“The margins give me nightmares!”: A Day of Design Work on Return of the Condor Heroes Manga

Return of the Condor Heroes: The Making (3)

Return of the Condor Heroes: The Making is a blog series documenting the people and processes involved in the production of Return of the Condor Heroes Collector’s Edition Boxset. Discover first-hand some of the behind-the-scenes work and the art of creating comics in Singapore.

In the making of Return of the Condor Heroes manga, the designer works closely with the editor, often relying on conventions in images, colour, and font that have been provided by the latter. As a designer in the Return of the Condor Heroes project, Terence’s role largely encompasses working with its visuals. As the artwork for this project had been completed during its original 1997 manga serialisation, the bulk of his job lies in refining and enhancing existing images and archives for the new edition.

In a typical day of work, Terence’s tasks include checking for colour consistencies in both coloured and monochromatic artwork, adjusting alignments of comic panels, and typography. The page margins, in particular, are something that he spends a considerable amount of his time on. Page margins refer to the blank or white spaces along the edges of a page. They are important as they frame the artwork images and can affect the overall visual appearance of each comic book or graphic novel page.

“The margins give me nightmares!”, exclaims Terence, as he points to the fact that the Return of the Condor Heroes manuscripts use extremely precise figures for their page margin dimensions: 11.994 x 14.8mm. “It is very obvious if something goes off by even 1mm”, he elaborates.

A small part of his job includes liaising with the artist as well, updating him on the progress of the production and exchanging feedback on its design elements. As an experienced artist with an acquired sensitivity to aesthetics, the manga’s artist Wee Tian Beng often shares his ideas and vision when it comes to colour choices and design elements. To maintain a good balance between the artist’s vision and the design direction, Terence is mindful of his level of intervention in the project’s aesthetic.

As this project utilises extremely large design files in a design software, one of the key challenges faced by Terence is keeping track of the lists of edits and changes to be made to the manga during its editorial process. Unbeknownst to many, he completes a significant number of his tasks manually, despite being able to rely on digital software. Things such as checking of alignments and spacings between images and text, as well as consistencies of lines and colours, have to be rectified by the human eye and hand.

For Terence, much of design work is built on being as precise and detailed as possible, while repeatedly making changes to look for ways to improve the quality of work. Comics is very much an artistic medium itself, incorporating elements of storytelling, illustration, and graphic design. Its multi-faceted and complex nature renders it necessary for Terence to be a tad more meticulous. He has now developed an occupational hazard and accidental hobby — spotting errors in other comics and graphic novels at bookstores during his free time.

Established in 1983, Asiapac Books is Singapore’s leading independent publisher of comics and illustrated books designed to enhance lifelong learning.

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