The Manual: Letterpressed binder’s board cover


The Manual: Endpapers


The Manual: Author illustrations, courtesy of Ping Zhu


The Manual: Jessica Hische illustrates a quote from Frank Chimero


The Manual: Illustration from Superbrothers

Work / Web

The Manual

Digital design is a precocious discipline, growing up faster than anyone could have imagined and not afraid to mix it with its more established peers. Now Andy McMillan of Fiction has created The Manual, a new printed publication looking at this ever-growing field of expertise, charting its progress and celebrating its successes. We caught up with Jez Burrows, It’s Nice That contributor and designer of The Manual to find out more.

The Idea

“With regards to content, The Manual’s intentions differ noticeably from a lot of existing magazines and journals dealing with web design, so it was important that it should also be visually distinct. It needed to demand the time, reverence, and curiosity of the reader, and also feel less ephemeral than its often flimsy contemporaries.

“The idea was to play on web design being a relatively young discipline, by creating an identity for the journal that felt older than its time, with references to heraldry, freemasonry, and old book illustrations (among other things).”

The Process

“When thinking about the design and production, I looked at a great deal of antiquarian books (particularly those relating to the Freemasons, who evidently had some diligent designers among their ranks). Without fail they were modestly printed, and bound with simple materials – as a result, I decided to use a two colour palette throughout.

“I frequently work with very limited colour palettes, so this felt like second nature in some ways, but more importantly it would unify the illustrations (provided by Raymond Biesinger, Olimpia Zagnoli, Christopher Gray, Jessica Hische, Owen Gatley, Ping Zhu and Superbrothers), and also clearly distinguish each issue.

“I also opted for a traditional sewn binding, using letterpressed cloth and heavyweight, uncoated binder’s board to hold everything together. Typeface choices were also minimal – Monotype’s Plantin for copy, and a distinct calligraphic sans-serif by the name of Lydian for all headings and titles.”

The Challenges

“It’s tricky to keep a balance between a design that references antiquated visual sources, and one that simply uses them at face value. A lot of the toughest decisions made throughout designing The Manual revolved around this issue. Not to mention creating an identity for the journal that was rich and characterful, but ultimately engineered to exist in the background and serve the content in the best possible way.

“Finally, the knowledge that the first issue would serve as a template for future editions – and that the design choices made would need to be strong enough to accommodate new content – was something of a looming worry. But I’m confident to test it out with upcoming issues!”

The Future

“It will be published three times yearly, and work is already underway on the second and third issues. The first issue was funded by Kickstarter and copies have already been sent out to those who contributed, but it’ll go on general sale very soon. Keep an eye on or follow us @themanual for information. "