I came up with a neat graphic design idea for the book, but I have no idea how to execute it well.

On the top of every page, there is room for a small graphic design. It is maybe 5 X 1 inches. Usually the book title goes there, but really, you probably already know the title of the book you are holding in your hands and reading.

I wanted to do something a bit funkier with that space.

My concept was for a 100-150 year long time line. Something between a glyph and a ligature. Each chapter would highlight the events on the timeline that are in that chapter. As the book progress, the prior items are light gray, while each new bailout is bolded.

In the beginning chapters, it would look kinda like this:

And towards the end it would look like this (I omitted all the stuff in between for simplicity’s sake) :

It can be either all typeface or a series of graphics.

There are about 25 events that would have to squeeze into the timeline.  If you flipped all the pages it would look like a flip book history of bailouts.

If any reader wants to take a stab at doing it (or can shed some light on how), you will earn my undying gratitude, a credit in the author’s acknowledgment, plus a signed copy of the book (ready to be resold on eBay).

Any ideas?

Category: Bailouts

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

34 Responses to “Page Header Idea for Bailout Nation?”

  1. Archiphage says:

    I wonder if there’s some data series you can use along the line that would advance by a certain increment per page. Like the S&P or the Dow, but maybe something else would be more illustrative of when the bailouts tend to occur. Maybe some volatility or risk proxy of some sort… just thinking out loud here.. not sure if any of this makes sense to you. Anyway, as you flip pages you’d want to see something building (or collapsing) and then BANG- bailout! Otherwise, you have no change happening page-by page. Of course, you may need to change the time step by how many pages there are in a chapter, and I’m guessing that isn’t a uniform number, especially considering the recent acceleration of events. Am I making sense?

  2. Byno says:


    The idea is great, but the execution would be really tough given the page width of your forthcoming tome.

    What about having a ‘moving average’ of ten events, and after chapter ten you drop the last one and add the most recent one (it could be five, I just chose ten cuz I think in metric)?

    Otherwise, your pages are going to get really busy really fast and detract from the overall look.

    Maybe the best advice I would give you is to contact the art department at CCNY or NYU: there are tons of starving artists who would do the artwork for a song, and I think you’d really be happy with the results. A few years ago I hired an undergrad graphic artist to create a story board for me for $100 that was twenty frames. Worth every penny. And she was truly exceptional.

  3. jmborchers says:

    BR when you flip a book or those old style cartoon pads you need about 10-20 pages per second. The timeline cartoon would probably not match up per chapter or may be really quick when you are flipping it and maybe that’s okay. I imagine a good portion of the book would be from today’s history within the last 20 years or so.

  4. bp_aidee says:

    How about instead of just names at the appropriate temporal juncture, a bar to indicate the total volume (height) in dollars of the time increment (adjusted for 2008 dollars). Each bar of the chart could be numbered with a footnote that can be tracked at the base of the page or as an appendix.

    This could fit neatly with Archiphage’s suggestion of having all the bailouts present on the one chart (in grey), with only relevant ones made darker or numbered depending on where you are in the book.

    The other suggestion is down the side of the page; again using bars or the like to indicate volume and again could be made darker as an index to the relevant bailout.

  5. tomsaso says:

    Putting any measure – moving average, GDP – or anything at all seems to me impossible.

    But what i can’t understand is whats the problem in creating that chart ?

    Simple, timeline, and events…

    Make it in excel, then just make it picture and cut it in pieces to match the book pages..

    Here is simple template: http://www.vertex42.com/Links/go.php?urlid=file-timeline

    It really isn’t that hard… i guess..

    and if you are lazy, for a book copy, i can do it between 6-10th December… thats the time when i dont have exams…

  6. VennData says:

    Use an increased boldness for the bailout being discussed in those pages allowing the past events to fade, smaller, grayer as you progress through the book.

    The flip-the-page view of the book would appear as if you ran one of those old-fashioned magnifying glass readers over the the static time line you’ve imagined.


  7. jacobsk says:

    here’s my idea:
    each bailout year is represented by a triangle. the height of the triangle represents the total dollars.the width remains static for each triangle except for the year the chapter is talking about.
    at the end of the book a 2 page spread could be created to show all the years and the bailed out firms.
    a sample schematic: http://picasaweb.google.com/skjacob/Test#
    I’m not a graphics artist, so that’s all i could come up with in the picture.

  8. Archiphage says:

    Two other thoughts occur to me:

    1) Most books seem to flip better back to front. Maybe your binding people can tell you why that is and perhaps adjust it… or maybe they can tell you that I am just crazy.

