A couple of months ago, a client gave us a small book of quotations to use as a design model for his upcoming title. This handsome book, The Book of Excellence: 236 Habits of Effective Sales People by Byrd Baggett, published in 1990, is the very definition of a traditional book design: black leatherette hard case, gold foil stamping on the front and spine, classic fonts and ornaments, printed on textured ivory stock. We designed the client’s book in a similar style, and everyone was pleased with the outcome.
In today’s business world, where a typical day means processing a long list of emails and juggling tight deadlines, I promptly forgot about the book, until this holiday weekend, when I finally caught up with my “to be filed” pile. Somehow, it didn’t seem right to bury this lovely little book in a filing cabinet, so I decided to read it.
Most of the quotations were classic, quick tips designed to inspire anyone who provides customer service. Some were a revealing look into how much our world has changed in just 20 years. For example: “Use a beeper. That will let the office get in touch with you when a customer needs you in an emergency,” and “Carry a business card file. You never know when you’ll need a phone number.”
One quotation stood out from all the others for me:
Excellence is not optional.
The moment I read this, I realized with some sadness that our world has changed in this way, too. Today, the voices of excellence in book design and typography are drowned out by those who claim that “template” cover and interior design is good enough. That “do-it-yourself” book layout is just fine. That craftsmen in the field are quaint, old-fashioned folks who offer an unneeded product at a high price. And even worse, this advice is doled out by so-called publishing “experts” (including some very large companies) just waiting for the next naive self-publisher to come along.
It was good this holiday weekend to take a breath, leave all the posts, tweets, emails, and updates behind, and remember that the quiet voice of wisdom can still speak to us in profound ways. My client’s updated book of quotations is: LifeExcellence Treasury of Quotes. I promise, it will inspire you, and it doesn’t contain one word about beepers.
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