‘Brutally Honest’ Designer’s Handbook

Whether you are a seasoned design pro or relatively fresh out of design school, we’ve all asked ourselves the same questions at one time or another: How should I price my work? How do I get better clients, etc.? After all, there’s no instruction manual for graphic designers. Actually, that’s not true. There is a manual, and it’s not only “brutally honest,” it’s beautifully made, too.

Emily Cohen's Creative “Brutally Honest” Designer's Handbook - PaperSpecs

The Cover

Written by designer-turned-consultant Emily Cohen and designed by Once-Future Office, “Brutally Honest: No-Bullshit Business Strategies to Evolve Your Creative Business” instantly grabs your attention with its cover, making it look like no other business book out there.

First, it’s printed on finger-pleasing 120 lb. Mohawk Superfine Cover Ultrawhite with Matte Scuff-resistant film lamination. Its color palette is Black and White, with only a narrow vertical stripe of color – an eye-catching rainbow gradient – on the edge. Rubbing an eager finger over the title reveals that some words are raised using the Scodix digital enhancement process. [PRO members: Discover how this all works – and how you can put it to work for you – in this exclusive PRO Guide to Scodix!]

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The remarkable job Brilliant Graphics did in the production of this cover didn’t stop there. It also includes two 4-2/3” short folds – one at the front and one at the back. Rather than the usual hustle you’d expect to find on the front flap, the design team featured Emily’s “Creative Business Manifesto” in White on a color gradient background. This includes simple tips like “Round off your prices,” all in a place where you can easily find and revisit them.

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“Brutally Honest” is also ready for some brutally intense use thanks to its Smyth-sewn binding – an excellent choice for books that are meant to be opened and closed again and again, while also laying open flat for easy consultation. In this case, the signatures were bound together using Smyth sewing and then PUR bound into the cover. [PRO members: For more on the pros and cons of this type of binding, don’t forget to check out our PRO Guide to Smyth Binding.]

Emily Cohen's Creative “Brutally Honest” Designer's Handbook - PaperSpecs

Interior Pages

Now we get to the meat of this book, and again it’s clear that its designers know their audience – other designers. While there’s ample text in its 276 pages (including eye-opening case studies), it’s not all jammed together like your typical armchair MBA tome. They’re not afraid to devote a whole page to a single sentence if that sentence is deemed important – a direct response, no doubt, to all those clients who view white space as a waste of paper.

Not that there’s much actual white space here, exactly. Offset printed 12 color (CMYK + 8 PMS colors), nearly every page consists of a color-gradient background with 2 or 3 contrasting colors added for text. The 80 lb. Mohawk Superfine Ultrawhite Eggshell Text paper on which these pages are printed goes a long way toward making the design feel as slick as it looks.

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I think at this point I have a confession to make. This book may be one of the most challenging pieces I’ve ever featured here. That’s because every time I want to focus on a printing or design detail, a nugget of information inside catches my eye and I find myself nodding my head in agreement. It’s the same feeling I experienced when its author, Emily Cohen, presented our webinar “‘Brutally Honest’ Secrets to Getting Paid What You’re Worth.” [PRO members – you guessed it – watch the replay right here!]

(Note: While “Brutally Honest” is hard to find in print these days, you can order the ebook here.)

As I said earlier, Smyth-sewn binding was a great choice for a book meant to be consulted over and over again. But there are so many different binding options to bring your next book, catalog or brochure to life. Discover the 15 most popular ones – along with their pros, cons and relative pricing – in our free Binding Cheat Sheet. Download yours now!




Project Details

Title “Brutally Honest" Designer's Handbook Client Emily Cohen Date March 2018 Design Once-Future Office Print Brilliant Graphics Paper Cover: Mohawk Superfine Ultrawhite 120 lb. Cover
Interior: Mohawk Superfine Ultrawhite Eggshell 80 lb. Text

Production Details

Page Count 276 + Cover Print Quantity 4,000 Production Cost ~$39,830 for first print run (2,000) Printing Method Offset Number of Colors CMYK + 8 PMS Finishing and Binding Smyth-sewn, PUR bound into cover; spot Scodix on cover
  1. Kim 3 years ago

    I’d love to see the book, despite the fact that I am not interested in the content (I am here because I hire designers and want to see what is happening in their industry). It would be awesome if the author were to pre-sell her next print run, if desired, and do another one. I am sure your fans would buy it.

    • Aaron 3 years ago

      Thanks for writing, Kim, and a great idea!

  2. Chaz DeSimone 3 years ago

    Sabine, you have pointed out the best design aspects of this book: the vibrant 12-color printing; the out-of-the-book nuances such as the title on the bottom and the axioms on the inside flap; the excellent typography; and the stunning finish and long-lasting binding.

    I wish I could own the actual book, but until its next print edition is out I will download the ebook. (After all, it’s typography, color and graphic design – not a pop-up book.)

    I am looking forward to gleaning more enlightenment on running a successful design studio, even after 50 years in the business.

    The best such books I’ve ever worn out are Cameron S. Foote’s The Business Side of Creativity and all the annual AIGA Pricing and Ethical Guidelines editions. It will be interesting to compare what advice is timeless and discover what advice is new (turn off your cellphone when meeting with a client).

    • Aaron 3 years ago

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, Chaz. While I understand your disappointment over not being able to own the print edition, the advice in the ebook is equally helpful. We’d love to hear your thoughts on it after you’ve had time to look through it.

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