    2) I would consider some sort of compression of the past events as time moves forward so you can have more room. Making them gray is a good idea, but scrunching them over to the left once they’ve passed a certain age may give you more options. Also, I might consider just showing the last 20 years or whatever works best to get your points across. That factor itself may even differ over time. I am going to soon run into the same sort of problem on the graphic I produce each day for my own blog… it’s going to get increasingly harder to see the data if I insist on plotting all the data points since August. I’ll probably just start dropping old data soon, at least for the image that goes at the top of my page.

  9. also, you could use those graphics as entre` to link to further historical background–in, and around, the event..

    could further dissect it, add vignettes of personalities involved, go tangential by mentioning some of the potential ‘butterfly’ events that led to the cascading…

    obviously, w/o a stern Editor, it could go on forever, but some of that could add useful color…

  10. mark mchugh says:

    I have two suggestions:

    If you’re really stuck on the timeline concept – use both the odd and even pages (giving you a 10 x 1 space)


    On one side:
    I’m a big fan of the wordle, I’d create a wordle, with word size reflecting the size of each bailout (which shouldn’t be too hard – just repeat the name in the text). Bold the text of the relevant chapter.

    On the other side:
    Maybe a timeline of US Public Debt, bolding the cost of the relevant chapter or just showing the progression of public debt.

    Can I trade the book for a free month of FusionIQ?

  11. hdeacon says:

    Love it! I do this kind of stuff for a living (chartporn that is.) Your links to NYT and other source of online chartporn have been a real kick for me.

    Off the top of my head, and being at a remote computer, I’d suggest separating the actions from the reactions; like the tick marks for panics below the line (to represent loss of $ in the market), bailouts above the line (to represent capital flow back into the market). And maybe since height is limiting, have the thickness or weight (grey) of the ticks represent the size of the bailout. I’d suggest leaving the names for the “old” bailouts off of the diagram (because they would probably run into each other after a while) and just preserve the ticks that represent them. I don’t recommend greying out the old events as that’s basically wasting a “dimension”… it’s already obvious that they are older because of their position on the timeline, and if you use shade to indicate “older” then you loose the ability to use shading for some other parameter, like size of bailout. An alternative to using shading to represent the new vs. old bailouts, you could bold the text for the current bailouts (if you have room to keep all the labels).

    If this doesn’t seem to be working for you because of the space restrictions/publisher, I’d make a more elaborate chart as the beginning of each chapter. That way you can integrate other data, keep all of the labels, and have the most impact in terms of the scale of the current bailouts vs. the older ones.

  12. Lynn says:

    For each chapter, list the events as follows:

    | Beta
    | | Gamma
    | | | Delta
    | | | |

  13. Darkness says:

    As others suggest here, what you want is what’s referred to as a “lens effect” where events farther away are shown smaller and more compressed. I’d keep it simply otherwise, tho, and just use each name itself as a straight vertical bar off the timeline. Since you can adjust your “lens” the local timeline can be as spread as necessary to avoid the “bars” being right on top of one another when the bailouts are fast and furious. Whether the height (shade) of each bar or label can be used to denote bailout size would have to be determined by messing with it a bit.

    If you did have a coding for bailout size, you’d also have to decide on real dollars vs. inflation adjusted vs. % of GDP at the time, or number of illuminati involved, or whatever.

    As to how to implement it… hm, a custom program would certainly do it (perl generated postscript, for example), but depending on how many variations there were, it might be easier to just layout the whole timeline in illustrator and use a graphical effect to produce each instantiation of it. Depends on how non-linear the lens effect needs to be whether that would produce something suitable.

    So, I guess if I were doing this I’d need to know how many different versions there are of the timeline (or is it moving continuously through the book?) and how many data elements are there on it.

  14. debreuil says:

    I think you would be better off having a timeline across both pages, black for what passed and grey for what is to come. Then in the corner have something entertaining, like the rich guy from monopoly fuming when he needs to make upgrades on his hotels, then jumping happy when he gets a bailout instead… (or something else that doesn’t require a lawyer).

    Side thought, wouldn’t it be funny to play monopoly based on the new rules? Land on Boardwalk, no problem, get a bailout and write an IOU for ‘stock’. Or not. Might be a fun thing to slip into an appendix, go over the actually rules and change them to be funny/sarcastic. Yeah, I know, copyright blah blah, but maybe you could get away with it being ‘parody’. Might even be a fun game, in that the bank loses instead of the players.

    I worked for years as an animator, but I’m afraid I’ve been programming too long now, and its beat the drawing spirit out of me : (.

  15. Darkness says:

    Boy, we need an edit, especially late on a turkey-induced stupored Sunday. 25 elements, I see now in your post. Can you post the raw data you want represented?

