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I am a traveller newbie, but I have become very interested in T20 (I saw the ad on ENWorld, so they are working) and I will definitely get it when it comes out.

It seems like most of the decisions have been made about the book regarding content, but I thought that I would make an appeal on an issue that still seems in flux: the book's layout.

I currently writing a review for a space opera D20 book that has almost univerally received outstanding feedback from other reviewers. And while it's a book that I like a lot, I don't think it merits quite the acclaim it gets. One of the aspects of the book that I think needs work is the art/layout, and the process of writing the review has made me more sensitive to these sorts of things. I have a few suggestions...

I think art in a rules books works better when it is seen as utilitarian rather than decorative. Pictures and graphics should directly relate to adjacent text. If possible, they should elucidate this text (as in a graphic that shows positionings, moves, areas of play, or action types). Pictures of things in the book should be labelled. Most of the major items of equipment should have a corresponding graphic. There should not be any random art strewn throughout the book. Perhaps some of these items will seem rather obvious, but the book I am reviewing consistently broke these expectations (ahem, my expectations).

The best example I know of a book that does this well is the Manual of the Planes, by WotC.

It also seems clear that layout can have a subtle yet real effect on the reader. A book which uses space effectively is more impressive than one that demonstrates a relatively unsophisticated approach to space usage. I have less to say on this than I did on the point above, but one thing I want to note is that sidebars can be usefully incorporated to clarify particular points. Again, a book with a particularly good layout is the MotP; others are the new SWRPG RCRB (which I just purchased) and Green Ronin's superb Freeport. These are books that have a dense information profile.

Anyway, these are just some random thoughts. I am looking forward to T20.
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by JazzEwok:
...I thought that I would make an appeal on an issue that still seems in flux: the book's layout.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

It would be nice (for us) if there was a preview of the interior layout for T20, like there was of the cover art. Hunter, is this out of the question?

<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by FlightCommanderSolitude:
It would be nice (for us) if there was a preview of the interior layout for T20, like there was of the cover art. Hunter, is this out of the question?


Look at the preview for TA1. Except for T20 will be B/W interior, it is the same layout

I think JazzEwok brought up some excellent points with regards to the layout. I would like to add some comments of my own. Hopefully they won't offend anyone.

I'm a big fan of the Digest Group material for their clear, uncluttered layout and their uniformly high standard of art. I was especially fond of their "equipment sheets" which gave all relavent details about an item (description, specs, tasks, etc) on a single page. They also put section titles on every page to help when thumbing through their books.

I was not a fan of the Traveller: the New Era rulebook due to the lack of consistency of the art (much of which was very good) and "gimmicky" header and footer treatments, although the clearly identified section headers were useful.

Traveller 4th Edition was well laid out and reminiscent of the "original" LBB's. However, the artwork was a huge turnoff for me since it differed radically from the Traveller universe as depicted by many earlier works. I am not at all against change but the depictions of EVERY ship and piece of hardware seemed to be pulled from a 1960's era B sci-fi movie. The art by Larry Elmore (excellent artist) was also a bit too "Star Frontiers" for me.

Traveller's Aide #1 (while I've only seen the preview, not the full version), features a pet peeve of mine: massive metallic, decorative borders. It might have something to do with overuse of gradient fills. The background color didn't help either, although that's already been mentioned elsewhere. The line art by Bryan Gibson is top notch. The "T20" logo looks kind of corny to me for some reason.

Since this is a D20 System game, I'll mention the WOTC Star Wars RPG Core Rulebook. The layout is quite nice, although a bit on the busy side. The decorative border is very pleasing and conveys section title information on every page. As noted earlier, attention to white space gives the pages more visual interest. The charts also seem "airy" due to the lack of gridlines and subtle alternate row colors. It obviously has an edge in that it has such a rich library of eye popping images to choose from but the new art was uniformly excellent and "fit" the Star Wars universe.

