Case Study: Book design from Vopni Parsons combines instruction and storytelling to capture Moe Norman's 'Single Plane Golf Swing'

Case Study by Jon Vopni RGD, Partner at Vopni Parsons Design​ 

Graves Golf Academy wanted to create a 200 page premium golf book that was both a story about Canadian golf legend Moe Norman and a instructional guide to learning the ingenious swing that he had perfected.


The previous book we did, Swing Machine Golf, opened the door to this project. The writer and golf pro had seen that book and were impressed with its design, which led them to call us.


I met the writer, Tim O'Connor, at a Starbucks in the summer of 2013 and over the next month a deal was worked out in which I would design and do the principal photography for the book. The project was set to begin in October, starting with the photography, then image selection with the design to be completed over the winter and a release date of summer 2014. The budget was between $35-$45K.



The target audience for this book was men and women golfers over the age of 50. Because the single plane swing is simple to learn and easier on your back, it helps golfers enjoy playing golf well into their 60s and 70s.


Concept / Design Process

The concept for this book is based on Moe Norman's single plane golf swing—the swing he mastered to become the best ball-striker the world has ever known.


I started with the cover design and presented a title based on a Tiger Woods quote: "There are only 2 golfers that have truly owned their swings, Ben Hogan and Moe Norman." I drafted a cover image along with the title 'Own Your Swing,' which was initially accepted as the working name for the project. After market-testing by the publisher, the title was changed to 'The Single Plane Golf Swing'. 


I created a clean, simple format for the book based on a 3 column grid. I used a sans serif font for the heads and body portions and an italic font for quotes and captions.



In October I flew out to meet golf pro Todd Graves in Orlando, where we did studio and outdoor photography. The writer prepared a shot list based on the book outline and assisted with managing the image captures to folders. In one of the large conference rooms at the golf course, we set up a studio with a 20-foot white seamless screen to shoot Todd for the instructional sequences of the book. The studio portion took three days, followed by two more days outside to shoot what we needed on various pre-scouted locations on the course. In total, it took five days working from sun up to sun down. We shot almost 5,000 pictures in all.


Next it was back to Toronto to start the selection process and begin marrying the images to the text. Because I had experience doing a golf instruction book before and knew a bit about golf, I was able to work chapter by chapter, selecting images and laying out the story and instructional chapters. Quite a bit of the images were of Todd on a white background, so I used perfect mask to quickly remove any backgrounds and create transparent .psd files.



I then took these files and the outdoor shots and built composites of the various components of the swing. I applied illustrator graphics as layers in Photoshop and later in InDesign. Together with the writer and golf pro, we then critiqued and fine tuned the images and text for each chapter of the book until each section was complete.



The book is set to be released this summer and is being published by Brown Books, with an initial print run of 10,000. It will be sold in book stores and golf retail stores such as Golf Town, with a digital version available to download from iTunes and Indigo. 


The finished book had to satisfy both a prominent golf writer and the golf pro, who is the world's leading expert on the single plane golf swing. At this point the jury is out on whether this will be a bestseller like Swing Machine Golf (which has sold 81,000 copies to date) but based on responses from the client/golf pro, writer and critics, I think it's safe to say we met their expectations.


"First impressions are critical. Developing a golf instruction book with enough detail and clarity is graphically demanding, especially with a topic that represents our brand. Vopni & Parsons Design (Jon) understood the detail needed and represented our method perfectly, and they also took great care and consideration of our brand image in the process.  In a few recent test readings by critics, they are calling Jon's work "clear, concise and visually stunning", exactly how I want my brand represented."

–Todd Graves, Graves Golf Academy 



"As the writer, I'm ecstatic with the design. I think it's clean, vibrant and attractive.  I've been writing and editing golf instruction articles for more than 20 years, so I brought a lot of experience and ideas about what I wanted to see. I was drawn to Jon by the great work he did on a previous book, which I believe is one of the most attractive golf instruction books I've ever seen. (Now, I think ours is the best.) His experience with that book was invaluable in the planning of this book. He noted that it helped him significantly that the text had already been written when we went to him, rather than trying to write and design the book on the fly. The golf professional also brought a lot of experience in creating instructional videos, so he knew what he wanted to see and how the process should unfold. Having a detailed shot list ensured that we got 95% of the pictures we needed; we thought of some other shots and situations and knocked them off in a short follow-up shoot. Our combined experience helped create a great looking book, but the majority of credit goes to Jon Vopni for his leadership and creativity. And patience."

–Tim O'Connor, O'Connor Golf Communications



Designer Takeaways

  1. Have a design system for your pages worked out early on in the project and work on coming up with a title and cover concept early on in the process so the publisher will have something to use for building promotion and PR for the book.
  2. Be organized — sifting through thousands of images requires image management. Get used to working with Bridge or Lightroom to organize and sort images.
  3. Insist on having at least a semi-final draft of the text before starting the design. For an instructional book, work with the writer and an expert on the topic to build the shot list and location scouts so you don't end up wasting valuable time.


Client Takeaways 

  1. Work with a professional designer and photographer who understands the subject of your project. That way you can be sure that everyone is on the same page when shots and methods are discussed for chapters.
  2. Line up your publisher way in advance of starting the book to ensure you have the infrastructure to bring the book to market, including print, electronic publishing, PR and market research.
  3. Work with your writer, designer and photographer to plan and build a shot list and rough description or idea of what each chapter of the book is about. 



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