Publication design: the beauty of exposed spine binding

The first few drafts of A Little Daily Dose were bound by hand. We appreciate how we could lay them out on the table while we make references and add notes.

It took me two weeks to fold and bind my digital prints into two copies, manually. Fortunately, Xiaohu in Shanghai – my reliable off-set printer friend – was willing to help us produce 300 copies.

A mock-up of our book arrived from Shanghai and the beautiful exposed spine binding (also known as open spine binding) totally resembled our hand-sewn version!


Most paperbacks use the method of perfect binding with an extra four printed pages (4pp) for the cover. Exposed spine binding is a unique way to let a book fully open but figuring out the cover posed as a tricky task.

Drawings illustrate various book profiles

Most book samples that I’ve seen use the cover material to wrap the first and last signatures (Drawing A), resulting in the first and last 15th/16th page being thicker than the rest of the content.

I asked Xiaohu if he could devise another way to produce the book without that extra thickness and he came up with the mock-up he sent (Drawing B). It was pretty interesting to have the last signature containing 24pp instead of 16. By doing so, the first and last 4pp became part of the front and back covers.

He mounted a piece of 160gsm art card over the140gsm uncoated paper to create the same thickness as the cover material. I didn’t quite fancy seeing the white edge of the art card and wished that the rainbow colours could extend onto the spine.

I came up with a new suggestion of printing the first and last 4pp directly onto the cover material (Drawing C) which Xiaohu gladly agreed to experiment. The eventual 1mm rainbow on the book spine made all the difference. Everyone was impressed by this little detail!

A documentation of our various book spines
Various signatures at the press check

After two weeks of offset printing and production, they were shipped to Singapore. It was so gratifying to finally see them! The final touch was the Kraft slipcase with white silkscreen print – trimmed a little smaller to reveal the rainbow colours.

A Little Daily Dose is a Platinum winner of Hermes Creative Awards 2019

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