

  2. I’ve been following the development process of your book from the very beginning and can’t wait for it to be finally shipped. Reading a book is kinda interesting way to spend your time and learn something new. Reading a book which you saw growing is something unrevealed and exciting at the same time.

  3. Congratulations on what you’ve achieved in the past twelve months, David. It sounds like an extraordinary, challenging and ultimately rewarding experience.

    I know nothing about specialist (niche?) publishing but I’m guessing that an initial print run of 8,000 is pretty good, and pre-sales of 1,800 out of 8,000 would make the publishers happy. I hope that both guesses are correct.

    Thanks for sharing the process of working with professional publishers. It’s a marvellous opportunity, and clearly the positive experience has been reciprocal since they’ve asked you to do it again this year. I think it’s a good idea to wait and see how this title goes before deciding on a second writing project in as many years.

  4. Hi Shabbir, from the outset I knew I didn’t want to create yet another logo gallery book. There are already enough of those on the market, so I agree with your former teacher in some respects.

    Very rewarding, Tracey, and I’ve learned a great deal along the way. It’s a pleasure sharing the experience.

    Thanks very much, folks.

  5. Dear David,

    finally, I got your book on my hands, I must say it is quite clear and neat, I cannot wait to read it all the chapters. Thanks for sharing the process, it has been quite interesting… Congratulations!

    Best regards from Mexico,

  6. Fabulous overview, David! Thanks for sharing your process and experience. Please DM me on twitter – I teach a class in cross-media publishing and would be interested to chat more about your experience. cheers!

  7. Nice read there David, I can imagine how frustrating it got sending drafts back and forth so much and following the procedure but I’m sure it has paid off.

    I’ll definitely be getting my copy the next time I’m shopping on Amazon:)

  8. Congratulations David on completion of the book. It sounds like huge amount of work but I’m sure it will all be very worthwhile. Thanks for sharing the steps, it was very interesting to read.

  9. Congratulations from me as well, David. Interesting how you took time to adapt your style from writing blog posts to book writing. I’m very impressed with the pre-order figures. It seems you have passed the magic tipping point of having 1000 true fans!

  10. Congratulations David!

    I received my copy in the mail on Monday. It’s a beautiful, informative and easy to read book.

  11. David, I was just going to order a copy mid-way through this article but then you mentioned signed copies…. :)

    Will I be able to buy a signed copy directly from you or, how is that going to work?

  12. Firstly, congratulations, the book looks fantastic! Secondly, I had *no* idea that there was so much ‘backing and forthing’ between author and editors. It must have been hard to stay motivated when they come back and say that none of your writing is suitable? I’m not sure I could handle the rejection!

    Anyway, congratulations again!

  13. Sounds like a lot of hard work went into writing this book. Great job.

    My copy has been despatched, but I’m still awaiting my it from Amazon—probably delayed by the worst winter in 30 years we’re having here in the UK, as you know.

    I’m looking forward to it :)

  14. That’s great to know, Itzel, Robbie, JMV. Thanks.

    Dave, I sent you an email. Let me know if I can be of any help.

    Glad the post was of interest, Jennifer. Hoping for great things for Laughing Lion Design in 2010.

    It was odd, Rob. I thought I’d be a little better than I was having published a blog for a couple of years prior to the project, but it’s incredible how good a job professional editors do. Good to know you’re still reading, and I hope the winter weather isn’t too bad down south.

    Dennis, you’re more than welcome to send a purchased copy my way, and I will happily pay the postage to return it with a signature inside. If that’s of interest, just send me an email for my mailing address.

    Andrew, fingers crossed it arrives before too long. I’ve had a couple of people tell me their copies from are due to arrive this week.

  15. Very interesting David, thank you for sharing the process. Would you know if this is the same (or similar) for all publishers or just Peachpit? I look forward to receiving my copy some time this month. Off to read the reviews now.

  16. David, like all the other comments, I agree that this is an interesting post. I love how you gave the specs of what kind of paper and where they were printed. Other designers wouldn’t have done that. These are the things that make you eclectic. I love it! Can’t wait to read it!

    Awesome job and much admiration!

  17. Wow! Congratulations, the book looks amazing! It sounds like this was a real labour of love and I hope you see fantastic results with the book.

