Jeanne’ N. LaFrance graduated from our Graphic Design program in fall 2022. During her time as a student, The Art Galleries at ACC hired her to co-design The Necessity of Truth, a book highlighting a group of diverse artists exploring social justice and cultural awareness. The book was created as a tie-in to the Miñarro/McClinton: Negotiating Spaces exhibit which ran during spring 2022. I met with Jeanne’ over g-chat to discuss her design approach to this impactful project.
Zoe: Can you give me some more background about this project?
Jeanne’: The Necessity of Truth is a book that features seven minority artists that are located around the Austin Texas area. The artists talk about their hardships or hardships that others might experience while being a person of color. Their work showcases their emotions on how they are portrayed/what they see within their ethnicity.
Zoe: The book is absolutely gorgeous. What did it mean for you to participate in this project?
Jeanne’: It meant a lot to be able to participate in this project. This was my first time ever doing a project this significant! I was honored when my professor at the time/mentor Rachel Wyatt asked for my assistance. I was a full time student juggling four studio classes; it was a lot of pressure but well worth it.
Zoe: Was the pressure mainly because of time?
Jeanne’: Time wasn’t really a big deal; it was important but not the main focus. We did have a deadline but it wasn’t set in stone. I’m a slightly a perfectionist and I didn’t want to let [the gallery] team down. There were a lot of people working on this book from translators to copyright and when it was my time to do my part I felt pressure to make sure the layout pleased the clients.
Zoe: It sounds like there were a lot of stakeholders involved! Did you feel like there were a lot of competing wants/needs that you needed to find a balance between in your design?
Jeanne’: At first glance when I was introduced to the team I felt overwhelmed by where I should put all the text with the images that were provided. But after listening to my clients and following a slide show they put together, it was easy! [Rachel] Wyatt did set the layout style for the first artist to kind of give me an idea since this was my first book. From there I had free creativity to do as I pleased as long as my clients approved! I was able to take on the rest of the task and finish out the six other artists. It was key to make sure that the text on each page matched the image the artist was talking about. I had three different size fonts to work with for pull quote, body copy, et cetera. And at the same time to I had to make sure there was enough space for breathing room so the pages didn’t look overcrowded.
Zoe: This book packs a lot of content into a small package, but no page feels overcrowded or hectic. You also had a unique challenge because of the text is presented in both Spanish and English. How did that impact your overall design for the layout of the book?
Jeanne’: I feel like it didn’t really impact it as much as I thought it would because we had the space. When I got my cliff notes of all the text together it was overwhelming at first, but when I started to place the text down in InDesign I realized early on that it wouldn’t be a problem. And having the Spanish text in the color picked out for each artist really helped give the book an extra flare.
Zoe: I agree! Highlighting the Spanish text with color was a great way to emphasize it as the focus of the book. It made the Spanish text feel primary, rather than secondary.
Jeanne’: Exactly! My clients wanted the Spanish text to be priority over the English text because you never see Spanish first. And with this being a book all about minority artists I feel like that was the best move possible!
Zoe: Then I would say, “Mission Accomplished”!
Each artist has such a unique point of view, style, and medium for their work. Each section of the book feels special to them, yet the book as a whole is still cohesive. Did you take this into consideration when designing the layouts?
Jeanne’: When it came to designing each layout I wanted to make sure that I didn’t repeat the same style for each artist, because, just like their work, each artist is unique. Each opening of the artist’s section starts with their portrait and goes into some of their work but after that I had freedom to be creative. I wanted to give them the personal shine that they deserved and plus it makes the book design a little more interesting so the reader won’t get bored halfway through.
Zoe: You can definitely see how the layout allows each artist’s work to shine. Another thing that gives each section of the book a since of individuality, while still being cohesive, are the colors you chose for each artist. What was your approach to deciding on each color?
Jeanne’: Yes, the color choices that were picked out for each artist actually came from their own art work! I used the eyedropper tool in InDesign and got the color from there. Then I would show the clients and they would either approve it or not. We had to make sure that with whatever color they decided to go with that it was legible for the Spanish text.
Zoe: I didn’t even notice that, but now that you mention it, I can’t unsee it! The colors are also integrated into the cover design. This palette is a totally unique combination, yet they still seem to fit together. Did you tweak the colors at all to get that to happen, or did it just work out that way?
Jeanne’: Luckily, it just happened to work out that way. But even if I didn’t, I don’t think it would have been too much of a problem because once you reach an artist’s section you are stepping into their work/world. And yes, for the cover the clients wanted to make sure that we captured something that represents each artist on the front. So simple line work was the final outcome to make sure we kept the book elegant. And you can also find that line work throughout the book, which helps separate some of the text.
Zoe: Was the line work your first idea, or did you draft any other options before landing on this cover?
Jeanne’: We had a couple of drafts. The first drafts included just artwork of one artist, but we felt that wouldn’t be right to the others if we are not printing multiple versions. Then I played around with just using the colors in abstract forms and I had two drafts with just line work and text. And the line work was the one they were leaning towards. I got feedback and I provided copies until I got it to where my clients were pleased.
Zoe: The final outcome is gorgeous! I have one more question.
Okay, maybe two.
First, since this is the first book you designed. What advice do you have for other students who are pushing themselves to tackle a project that’s outside of what they may have already done?
Jeanne’: I would tell them to not be afraid to step out of their comfort zone. Things are more challenging because of what you make up in your mind than what it actually is. If you don’t know what you are doing don’t be afraid to do research or ask for help. Once you start, just have confidence and don’t look back. If I would have turned down this opportunity I wouldn’t know what I was capable of and missed out on something great.
Zoe: You’re right that we don’t know what we’re capable of until we test those boundaries!
My second final question is, what was it like for you to contribute to such a meaningful project?
Jeanne’: It was an honor to be asked to assist on this project. I am thankful for [Rachel] Wyatt seeing the potential in me while I was in her class and for her to trust me enough to carry out this project to the finish line. I was a full time student at the time and I had some extremely talented classmates and I was/still am trying to find my place in the “art world”. But, being a minority myself, being able to help with a book that focuses on minorities and their struggles finding their light in the world was inspiring.
Zoe: That’s awesome! Any closing thoughts you want to share?
Jeanne’: I would like to thank Rachel Wyatt, Peter Bonfitto, and ACC T.A.G. for this opportunity! It was great to be able to leave something behind at ACC that I am very proud of. Also to my husband Aaron, my mom and family for encouraging me on times that I felt like giving up. Nice to have great people in your circle.
You can find Jeanne’ at all the places below: