USC Textbook Design & Layout, App

The University of South Carolina produces its own textbook for their University 101 course, which helps new students make a successful transition to the University of South Carolina, both academically and personally. The book is updated, rewritten, and rearranged every one to two years and USC needs a reliable book designer that can cheerfully puzzle a million pieces together into a great-looking functional book. That is where Evergreen Design Studio comes in…

Project Goals


  • This particular year called for making the book more interactive – inside the printed edition with quizzes and spaces to write in, on a website with interactive forms, and in the first higher education textbook app.
  • To create a great looking and useful resource for incoming students
  • To create visual consistency throughout the book and online materials

My Responsibilities


  • Accommodate and create all the graphics within the text in a visually appealing, useful, and legible way
  • Piece together multiple Word files in to a print ready InDesign book file, maintaining author styles, carefully treating all typography and editing for widows, orphans, stacked words, etc
  • Make edits to the text after it’s in the initial layout
  • Create an app from the finished textbook

First Things First

Almost immediately after USC publishes Transitions, they begin work on editing and updating the next version. After they have a clear idea of how the inside content will change, they contact me to begin work on a new cover and inside design that jives with the new editorial content. I begin with the cover design and inside design elements, crafting the look of the book while the writers and editors finalize the editorial content. I create several different cover options, and when one is chosen, I begin the inside design picking colors that go well with garnet and black and design elements that convey the current year’s attitude.

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Puzzling together the insides

Once the editors have edited the copy they received from the writers, they send me Word docs that look like this. For me, this is where the real fun begins. I take the crazy Word docs and puzzle the words, graphics, and sidebar elements together to create a great looking, useful inside book layout.

Recognizing opportunities

This year’s Transitions book had a wealth of opportunities to create fun graphics from the text. For example, instead of just listing the buildings on the historic Horseshoe campus within the text, I created a color coded map. This made the content more fun and interesting for the reader while breaking up the monotony of textbook text to increase engagement and retention.

The finished printed product

After several rounds of edits and moving text and graphics from here to there, I create the front and back matter and the book takes its final shape.

Click image to open gallery

Creating a textbook app

After the book was sent off to print, I turned the printed materials in to an app. This was not an easy feat because there was no textbook app or book app out there that compared to the level of interaction we wanted. We researched the many different ways it could be built, picked a platform, and then I dove in head first, pioneering the first higher education textbook app. This was an exciting and adventurous job because I took my print designs off the restrictive book page. I transformed the book in to a series of engaging interactive pieces with multiple dimensions, with different behaviors depending on device orientation, and added multimedia elements  like videos and slideshows to enhance the user experience. Fun! A success!

Do you want to know more about my book cover design and layout services?

Contact me!