an online conversation
about design management

The magical paper weight equation

Early 2012 we were commissioned to design and produce a book for an International engineering company.

Our first role was to scope the project and supply a ballpark budget. After discussions with the client, we based the estimate on 160 text pages. Our next role was to source an editor to work with the authors. We left them to finalise the manuscript.

Fast forward to early 2013. Copy has been written and much of it edited, so we could confidently start the design process. Discussions alluded to a larger manuscript than first thought but it wasn’t until the page designs were presented and accepted that I could I work out the average number of words per page. I estimated the extent of the book by dividing the total number of words in the manuscript by the number of words per (designed) page. I then added a few extra pages for prelims/contents and an index.

Gulp.  It came to 300 pages. Not the 160-200 they first thought.

The extra pages will have implications – to the budget, to the timeline, to the production process and to the distribution. The book is to be circulated widely so it's not just Australia Post’s small parcel guidelines to worry about; it was international couriers as well.

The client requested a coated stock and I knew that was a lot heavier than uncoated, but I didn't know how much. Nor did I know what the implications would be between a 128gsm text and a 150gsm text, or a 250gsm cover vs 300 gsm cover. I didn’t want to order a myriad of dummies so I called Liam Fish at Doggetts to see if there is an alternative solution. There is a formula you can use to work out the weight of a book once you know the size, the number of pages and the text/cover weight.

Here it is; it looks complicated but it’s not:

Height (expressed in metres eg. A4 is 0.297m) x width (.210m) x grammage (eg. 150gsm) x number of leaves at this size (eg. 2pp = 1 leaf) = weight of paper.

So, the weight of an Annual Report with the following specifications:

297 x 210mm finished size   4pp cover plus 64pp text   250gsm cover, 130gsm text.

Cover:  .297 x .420 x 250 x 1= 31.185

Text: .297 x .210 x 130 x 32 = 259.4592

Total= 290.6442

...would be 291 grams (rounded off).

It worked perfectly for me. I thought it was worth sharing.