  16. bhenick says:

    Accounting for the fact that the centerpiece is a graph that needs to be legible, maybe just do the x-axis on a logarithmic scale? Simple, doable, nuthin’ to it. Mostly a matter of finding the right base for the scale. Proper labelling will make it obvious to even those most math-disabled reader that the scale is on a log.

  17. l_emmerdeur says:

    The right side looks like the impact of a bomb… so perhaps the left would be a mine being planted?

  18. gregh says:

    is Jan 15th the release date?

  19. Jason G. says:

    I think the best thing to do would be to present the timeline in a moving fashion… otherwise you run into various problems with scale and too much information (unless you only highlight the current chapter and points in time along the entire timeline).

    Imagine a flip book of a horse running towards the right, and the horse stays in place, with landscape items passing from in front of the horse to behind it…

    Now in your flip book, instead of a horse, there’s the bailout du jour, or a smiling taxpayer walking down the chart. Each bailout comes along from the right, passes the taxpayer, and then fades as the chapters progress.

    You could even start with the taxpayer a certain height (close to 100% of the available space), and as the bailouts progress he can shrink in relative height to indicate the changing size of the bailouts…

    Once you’re done with your flip-book fun at the top of the pages, re-create the entire timeline with a multi-page fold out diagram, or a graphic on the website that you point readers to.

    I’m not sure I’m saying anything original here, but I’m happy to take credit anyway!

  20. Boomer108 says:

    I would do bubbles, with the area the $ size of the bailout (inflation adjusted). I’d have the cover page of Chapter 1 (and each subsequent chapter) show, in dark, the bailout being discussed in that chapter, labeled. the rest would be gray (also labeled but light so hard to read). Along the top of each page in that chapter I’d repeat the Chapter 1 cover page – the dark part would be very simply labeled, like one word, and the gray part would be unlabeled. Key to have a graphic artist so it looks very clean.

    As you progress through the book, the dark gets progressively greater as it gets filled in. Maybe the page headings would just have the section for that chapter being dark.

    If you like this idea, we can expand upon it! I like the idea of the graphic artist. You can do bubbles in Excel.

  21. emmett says:

    I use MSOffice Visio graphics package.
    It has a very nice timeline function/toolbox.
    I’ve not found any open source software package that can compare.

    Handles non-linear timescales as well.

    I pre-bought your book on Amazon. When is the debut?

  22. Bill Werner says:

    BR, I’m late so my ideas were taken so I will recuse myself but as I understand your specs I would rate the ideas and combine them as necessary in the following order:

    1) bhenick’s Log time scale
    2) Lynn’s Staggered items
    3) Byno’s moving average (I would have called it a sliding scale)

    Hopefully 1 and 2 would do the trick as 3 seems to me to be out of spec.
    I also always try to follow the KISS rule as much as possible.

    Best of Luck with the Book!

  23. dchatain says:

    Hi Barry,

    As a graphic designer, this reminds me of something a professor at Parsons once said. He was talking about how every young designer, when they get the chance to do their first book, gets all excited about “doing something cool” with the page number or other standard element. His advice was not to mess with perfection. As much as something might look cool, or sound cool – when you hold the actual book in front of you – most innovations end up being annoying. Print the book on good paper, use a legible, elegant typeface and stay out of the way of the text – thats what book design ought to do.

    - Dylan

  24. wingnut says:

    Here are two possibilities for the graphic:

    1.) The way you described: http://bingr.com/upload/br1.jpg

    2.) A much simpler option that might be sufficient: http://bingr.com/upload/br2.jpg

  25. rob says:

    Wingnut: That’s nice! Good job. To represent the amount of money, why not vary the thickness of the horizontal line? If that was what you were attempting excuse my ignorance. Good job either way though.

  26. rob says:

    Ok, here’s mine. http://www.knology.net/aquaabyss/br.jpg At the top of each page is just the year and a horizontal bar indicating the amount. As you flip through it, the years change and the bar length varies. Everything is scaled so that the last page representing the worst case, makes the entire page black. Very powerful visual effect and doesn’t require high quality printing or cost differentials.

  27. wingnut says:

    Thanks Rob… I was trying to represent a change in scale on the timeline (he is writing a lot about 2008, so it needs a lot more space on the timeline than prior years). Maybe there’s an easier way to represent the change in scale… something like this maybe? http://bingr.com/upload/3br.jpg

    It would also be easy to change thickness to represent the cost of the event. I would be worried about it getting too confusing… something like that might require an explanation unless it is totally obvious that line thickness = inflation adjusted cost, which might be tough.

