THE MUSIC OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS FILMS - BOOK DESIGN
Design & Art Direction of the book was by
"Lord of the Rings fans will best know Gary through
his work on The
Alan Lee Sketchbook, and this
Children of Hurin calendar. And of course I have to laugh, since
Gary also has prior experience working with
Douglas Adams properties!"
Doug Adams 
Perhaps I should divulge that I am a late in life
Graphic Designer with a special interest in (although no exemplary
skills in) book design. How to format text and content so as to make
it attractive and functional intrigues me. Therefore, I have some
decided opinions on the design of the book.
are too many illustrations in the book to count. It is chock full of
illustrations. I actually think any fan of the movies that has no
interest in the music would enjoy leafing through the book to enjoy
the illustrations. They include:
Sketches by Alan Lee & John Howe
"John Howe gave us an FTP full of imagery. Alan Lee
delivered hard drives packed with design work and finished pieces."
Doug Adams 
"never-before-seen work from John Howe and Alan Lee"
Doug Adams 
"Gary has a preexisting relationship with the great
Alan Lee, having assembled The Alan Lee Sketchbook for him, so Alan
granted us access to his massive collection of hard drives at Gary's
request." Doug Adams 
"John Howe has been a tremendous supporter of the
book for over a year, and generously sent over his beautiful art
when the book started incorporating more and more sketch work." Doug
drawing of a rucksack, variations on round Hobbit windows and pipes,
an Elvish doodle, a solemn portrait of Saruman. The sketches are
presented in a range of sizes from quite small to full page. Some
will look familiar. Others are concept sketches of things we've
never seen. I think one could easily spend an hour just insuring
that one has found and taken in each of them.
"The film imagery is all licensed from New Line. In
fact, the sketches are as well. The stills were sent over by the
studio during the days of the Complete Recordings, so these images,
including the footer icons, come directly from their files."
Doug Adams 
Some of these are familiar as a shot from the movie,
some are promotional images that were staged for the shot. I
occasionally am reminded of how spectacular the movie's
cinematography is. Thumbing through the book provides me with one of
the 'occasional' times. I have to admit, I took a little breath when
coming upon a photo portrait of Elrond (pg 167) as it provided a
little reminder of how much I love these movies.
It occurs to me that the color palette of the shots chosen for the
book are somewhat subdued. Not subdued in terms of saturation but in
terms of palette. It may be a result of the movies' overall color
palette but it may also be a conscious choice that kept the overall
color palette of the book somewhat subdued. (see more in my
discussion of color and white space) But I think it is effective.
The photos provide a 'mood' of sorts and the allow the eyes to take
a rest from text and the mind to take a rest from processing
information but the photos do not demand attention on their own
thereby competing with the content for the reader's attention.
Photos of movie props
"Alan also has Gandalf's staff ... as in the original prop from the
films! We were allowed to snap a beautiful new picture of this for
the book." Doug Adams 
"Gandalf's staff from @TheLordoftheRingsTrilogy is
sitting on my studio floor!" tweet from @GaryDayEllison
"I have to ask, why the Gandalf staff on the title
"In Middle-earth, the arrival of Gandalf's staff often indicates the
beginning of a journey."
Gandalf's staff does
indeed reside on the title page of the book. I also
spotted a photograph of The Red Book (pg 140). These two may be the
only prop photos. But I haven't done a thorough scouring so I can't
say for certain.
Photographs & Graphics
are found primarily in the Recording Sessions section of the book
and serve to set a mood more than to illustrate specific
information. Also in this section one can find graphics such a log
and a seating chart for various recording sessions.
Additionally, there are small decorative icons at the bottom of all
numbered pages. These came from NewLine.
"music examples (which we nicknamed 'the tadpoles')"
Doug Adams 
Each theme has a few bars of notation to provide an
example of the theme's melody.
Additionally, examples of full orchestration of passages- both
professionally typeset and hand written photocopies - are scattered
throughout the book. I presume that there is some instructional
value to these but surely they are also meant to function, in some
manner, as simply attractive illustrations.
WHITE SPACE & THE USE OF COLOR
The color scheme of the book cover is white, light grey (in
the form of an Alan Lee sketch), and gold. That same light
look is carried over into the interior with the liberal use
I think this approach was a surprise to some fans who had
gotten used to the more textural approach of the Complete
Recordings liner notes and Annotated Scores. In fact, all
the premium releases of DVDs and CDs have used a mixture of
parchment and leather to create a sense of luxury.
But my reaction was:
"I think many people are afraid of white and
of white space and it's a shame because it can be a very
effective design element. Bravo for you to have the guts to
To follow up on a comment I made regarding movie stills used
in the book, I think the over all 'quiet' white, grey, and
gold color scheme that got set by the dust jacket was
supported by movie stills that had fully saturated color but
within a subdued color palette. As I said earlier, that may
just be a reflection of the color palette for the movies but
I think there is just enough color in the book's movie
stills without there being too much.
This is a book of 'coffee table' quality without being a
'coffee table' book. What I mean is, this book is
constructed with care. It was not stingy with white space.
It is rich with illustrations. (White space and
illustrations are things that a frugal book publisher might
not care to indulge in.) But it is not a coffee table book
in one respect. It is not meant merely for idle browsing and
amusement. This book has serious content and the content was
allowed to take precedence in the design. The design
supports the resource nature of the books rather than
competing with it.
Gary had written:
"As for the artwork I have
always felt that the better it is the more the designer
should give it room to breath. It does not benefit from
graphic designer's little footprints all over it! And
artwork does not come much better than these guys." Gary
and I replied:
"I agree with you philosophy of
white space. I do like highly textured stuff as well. But
white space is so calming and soothing. I think not only
does it showcase the illustrations, but it might actually
keep from overwhelming the brain at a time when we're asking
it to take in lots of information."
Although the quiet, clean color scheme is aesthetically
pleasing, it serves an even higher function for me at least:
I can read the text. The text in the Complete Recordings
liner notes was so small and on such a dark background that
I would have to get a strong light and a magnifying glass to
fully read some of what was in there. I finally had enough
and typed all three of the liner notes booklets so I could
have a readable copy. I love the white pages of The Music of
the Lord of the Rings Films. It's a joy to open them.
I mentioned that I had typed out the liner notes for the
Complete Recordings (so that I could more easily read them).
I quickly realized how complicated the structure of the
content was. The subtle art of putting letters, words,
sentences, paragraphs, and chapters onto a page and into a
book determines how well the reader can find and take in
information. I know this book had to be a challenge for Gary
and Doug to lay out.
Mostly I wanted to point out that all the theme names are
formatted with ALL CAPS which make them easier to find when
scanning the book for information. And to perhaps get the
layperson to think a moment about something that can seem
invisible... when done correctly and effectively.
I wished I were more knowledgeable in binding to sound all
experty. But this book is constructed well. It can lay open
and stay open for referencing. It is not the sort of binding
that will crack with age. I find the page size to be large
enough to contain a good bit of information (before one has
to turn the page) and allow for white space, without being
so large the book become unwieldy for reading or frequent