Design this book

Updated April 12 11:20am

Together we’re writing the book on the future of open learning. So what should the graphic design look like?

We’re turning “Learning, Freedom and the Web” into a book. The writing is mostly done. And now graphic designer Chris Appleton has shared his proposed visual language and design elements. In typical Mozilla / open education fashion, we’re doing it in the open. Please share your feedback as comments on this post for…

  1. GRAPHIC DESIGN. The initial design language and elements (PDF)
  2. DESIGN BRIEF. Chris’s design notes (blog post)
  3. CONTENT. All the content and writing for the book (docx) (updated web version coming here soon)

Today’s feedback from the community

The initial designs were presented in today’s weekly Mozilla Drumbeat call. The general response:

  • Positive. “The layout captures the pulse of the event.”
  • Drumbeat-y. “I like that the photos have a mix of tone and colour shade. Gives it a DIY feel of collaboration”
  • Headed in the right direction. With specific ideas for improvement below.
Are these "how to" sections "how to" enough?

“How To” sections

The goal of the book’s “How To” sections is to give concrete, DIY activities for putting ideas into practice.

  • Positive response to the idea…
    • e.g., Atul: “The howto section makes it easy for someone flipping through the book to get a good feel for what the festival was about — and what they could actually do with the book to dig deeper.”
  • …But also a feeling we can do more.
    • Can we make these pages more visually distinctive from the rest of the book?
    • Vanessa: “Can we step out the process a little more, either by numbering or boxing? Wired does this really well.”
    • Could be more diagram/flowchart-y. Right now the icons are kinda small. More visual thinking, a la XPLANE, instead of a generic festival photo.
    • “Chris is really brilliant at infographic / flowchart stuff.  Not sure we’re taking full advantage of it.”
  • Add a one-bullet summary for each step in the “how to” process.
    • To set up each one. e.g., “Step 1: Lay it out… Step 2: Define criteria… Step 3: Sign contracts… Step 4: Share contributions… Step 5: Get feedback….”
Are the dotted lines distracting?

Not sure about those curved dotted lines

  • Mixed response to the curved dotted lines superimposed on some pages (above). They add noise, without much value?
  • They pull in some of the festival branding — but are also kinda distracting.
  • “Maybe blending them back a bit? And placing them behind the text?”

General Notes

  • Branding. Add a small Mozilla wordmark to the footer of each page. The individual pages will probably be cut up and pieced out a bunch of different ways — so needs small branding element throughout, not just on the cover.
  • Legibility. “I think that the orange is a bit difficult to read, particularly in sections  where the font is smaller.” Vanessa: “I find the black text and the white text on that ‘Describe the Qualities’ page difficult to read.”
  • Call outs. Large blocks of call-out text (e.g., like page 2 above) are too long and not that readable. “Pull quotes that are 1/2 page are sizable.”
  • Attribution. Don’t forget attribution for the photos.
  • Margins. Let’s make sure the margins are sufficient for book binding?

Another "How To" treatment from an earlier postcard design


  • CC licensing? Will this be released CC BY or freer (CC0)?
  • B&W? How would this look in black & white for cheaper printing? e.g., if someone wanted to print a black and white version, would it still work / be legible?
  • Color palette? Are there ways to make the color palette consistent with the original Learning, Freedom and the Web brand? (black, red, white)?
  • Is the writing on projects still up to date? It was written in Nov. The projects have evolved quite a bit. Projects leads should take a look at their sections and make sure nothing’s missing.
  • How’s the book going to be published? Ensure HTML and epub versions.
  • Overall length. Are there concerns about length of the text as a whole? Is there a target page count?

What’s next?

We’ll roll as much of this feedback as possible into the next iteration. But before then we need your feedback. Please share as comments on this post.


  • Holy cow this looks awesome. And the spirit is very close to being at the LFW conference–that’s great.

    Re: How to: I prefer “how to” sections that are stepped out, either by numbering or boxing–I think this gesture unites the information in powerful way. Wired does this really well.

    Re: curved dotted lines–I don’t mind these. But I do find the black text and the white text on that “Describe the Qualities” page difficult to read.

    Pull quotes that are 1/2 page are sizable. Are there concerns about length of the text as a whole? Is there a target page count?

    At any rate, looks tasty thus far.

  • I cannot understate how awesome this looks.


    Daydreaming here: it’d be great if this could be published in both open and closed formats. HTML and ePub, for sure, but it’d also be wonderful if iPad users could read this with as much fidelity to the print version as possible. Maybe we could even charge for the app store version, with all proceeds going directly to the Foundation.

  • Hi All,
    Matt – thanks very much for the post and great breakdown of the process to date and plans moving forward.
    Thanks to everyone for the feedback so far – from the weekly call etherpad and comments on this post.
    This is still very much a work in progress and the feedback cycle is very important in an iterative process like this – all feedback and critiques are welcomed and very much appreciated!
    My next steps are to synthesize the feedback and refine the design system. Specifically I’ll be focusing on simplifying and clarifying the relationships between the typography and establishing greater distinction between the unique sections – making sure the form better supports the specific functions of those sections.
    It would be great to carry this conversation forward as we move along with the design (either here, or through the various Mozilla channels)

    Thanks again, and I look forward to sharing the progress!


  • I think you might find ePub a pain to optimize for, as many readers don’t support really rich visual/linking bits well.

    I think HTML delivered via an old-fashioned website will be key. The more “slide-like” pages can stay as separate pages (and you might want to change some of the design styles because some of the text/photo layering that works on high-quality printed-page doesn’t work to well online), the more flowing-text sections can be handling more fluidly. And you could link across pages nicely, plus layer more navigational-pages across.

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