Overall, I'd like to see a return to a more minimalist look of earlier Traveller material while incorporating some of the visually pleasing elements from books like the SWRPG.

Here is a mock up of what I would like the D20 Traveller rulebook to look like. Please note I just stuck placeholder art in since the cover is already done.

My "wish list" mock up

Once again, this was purely meant as constructive criticism.

- Ted

that's quite an amazing sheet. I agree with your obviously more expert sense on the elements that contribute to a good page.

I have one more item to add to our provisional "wish list." With the 2-column format (or for that matter with any format), I think the columns look cleaner and are easier to read if they are fully justified (as opposed to left-justification only, with the uneven right edge). I notice that the sample from TA1 is left-justified, and I always think that this looks less professional, especially in a hardcover.
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by tlindsey:
Here is a mock up of what I would like the D20 Traveller rulebook to look like. Please note I just stuck placeholder art in since the cover is already done.
- Ted

Ted, an excellent little pdf there.

Without wishing to cause offence, and I realise that things are already decided, but I prefer this cover <dives for cover>

<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by tlindsey:
Once again, this was purely meant as constructive criticism.

- Ted

Mr Lindsey,

I recommend that hunter hire you immediately as T20 art director!

I share your dislike for the big metallic border, especially in a printed book: to me, it's just wasted space, and rarely nice to look at. [For some reason - I think it's due to color saturation - it's not that noisesome in the Travellers' Aide PDF.]

The cover rocks. [I suppose most of us old-timers would say that.]

The interior layout is nice and clean - although the TA PDF is pretty tidy as well, if you ignore the border stuff.

Great work!

Myself, I'm fine with the TA1 design, including the metallic border thingy. IIRC Hunter said the interior will be b/w; that should reduce the busy look somewhat.

I believe he also said the red-stripe-on-black-ground CT design can't be used for the T20 cover because it needs to look sufficiently different from GURPS Traveller.

On a general note: While some visuals age especially rapidly (e.g. the Erol Otus era of D&D), there's no such thing as a timeless design. CT was beautiful in its simplicity, but many newcomers to the game in 2002 may find it pretty boring because in a present-day context a lot of other stuff looks very slick and refined by comparison. Even Blue Planet, which can't be accused of flashiness, has a border thingy.

T20 is treading a fine line between appealing both to newbies raised on D&D 3E and to the CT grognards... not an enviable job, exactly.

EDIT: Just looked at the TA1 preview pdf again: fine by me. Having worked as an editor in art publishing for a number of years, I can assure you there's nothing wrong with left-aligned columns. They make the layout look a little less rigid, and they help avoid uneven spacing between words, which you'll inevitably get when you opt for two narrow columns of justified text.

[This message has been edited by Pierce_Inverarity (edited 13 May 2002).]
I'm glad this topic is getting some interest since there are so many folks who really want Traveller to succeed. I think Hunter and the team are doing a wonderful thing by listening to the forums.

I agree that there is no such thing as timeless design but there is such a thing as "trendy" design which becomes dated very rapidly. Hopefully, T20 will avoid using overly trendy design elements and be a book I still enjoy aesthetically years later (as the case with many of my Digest Group books).

As Pierce_Inverarity mentioned, T20 needs a updated look to compete against other "slick and refined" products. I just would like to see the emphasis put on "refined".

It's a shame that they won't be able to use the red stripe CT design since it's one of the few signature items that says "this IS Traveller" to so many people. I'd heavily lobby for keeping it and using a prominent "D20" symbol someplace on the cover to differentiate the product from the GURPS line. (I used something like this for the sample PDF).

As for the decorative border, I'm fine with it as long as it either contributes to the "atmosphere" of the book and/or provides a useful function (title headings, cross references, etc). Hopefully it would do both. I really liked the art/design of the Blue Planet series, BTW.

- Ted

P.S. Thanks to everyone for the nice compliments.