  18. Congratulations David on a well deserved success. The book is not only easy to read but also very fun. I spent New Years Eve reading it cover-to-cover and plan to do so again. It is also packed in my bag for class tomorrow since I will be sneaking into faculty offices to show them as well :).

    I do hope you do pick up another project too so I can keep my library growing.

  19. Hey David, This process has been so awesome to follow & I am a bit jealous/proud of you. It looks like such an awesome project to take on (Being that its so big) and getting to walk it from the beginning all the way to the end. I thank you so much for sharing your contributions along the way. Good luck on selling some copies! (need to order mine now)

  20. Thanks for showing us the whole process that you underwent to write this book. While I haven’t purchased it yet, it is in my list of books to read in 2010. By the way, I wouldn’t be able to go through the rigors of writing a book like you have done. Great job David!

  21. Thanks for the article! Very interesting to read. Would I write a book after reading through your process? I really dont know :D

  22. Hy David,

    Great article and thank you for sharing your experience on writing the book, it was inspirational.

    10 minutes ago I received my copy of your book. I’m sooooo happy.

    Great job and Cheers :)

  23. I’ve no idea what process other publishers use, Jacob. From my little experience, Peachpit is an excellent company.

    Jon, that’s great news. I’d love to know what your faculty makes of the content. I saw your tweet about me giving away all my secrets — better out than in, I say.

    Thanks very much, Kevin, Jad, Tom, Quan.

    Chad, so far so good with the sales. It’d be great if I could track them myself, but alas, Peachpit doesn’t have any way for authors to check numbers, except for asking directly.

    I hope you enjoy it, tacapaca.

  24. Thanks for the insight David, I can’t imagine how much hard work it must have been but I hope it pays off for you.

    I’ve still to order the book, it’s on my Amazon wishlist and will be the next book I buy!

    I didn’t realise you’d moved back to Scotland? When did that happen? I thought you loved Ireland?

    Cheers again,

  25. Moved back to Scotland six days ago, Nathan. My fiancee and I had a great 18 months back in Ireland (love it there, too), but as a place to live, Edinburgh’s hard to beat — lots of galleries, museums, bars, history. Who knows for how long we’ll stay, but I’m happy to be here. I hope 2010’s started well for you.

  26. This behind the scenes article was absolutely awesome. I had always wondered about the work that goes into writing a book. Thanks David and I can’t wait to get my hands on this book.

  27. Hi David,

    Made your book my Sunday read this week. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I weigh the worth of a book by what type of ideas it generates for me, whether relevant or not (reading has become a solid part of my creative brainstorm process). Your book definitely got my brain running on overdrive.

    Also, I appreciate the level of respect you bring forth to your design process. It’s nice to know there are others out there that really, truly respect design.

    I look forward to your future publications.

    All the best,


  28. David,

    Thanks for the behind-the-scenes look at the whole design book publishing process. I’ve been following your project throughout the last year, and I must say it had to be quite an undertaking–especially with being a one man show. I’m sure that juggling your studio work had to be a challenge as well.

    I appreciate your openness and sharing of the experience. I look forward to getting a hold of my copy soon. Congratulations.

  29. David,
    Looking forward to getting my copy and have been ever since your first posts about it. Seeing that checking your blog is my morning “motivational jump start” before I dive into my own design work, it’ll be nice to to see your book stand boldly confident on my shelf next to Stefan Sagmeister, Dave Mckean, Alan Fletcher and Modern Dog amongst others that inspire me.

  30. No worries at all, Tim, Leighton.

    That’s great to know, Jeff. Thanks for the purchase.

    Ivan, if you have time, I’d love to read your review.

    Hi Raul, great compliment. Sagmeister and Fletcher are two designers I have much respect for.

  31. David, i bought your book (e-book) and it was a fantastic ride, clear language, to-the-point, very informative and for me as a starting freelance designer so helpful. My money well spent in buying this book. Great read…by the way i bought it as an e-book so i could read it immediately…couldn’t wait.
    I recommend this to anyone. Thanks,

  32. I stopped by my advisor’s office David. I had sent her the sample chapter you posted. She’s already incorporating that into her classes and your book is already on her syllabus as a recommended textbook and her copy is being ordered :).

