Thank you, first and foremost, to Jan V. White.
In April 2012, I scrunched up the nerve to cold-email him with a crazy idea about his out-of-print works. Instead of dismissing a stranger, he said, “anyone in our professions is not a stranger by definition. We have common interests that we both love—that makes us colleagues.” We began to discuss his books over email. Jan had retained the copyrights for most of his old works, but not all of them, most notably Great Pages and the Xerox Publishing Standards.
Great Pages had been published by Serif Publishing, a subsidiary of Xerox Corporation. I called the Xerox Historical Archives about it, and learned in the early 1990s, Xerox had sold off Serif to DA Publishing. DA Publishing had never re-published Great Pages, but had published other works before closing down a few years later.
In May 2012, Jan V. White returned from a trip and agreed to support the digitization and re-release of his old works.
In August 2012, he selected eight books and checked with their publishers for any impediments. Three other publications were more like pamphlets and had been incorporated into later works.
In September 2012, I tracked down Don Abernathy, a former Xerox employee and the “DA” in DA Publishing, who now works on films in Los Angeles. He confirmed that when he closed his publishing company, he returned all rights to the writers; in the case of Great Pages, to Jan V. White.
I called the Xerox Historical Archives again and asked about the publishing status of the Xerox Publishing Standards. They confirmed Xerox still controlled it and tracked down someone who could grant republishing permission. Xerox continues to reserve all rights, but agreed to grant permission to me and the Internet Archive to preserve and digitize it, and allow readers to download copies for their personal use. Any use requires the notice, “Provided courtesy of Xerox Corporation.”
Jan V. White sent me seven mint copies of his books from his personal collection. I contributed my copy of Great Pages and a mint copy of the Xerox Publishing Standards I had acquired. He officially dedicated his eight books to the public domain, and I shipped them off to the Internet Archive for digitization and long-term preservation, along with a donation to support that effort.
In November 2012, the Internet Archive put them online.
In December 2012, this site launched.
Thank you to the Internet Archive Books Team for shepherding these works through the donation process, for digitizing them, and for their long-term preservation of these works, which I believe are important in the history of design.
I hope you’ll join me supporting their efforts by donating to the Internet Archive.
Thank you to Don Abernathy for his foresighted return of rights to Great Pages.
Thank you to Nancy Dempsey with Corporate Public Relations at Xerox Corporation for supporting the preservation of the Xerox Publishing Standards.
Thank you to Ann Neal and Ray Brewer, Managers for the Xerox Historical Archives, for their research.
Thank you to my colleagues: those I’ve talked with about this project, those who told me about how they read design books, those in the Product Design Guild, those in Reddit /r/design, and elsewhere. You all helped shape the nature of this launch.
As I write this, it is perhaps a couple of days, perhaps even only hours away from a public launch. It will be the culmination of months of work to release eight books into the public domain in a way that people can make immediate use of them. It will be the start of many months of work more to ensure they are available as representatives of the design ethos they espouse, in every format possible, for everyone.
It will also mark the end of years of thinking about something, and yet not doing it. I discovered an old edition of Editing by Design in 2005 and loved everything about it. Over the next several years I imagined taking Jan V. White’s principles and applying them to the web, to ebooks, and to whatever would come next.
In May 2010, I came across his email address in a ten year old reprint of a twenty year old article on the use of color. It would be two more years before I did anything with it.
But, here we are.
I’m Vitorio, a user experience and interaction designer out of Austin, TX, USA, and editor of JanVWhite.org. It’s December 1, 2012. Thank you for your attention.