This is the final project from my Typography III course at Carnegie Mellon.
The prompt for this project was to design a book focused on the first season of the podcast Serial and to use the transcripts for the text. If you're unfamiliar with Serial, it is a podcast that focuses on a single, true story each season. The first season focuses on the case surrounding the murder of high school student Hae Min Lee in 1999 and the trial of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, who was convicted of her death in February 2000. Host Sarah Koenig investigates the case and discovers that true story is much more complicated than what was reported.
While listening to the podcast, I found it is easy to be swayed depending on who's story I believed the most; Adnan's, his friends', Hae's friends, etc. I also found it strangely beautiful how Sarah kept returning to Hae's diary entries as a source of truth like they're a primary source from a time long forgotten. These thoughts became the two main ideas I latched on to while creating a concept for my book. I really wanted to create something that allowed readers to decide how they wanted to see the story, almost like a "choose your own adventure" book, and to produce a somewhat ethereal vibe through the materials and highlighting Hae's diary entries. Once I locked onto those ideas, I started to think about how I would visualize them. I knew I wanted to focus on having everything focused on Hae Min Lee's diary entries and treat those as the source of truth or a touchstone that everything else revolved around.
The more complicated one was how to allow a reader to filter content. I started thinking about how information is filtered on websites and how I could apply similar principles to a book. I came up with the idea to use translucent vellum sheets instead of a more traditional paper so you can lay content over others without losing too much information. Then I created a grid system that allowed me to visually center Hae's words and drop quotes or ideas from others around her. I decided to show other character's quotes and thoughts as annotations of Hae's diary entries, pulling everything back to that primary source.
For the visual aspects of the book, I looked for inspiration in books that had a successful use of vellum overlays or filters. I also took inspiration from blurred images or layered photos. I focused in on lighter colors and looked for paper that was different or even a bit extravagant. I chose a pearly off-white paper for the cover and Hae's diary entries, and everything else is printed on sheets of vellum. It has a nice effect when the light hits it, it sparkles and shines and creates an almost supernatural feeling.
I broke the story up into eight sections, Junior Prom, A Secret Relationship, Religion & Relationships, Adnan & His Mother, Homecoming, The Breakup, and the State's case. Each of these focuses on an individual entry with text from other sources layered on top of it. When the vellum starts to layer up over the other pages, it creates a fog that veils Hae's diary entries mimicking how all of these different opinions and ideas are obscuring the heart of the story. I created a system for hiding away different perspectives by printing Hae's text on a sheet almost twice as wide as the others and then folding it in half. This allows readers to unfold it, hide vellum sheets, refold it and focus on one commentator at a time.