  33. Logo awesomeness all packed into a book.

    Bought it for my Amazon Kindle for around $15. Planning on buying a physical copy to place on the studio coffee table to help clients understand why their logo is no good. : )

    Thanks David!

  34. HUGE congrats, David! It was fun to walk along side you through your blog posts. Was it really only a year ago that all this started to form? I’m sure it seems like so much longer to you!

    Thank you for sharing your process with us! I really appreciate a new author’s perspective.

    Is 1,800 pre-sale copies out of 8,000 a good number? Nearly 25% seems awesome to me! I can’t wait to see it in my local book store. I’ve been keeping an eye out…

  35. Thanks a lot, David. You have had a really big year.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences and I am looking forward seeing the book here down under.

  36. The educational market is one I hope to do well with, Jon, so that’s fantastic news. In fact, I plan on creating a course outline to run in conjunction with the book (on the recommendation of my publisher).

    You’re very welcome, Tyler, Astrid.

    Lauren, the time flew by (as it normally does when you look back on things), but yeah, it seemed longer during the process. Good of you to keep an eye out for me. I’ve been wondering if I’ll ever see a copy in local bookstores, but I’m guessing it’ll just be on some shelves in the United States.

  37. I’ve just purchased your book at – I’m a fresh graduate focusing in branding and packaging design. I am currently doing freelance and really enjoy reading your blog; especially going through your logo design process. I can’t wait to get the book in my hands.

  38. I got mine! Very happy with it. Gutted that you’ve moved back to Scotland tho – was going to bring my copy along next time I’m in Bangor for an author’s signature. What the hey.

    Looking forward to getting stuck into it. Well done!

  39. Being an author is not an easy task, but I’m glad you stuck it out and finally finished the book!! I read the first chapter online a few weeks back and I have to say it was very easy to understand and it sparked even more creativity from me, thank you. I’m really considering getting the whole thing, great job, you should be proud!!

  40. Fantastic news! I have been following your blog for a while and am excited for you. I see that you have great reviews on amazon so far. Congrats!

  41. I’ve never been disappointed in a Peachpit title I’ve purchased. You’re in good company and I’m sure your volume is first rate. I’ll be picking up a copy soon.

  42. Thanks very much, everyone. Si, a few others have asked if I’ll sign their copies, too. You’re more than welcome to mail it to Scotland, and I’ll sign it, then pay the return postal cost. No problem at all.

  43. I’m always looking for books like this, and probably buy more of them than I should, but this looks like one of the better ones I’ve come across. I’ll make sure I check it out asap.

  44. David – as ever generous to a fault – I’ll be fine with it as it is – it was really a ruse to buy you a pint of Guinness or two as a small expression of thanks for the inspiration, wisdom and experience you share on here (and now in print). Whenever I’ve questioned whether my career change into this line of business was really that wise (though it was always longed for), as often as not one of your posts inspires me and reaffirms my decision. Many thanks for that.

  45. Hello,

    So I finally got my copy yesterday at 7:00 pm, and from the moment I started reading I was not able to put down your book. I finished it today at 11:40am, and all I have to say is that your book is more than a guide to create iconic identities, is a guide to be a successful graphic designer in any way. I found it very inspirational and motivating. I will surely re-read every chapter since I think it will help me for life. It is truly an invaluable book.

    Thank you.

  46. Thank you David for all your endless work, you truly provide the Design Community with a large amount of information, wonderful work, cant wait to purchase the book.

  47. Very insightful look into the process. Invaluable information for anyone looking to write a non-fiction book. Thank you for sharing. I can’t wait to get my hands on the book.

  48. Hey Jon, drop me an email if you want me to sign a copy. Happy to give you my mailing address.

    Si, no worries at all. Happy to be of some help. To you, too, Lorenzo, Amanda.

    Once again, Victor, thanks so much for the kind review. Great of you to take the time.

    Chris, more info and buying options on the Logo Design Love book website.

  49. It’s an amazing work, I enjoyed the free chapter and I’m willing to buy the book, it is possible to have a dedication from the author? =)

    Thanks, really, for this book, it’s an essential reading to me.

