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Intimate biography of Mormon leader Henry B. Eyring includes personal artwork, journal entries

Published: Wednesday, April 2 2014 7:40 a.m. MDT

Deseret Book officials talk Monday, March 24, 2014, about the innovative design that adds personality to President Henry B. Eyring's memories in a book.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — From the second word, he is Hal, an instant informality that is a promise kept throughout a new, intimate, lesson-rich biography about President Henry B. Eyring.

Strikingly personal, the book ranges from why his strong-willed mother insisted Henry B. be called Hal to how, today, President Eyring is handling his sweetheart's decline due to memory loss.

The use of the nickname may be what first removes President Eyring's tie and loosens his collar, takes him out from behind the Conference Center podium from which he has delivered so many talks as a member of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and places the reader right next to him in a unique way.

But the unusual design of "I Will Lead You Along: The Life of Henry B. Eyring" helps sustain and add to the intimacy. For example, an easy-to-read typewriter font appears frequently, giving the impression of sitting next to President Eyring and reading along as he types his journal entries at the end of long days, days important to the direction of the church or to his tender courtship and loving marriage or to his fatherhood and career.

In other places, sketches appear in the margins, dozens of them culled from the drawings he made and then pasted into the journals he copied and gave to his children each year for decades.

"It's not a description of his life, it's an invitation into his life," said Sheri Dew, who wrote biographies of two church presidents and is the chief executive officer of the book's publisher, Deseret Book.

"The whole goal of the product team was to make a print book look and feel interactive," Dew added. "I think they did a splendid job of helping you want to keep reading."

Big job

The bin with President Eyring's journals arrived at Deseret Book and caused a commotion as editors and designers sifted through the sketches and watercolors in them. Eventually, dozens of images were spread across conference room tables.

Access to such an overwhelming amount of artwork is rare in publishing. Generally, authors cull the images first, limiting choices for art direction.

"We said, 'This book needs to look just like his journals,’ ” Deseret Book product director Jana Erickson said.

Art director Richard Erickson (no relation to Jana) and the rest of his team created a cover that hints at the typewritten journal entries reproduced inside.

"We wanted to communicate on the outside of the book what happens inside, and the spine on the cover does that," Jana Erickson said. "It announces that this is going to be something personal."

Then they set out to make a 500-page biography match the intimacy of its content.

"You can just look at the side of the cover and recognize it's different," editor Emily Watts said, "and then you open it and see it's not as daunting as some big books."

Creating that effect wasn't as easy as it sounds, Richard Erickson said. The first typewriter fonts were too clunky and difficult to read. The art team added full-bleed photographs at the start of each chapter, but Erickson recognized a risk: Too many elements would create clutter.

In the end, he said, they succeeded. They used about 5 percent of President Eyring's sketches.

"It's a comfortable read," he said with a broad smile. "I even love the paper we used. It feels like a journal you've opened."

"Seeing the journal entries and the pictures gives it almost a scrapbook effect," Jana Erickson said.

Seeking improvement

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