  28. AGG says:

    Barry, I got to thinking about the bailout metaphor. The “problem” is too much “water”, right? So the assumption is that government intervention equates to a new bilge pump. Awareness of increasing problems is determined by observing the water line on the ship symbolizing the economy. How about a tanker size ship with a highlighted waterline? As each crisis resulting in a bailout occurs, you add a bilge pump corresponding in size to the bailout. If the bailout is paid back like Chrysler alleges it did, you pull the pump. If not, you show a broken pump anf a lower waterline. The added weight of the huge (it’s a cartoon, you know) broken pump further lowers the ship’s waterline. You can even throw Japaneze and Chinese pumps into the mix. Just food for thought. I enjoyed reading a book about a voyage where the ship deterioration was shown in progressive drawings along the way. Hope this helps.

  29. jmann says:


    A couple of different ideas here…

    1) If there is any chance you are breaking your book up into periods (i.e. pre-1873, 1873-1941, 1941-1970s, 1970s-today), it would make it much easier to show those events like you wanted them so you could flip back and forth. I think it would make it easier to show the events in a way that is readable.

    2) Another idea would be do a scatter chart of events. Time-line on the X axis…Inflation adjusted $’s of bailout along the Y axis. All events could be show on the scatter using smalls dots. The current event you are highlighting would be a Star. Below the scatter graph, you would show the star followed by the current item.

    This way the reader gets the context for where the current event fits into the time-line, the size of bailout compared to other bailouts, and the number of bailouts that occurred close to the current one. Here is an example:


  30. Peter G. says:


    What first came to mind was some variation of the iconic ‘evolution of man’ illustration. A very simplified line art (cartoon?) drawing representational of a male business type figure… Various stages corresponding to chapters from the ol’timey short fat industrialist (w/top hat) –to–> your modern day metrosexual-business-duchebaggery –to–> hunched over penniless tramp/hobo.

    Previous stages could be grayed out… your timescale and labels could still be included or perhaps insted a play on words such as “The Goldless Age” …or “homo-irrationusexuberus” …or something.

    Just ruminating…

    Best of luck with the book!! …look forward to picking up a copy.

  31. going broke says:

    – How about a bookmark with the timeline on it? The readers can reference it while reading the book. You could have a folding bookmark giving you 4 sides of information compared to the 2-sided standard bookmark.

    – Use wingnuts graph and ad the years total bailout $ in the box.

    – Each event has a different cause/purpose, you could put a semi-transperant picture somewhere on the page of the cause/purpose… bank, mortgage, etc…

  32. hackneed says:

    Split your 5″ into two parts. On the left with about 3.5″, do the timeline. With the space given, I’d not put the actual events, just the tick marks of when they occur. As you progress in the book, use some kind of marker to highlight (red marker or other design device works well) where you are on the timeline on any given page. If you are having a compression problem where several events are occurring in a short period, you can use a bubble as the marker and have that slide across. Within the bubble, it would be easy to see the events. You could easily work in the actual date just above or below the timeline. As you flip through, the marker (magnified or not) will move from the beginning to end.

    With the remaining 1.5″ to the right, you can list the actual events that are occurring. This avoids the problem of having to squeeze in a bunch of items on the timeline above or below. It should be easier to read and give you the visual effect you are going for.

  33. KidDynamite says:

    no clue on this one barry, but to answer a different question you posed: i think it was last week or the week before you asked for relevant quotes for section headers… i just watched Charlie Wilson’s War and one came to mind apropos to the bailout legislation:

    “Why does congress keep saying one thing and doing nothing?”
    “Tradition mostly”

  34. Hi Barry,

    Some very good ideas here, and I also like the dissenting opinion from Dylan on keeping the the design elements standard. In any case, here’s one more idea, or variation on a theme, for you.

    Some of the previous commentors suggested a vertical bar cropping up for each event/bailout point on the “x” axis of your graph, with the size of each bar representing the size (in dollars) of a given bailout.

    This was my thought as well, only you might want to substitute the usual bar with something more visually striking, space permitting.

    For example, instead of representing the size of each event or bailout with a vertically rising bar, why not use a very scaled-down sillhouette of a skyscraper? You could start out with the 1907 Panic, and highlight that initial event with the image of an early skyscraper, such as the Home Insurance Building in Chicago.


    As the timeline progresses, and the bailouts/events get larger, you could plot each one with the silhouette of a taller building, say, the Chrysler Building or the Sears Tower. The most recent, ever-changing, and largest bailout events (in nominal or real terms) could be represented by recently planned or stalled/unfinished buildings, such as the Chicago Spire.


    By the end of the book, all the skyscraper silhouettes would add up to form a nice little skyline along your timeline graph. You could also stick to one city in particular (say, New York City) to get the flow of an actual city skyline.

    I guess this idea, or any others mentioned here, would also fit well in a nice full size appendix at the back of the book.