  50. Hi David, I recently received your book and I’m about half way through it. It’s a really good read and well put together. I think you could apply your advice to any design project, so I thoroughly recommend it to any designer however experienced. I particularly like your approach to mind mapping, which I’ve never used before, but now you’ve convinced me. I just need the right project to try it out on. All the best, Mark.

  51. Great read David! I swear the “mindmapping” section alone was worth its weight in gold. Having struggled with a naming and branding project, within minutes of using this methology the solution became very clear. Thanks brother.

  52. It’d be a pleasure, Claudia. Send me an email if you want your book messaged in any way.

    Mind-mapping’s a great method for me, too, Mark, Fabian. Glad you’re giving it a shot.

    Great choice of accent, Ashley. Couldn’t have chosen better myself.

  53. Congratulations and well done! I got my copy in the post today and it is beautiful and full of wonderful information. I don’t claim to be any sort of logo designer, but I just had to buy your book as I admire your creative creations. ;)

    I especially like the way you demonstrate your process and mind mapping.

    Good job David!

  54. David,

    I read this book cover to cover and I have to say it was definitely worth buying. I love seeing the design process of logos. I used your word map method for some of my projects and it worked wonderfully! Also, I love the fact that you sketch your ideas first before using the computer. I often see people use their computer to sketch ideas and I just can’t do it. I always sketch out my ideas first. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone.

    Another section I enjoyed was when you discussed how to deal with client (types of questions to ask, how to establish control, how clients should not tell you how to design, etc). This is section that every designer should read.

    Lastly, thank you for your recommendation about not participating in logo contests. You saved me a lot of time and trouble, because I was planning on participating in a few.

    Thank you, David, for publishing that book. It’s definitely going on my bookshelf as a future reference tool.


  55. David I have a profit question if it’s not to personal to ask, curious after you mentioned the cut in earnings.

    How did you find the income of writing a book versus regular work? The book took 12 months give or take, would you have made the equivalent amount from 6 months work, 9 months, or … ?

    Do you expect to break even or exceed traditional income from the same period in the long run? Or is the book itself more the reward.

  56. I took a minimum 50% cut in earnings to write my book, Andrew. I knew I’d be doing so before I signed a contract.

    The value of a book outweighs that of digital content because the process is more arduous, the product is tangible, and the printed word has a level of permanence you won’t find online.

    So yes, the book is definitely my reward.

  57. David,

    Thanks for the very informative post! How did you estimate time to completion, having never written a book before? — or did Peachpit not require that of you?

  58. Hello Jana, from the outset, I knew that Peachpit wanted to release my book in 2009, so the deadline was set with that in mind (and not based upon a supposed duration of how long it takes to write a book).

    John, good of you to drop by.

  59. Thanks for the behind-the-scenes look at the whole design book publishing process. I have been following your creations through your website and blog for last 2 years while I was studing Graphic Design here in Melbourne, Australia. Now I’m a graphic design graduate focusing on branding primarily. Your logo design process is inspirational. Today I ordered your book and waiting to get it in my hands. Wish you a happy and successful like ahead. Will comment about the book once I will get it. Thanks again.

  60. Hello Deepak, thanks very much for ordering a copy of my book. I hope it arrives with you soon, and it’d be great if you were to let me know your thoughts once you’ve been able to read it.

    All the very best.

  61. Hello David,

    I downloaded the free chapter yesterday, read it and “insta-ordered” the whole book from Amazon just a minute ago.

    Absolutely wonderful work, many thanks to you for writing this book!

    Best regards,


  62. Great book, I really enjoyed it!

    If you’re doing most of the promotional work yourself you might want to look into publishing it through print on demand companies which will most likely give you a significant profit increase.

    It seems you greatly benefited from the copy editors though.

    Good luck with your next book and I hope it’ll be just as good as this one. :-)

  63. Hi David,

    Have loved being updated constantly about your designs so far.

    What historical designers or movements inspire you in your work?

    Regards, Valerie.

  64. Great to know, Valerie. Although I’ve learned a lot from past greats, I love what’s coming from some of today’s top design studios (johnson banks, TheChase, SomeOne, Moving Brands, etc.).

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