TOC = Simple and Complex

Sorry I kept everyone in suspense so long.  I worried about the presentation and then the morning of I was rushing out the door and remembered to bring my hat.  I was able to talk about the lines in the design of the hat as well as the uses too.  I love my hat.  People talked about some really neat things.  One guy talked about his MacBook, another about his Pentax SLR camera (that uses film), someone else talked about a pair of hiking boots.  There was also an antique rocking horse, an iPhone, a handmade purse and an agenda.  We were all over the place as a class in what we brought in.  Surprisingly nobody brought in a book – the closest they came to bringing in a book was a CD.  In a way it makes sense as there are only 2 or 3 library science students in the class.  Still, I was a bit surprised and maybe I should have chosen the more obvious.

Speaking of books and the obvious…  I have decided to look at Tables of Contents (TOCs) in my design class.

I never realized that something that is seemingly so simple could be so entirely complex.  As a student and as a person who has worked at the reference desk in non-fiction tables of contents are always quite important to me, but they really have been most important to me as a navigational aid.  I am seeing through this project and through really looking at tables of contents that in addition to being a navigational aid they can add style and identity to a book.  They can help to make the difference between a book that you will pick up again and a book that gathers dust on the shelves.  How many book reviews even talk about the table of contents of a book?  To be honest, I am not an avid reader of book reviews, but I have never seen a book review that talks about the table of contents of a book.

I guess I should mention that indexes are also quite important.  I am not sure that they add quite as much identity to a book though.  The table of contents shows where you are and where you are going (or where you could go).  That isn’t really the case with an index.  Still, both can be extremely useful navigational aids for researchers and librarians and really make a difference to what books I pick up when doing research and which ones I help people to select when answering reference questions.

I have come to the opinion that a table of contents is a navigational aid, but that it also gives a multi-page written work (book, magazine) an identity.  I found it quite interesting and I had never really paid attention on a large level to tables of contents.  There are so many ways to put together a table of contents and they may be organized in many different ways.  For example a law book will generally include tons of information and have a lengthy table of contents that mentions chapters, sections and subsections.  Fiction books generally may have short chapter titles listed with a page number beside.  Magazines and newspapers tend to separate out the regular columns and cover stories in the table of contents and do not organize everything in sequential order.  I take it that there must be something to that.  One table of contents does not fit every work out there.  Also TOCs are differentiated from one another by typeface, dot leaders, alignment and so much more.  I really need to think about what will work for my project.  If you have any ideas or thoughts about tables of contents please swing them my way.  Looking at tables of contents is really quite interesting and I had no idea that something so simple could be quite so complex.

I really am enjoying this design class.  Everyone is looking at something different.  One group of students is looking at designing pamphlets based on museum exhibit boards, another group is exploring cubism through photography, another is looking at what works for library design and one that I find quite interesting and in a way similar to what I am doing is a group who is looking at signs in TTC stations.  In my opinion, it’s really quite a fascinating class and it is helping me to take a more conscious notice of design.  I think this is something that libraries, archives and museums really need to notice and think about so I am glad have the opportunity to be taking this course.


One response to “TOC = Simple and Complex

  1. Pingback: Books and Magazines Blog » Archive » TOC = Simple and Complex

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