HvA Open Publishing — Sprint I

The aim of the first sprint, as written in the introduction post, focused on:

creating a ‘design’ for the various types of publications, building an example .pdf, HTML5 and ePub publication, obtaining publications from the knowledge centres, and running the first tests with the Sausage Machine.

The example publications have been designed with use of output generated by the Sausage Machine – to test the it alongside of the development of the concept publications. Instead of throwing .docx files in there, which are going to be the ‘starting point’ of the HvA Open Publishing workflow, Markdown (.md) files were used. The output the Sausage Machine generates from a .md file is more predictable and therefore made it a good foundation to find out how .md files should be structured to obtain the desirable output. Based upon this, the guide for structuring the .docx file for authors can be written in the second sprint.


Publication conditions

Nine of ten available publication spots of the HvA Open pilot have been filled. Besides the five ‘standard ‘traditional’ publications (essays, papers, theses, etc.) there is a board-game, a digital and physical toolkit, and the Sausage Machine itself that are to be turned into publications for the serie. These publications play the role of the ‘somewhat unconventional’ mentioned in the introduction. The first problems encountered with the ‘somewhat unconventional’ publications is that the publications that are to be part of the HvA Open series need to have the following:

  1. Understandable Dutch summary;
  2. Understandable English summary;
  3. Glossary;
  4. List of research results (publications, reports, tools);
  5. List of publications in the media;
  6. Bibliography;
  7. Information about the review process / peer review;
  8. A citing guide;
  9. Unique HVA and / or knowledge centre numbering.;
  10. Exact date of publication;
  11. Persistent Identifier;
  12. Creative Commons Attribution;
  13. Abbreviations;
  14. Keywords;
  15. Corresponding author.

During the pilot the publication conditions won’t be looked upon too strictly. But is definitely something to keep in mind – especially when it comes to topics such as reviews for a board game and during the writing of the guide/workflow in the second sprint.

One of the aims of the HvA Open Publishing series is that it distinguishes itself from the regular publications that are deposited into the HvA repository. The main route to take on this is, is through design. However the ‘identity’ of the HvA is quite firm, making it difficult to go very far outside of the box. The idea of the current design (which has yet to be approved) is to attract readers by being different than the other ‘products’ of the HvA, but still fit into their identity enough to be recognised as part of it.

The HvA identity makes use of two font-families: Frutiger (print) and Arial (web). Both of which are problematic when it comes to licensing. The main issue here is that one of the outputs of the Sausage Machine is ePub. Fonts have to be embedded into ePub files; and can be taken out simply by unarchiving them like you would do with a .zip or .rar file. Obtaining an embed license for either is out of the question. For Frutiger it is too expensive, for Arial there is no such licence. This means that both of the font-families can’t be used for the HvA Open series.

A font-family with an open license is needed that is closely related to Frutiger or Arial. Luckily there’s enough discussions about font-family alternatives happening on webfora. The research into alternative font-families eventually led to Istok Web (it resembles Frutiger). There are some slight differences: the tail of the capital Q is a bit jiggly in Istok Web whereas it is straight in Frutiger, and the angle at which the the sticks are cut off at the bottom and top is different. But these are details only noticeable on close inspection when both font-families are presented next to one another.

Arial is still used as one of the fallback fonts in the HTML5 version of the HvA Open series publications.


The HvA identity works with a triangle-grid as visual element, purple as the primary colour, and seven secondary colours. More in-depth information about the HvA corporate branding can be found here.

Since every product created within the HvA identity makes use of this grid on a white background – most possibilities have already been explored. This makes it difficult for a design to take the spotlight unless you break/adjust it, which is what happened.

To play with the open access theme of the pilot, the idea of an opened box was introduced. This opened box became the main concept behind the design. Initially, the box was used completely within the guidelines of the HvA identity before exploring it a but further.


Because the covers within the HvA Open serie have to be somewhat identical, but still differentiate enough that it is possible to see differences in, for example, an ePub library – the secondary colours were introduced.


The triangle-grid is not completely lost within this deviating design. It is the foundation of the bigger box and of the two smaller boxes.


The way the content is currently presented is still rather stale because it is not definite what types of content are going to be introduced within the serie. This means that it has to be as ‘open’ as possible to allow for a wide variety of content to be published with the same template.

The Sausage machine

Three example publications have been developed by making use of the existing templates of the Sausage Machine and tinkering with the results ..

The Sausage Machine output from the tests can be found on the HvA Open Publishing developer space, here.

The Markdown file functioned as the input for the the Sausage Machine in the first sprint. Tables, images, links, various text-decorations and headings, footnotes, codeblocks, blockquotes and lists were inserted into the .md file to test what happens with these elements when they transist into .html, .epub. and .icml (for use in InDesign to create the .pdf).


The main aim of the .html template is to get a responsive reader experience without having to rely on .epub reading software. In future iterations a fixed table of contents and title and similar elements would be a great addition.


The .epub is the most complex output of the three. The Sausage Machine handles the transition to .epub very well, relieving much of the labour that normally goes into developing an ebook. There are still some difficulties with creating a .css that works in both the .html and the .epub output.


On itself, .icml is not that impressive but combined with an InDesign template it’s the source of an almost automatically generated, visually attractive .pdf. The InDesign template is still under construction thus creating a proper .pdf through the Sausage Machine is still quite laborious.


Next steps

The second sprint starts with the development of a Sausage Machine template for the HvA Open Publishing series and the creation of a guide, with workflow, for the authors (input) and publishers (output). The development of three out of the ten publications have been pushed forward and will now start halfway through October, instead of at the beginning of November. One of these three publications has to be made print ready. Therefore another InDesign template, which holds the ICML output of the Sausage Machine, has to be developed for printing output (because of CMYK colouring & higher resolution imagery). The HTML5, ePub, and .pdf versions of the three publications are scheduled to be finished at the halfway-point of the third sprint.