Award-Winning Book Design: Bats of the Republic

Editor’s Note: This project won Best of Region for the Southwest in PRINT’s 2016 Regional Design Awards. See all of the winners here, and don’t forget to enter the 2017 Regional Design Awards.


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In Bats of the Republic, a book designed and written by Zachary Thomas Dodson, you’ll find interactive plot-based bread crumbs literally folded and tucked throughout the tome.

“Design is such a rich medium of communication, expression and experience-making that it can serve the aims of the storyteller rather well,” Dodson says. “I was interested to see what would happen if I ‘wrote’ a novel using design. I’m not the first to try this sort of thing, but it’s rare enough that there’s lots of room for fun experimentation.”

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Within the book, there are detailed pullout maps, fictional star charts, futuristic schematics, pamphlets and a sealed envelope with the words “DO NOT OPEN” scrawled on it. The main characters carry with them similar envelopes. “I want the reader to feel the same temptation as the characters do to rip open the letter and find out what’s driving the mystery. And in fact, they can, at any point,” Dodson says.

For about five years, Dodson worked on the project independently. “It was just me, ripping up pages and sobbing softly to myself,” he says, calling it a blessing and a curse to be both author and designer. Then, he joined forces with an agent and Doubleday. From there, they had lengthy conversations about everything from paper stock to the reversible dust jacket and fold-outs. Dodson overlooked no detail throughout the process.

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On the whole, his intense undertaking intrigued and impressed judge Marc English, and was dubbed Best of Region by the Print staff. It’s a brilliant—and brilliantly interactive—testament to the power of print, and how design can elevate a classic form to the extraordinary.


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