[This message has been edited by tlindsey (edited 13 May 2002).]
If I may offer some critizism of the mock up:

Do you have a font which produces the little JTAS barcodes? Producing them as graphics would be a real pain. And the need to be somewhat different (reflecting the chapter, page, and section) or they would become somewhat irritating.

I dislike the color on the interior. The soft pastel indicates an overreliance on the art department to sell the book, rather than the author skills. It looks better when printed on a black and white laser printer, but there it looks like too many colors. I agree, the metal looking borders are way too much.

I also find they layout you've used hard to read. I'm not exactly why, probably some combination of font, font size, and header boldness. The paragraph headers are too bold I think.

The cover looks good, but Hunter and co. have repeatedly stated their target market is the D20 players, for whom a full color painted cover is a requirement. While not used for the core book, I do hope they at least think about the classic black with red stripe for the setting book.

Just as a counter point: GURPS Traveller went with the black/red stripe for the core book, and graphic covers for the remainder of the GT line. I don't think either choice will have too much affect on the buyers choice.
Count me as another vote strongly in favor of fully-justified columns and not at all crazy about that border graphic which, true or not, feels to me like it's eating up text-space and inflating the page count (though to an extent I feel this way about pretty much all non-ultilitarian graphics). I also would've prefered to see the same font used for the section headers and body text (save the Optima lettering for covers and, perhaps, chapter titles).

I like the section tab, page number graphic, and subtley-colored tables and sidebars from Ted Lindsey's mock-up, but don't like the look of the actual text (ugly font, too large, columns not justified, section headers too large, too much white-space).

But really, my ideal layout (and what I use for all my house rules (minus illustrations)) is the same old tested and true DGP/MT format. Since the book won't have interior color, cluttering up the pages with a bunch of fancy graphics is a waste and, if anything, will just reinforce in readers' minds that they couldn't afford a color interior and are trying to 'fake it.' Until QLI can afford to 'do it right' with a full color glossy interior (T20, 2nd edition?), I'd prefer they keep the layout simple and straightforward (though professional, not like early T4's various disasters) -- would 'modern' players really be turned off by a book that actually filled its pages with TEXT? By golly, back in my day we called that VALUE!
While all the suggestions and samples are appreciated, we have an art director for the T20 line (Steve Bryant), the cover is set (though as the TA line shows, we don't plan on doing only full cover shots like the T20 core book), and the interior layout is already specified. It is a bit late in the game to be thinking of changing any of the above at this point. Any changes would only further delay the release of the book.

To be perfectly honest, after seeing TA1 completed, I am really pleased with how the layout will look in the core book. As for the current core cover, I am a huge David Mattingly fan...take that for what its worth

None of the above is a knock on Ted's samples and work. I think I have made this clear before, but I will say it again, I really like his stuff and plan on using him for upcoming material (if he is interested of course!).


It is a bit late in the game to be thinking of changing any of the above at this point.


Yeah, that's what I've been thinking while reading this whole thread.
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by phydaux:
Yeah, that's what I've been thinking while reading this whole thread.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Consider it advance feedback for T5

The good news is that it IS too late to make any changes. That means the book is close to shipping! Woohoo! Can't wait to see it.

- Ted
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by tlindsey:
The good news is that it IS too late to make any changes. That means the book is close to shipping! Woohoo! <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Always looking for the pony, eh?
Hire Mr. Lindsey to have his rendition for "In the Black", as this is just how I picture a free trader approach.

Hope you will do more great art.
By all means, please consider all my comments as nothing more than suggestions for future titles. None of my complaints are anywhere near serious enough that I'd want to see publication further delayed because of them -- a book with metallic page-border graphics and non-justified text in July is vastly preferable to a perhaps slightly better looking book in September or October.

But that doesn't mean I won't keep lobbying for a redesign for future books (and especially for T^5!)

And, oh yeah, I still love the David Mattingly cover!