Front cover

Universal Voices: designing an e-book


We was designing for Universal voices, a children’s choir in University of Reading, School of Music. The job was to design an E-book for Universal Voices, which was ideally a lyric book of the songs they sing at their choir. A lyric book consisting of songs of different cultures. Children of the choir went home and asked their grandparents to give them songs of their generation. This is how all the songs for the book where collected. They are traditional songs of diverse cultures.

Restated brief

The aim of this real job was to create an interactive E-Book which will be used at the choir by the teachers, as well as the parents at home who would have access to this. The main users of this digital book are the children who attend the choir themselves. This is because they are the ones who sing the songs and need the relevant lyrics and translations of each song. They would ideally use and view this book on a smart digital screen provided for them at school. The timeframe of this project was 7-8 months however, we did get extra time.
The book itself would consist of songs from all over the world of different cultures. The chosen songs have lyrics, translations in English as well as a phonetic translation to allow the users to be able to understand and read/sing each of the words effectively.
The final deliverable decided where:
1. Fully designed interactive eBook
2. The eBook file on Canva which can be edited, in case changes need to be made in the future

Research & ideation

Research began with the Nordic Sounds website which was provided to us. This website has traditional songs from the Nordic countries Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. formatted digitally. We was told the colours from website was the main element that attracted them to this website.
I first looked at different examples of books and more specifically music books and then looked at digital ones.
Music books, with lyrics arranged
To then work out the layout of how we wanted to arrange all the different elements we created initial sketches. These sketches consisted of different design layout ideas. The different elements we had to work with were the song name, who the song was collected by, the music score sheet, song lyrics, translation of phonetic translation and an about section, providing more details of the song and its origin.
The actual Nordic sound colours are quite bright. Choir has children who are young so wants pastel colours to make it soft and easy to read, instead of it being distracting with the bright, bold colours. We also shouldn’t use 2 colours that clash with each other.
The client currently uses a light beige colour for all their backgrounds. So having a beige background instead of different coloured background could work even better and make the whole book consistent.
The Nordic Sounds colour palette
Typography Inspiration
These where different ideas for type, colour, and shapes.


Research into how we could add feelings into our designs.


We got the children at the choir to create some sketches based on what and how they feel about the universal voices choir.

Design ideas

These were initial design ideas. Trying to work out a suitable layout for all the content that would be going on the page. This was a centred design, left vs right, and top vs bottom design. And a lot of typefaces were explored.
Variation 1
Variation 2
Variation 3
Typefaces explored
More typefaces explored


Design developments

After sketching and brainstorming lots of ideas, the main final design idea started like this. This was the layout the client was happy with, so we moved forward with this. We had to incorporate all the elements onto this double page spread and this was the one that worked well. The idea of having buttons at the bottom which direct you to YouTube so you can listen to the audio or watch the video relating to the song. Having the music score sheet on its own page. The weights of the text for lyrics, translation and phonetic would be different to differentiate. And they will be in three columns. About the song will also be at the bottom in smaller text. It is something we won’t be needing for when the children play the music and sing, but it is a good element for parents and teachers to get a brief background summary on where the songs are from.

Inside Pages

Chosen design layout

We started to think about colour and quickly realised that the white background on the music sheet was not working, and my idea to remove the white background worked well as we will see in the designs ahead. The solid-coloured background was also not the best. The client told us she uses a light beige pastel colour on her presentation slides when she teaches at the choir. So, the idea of having a beige background with the white background removed of the music sheet developed. The aim was to use all the colours in the colour pallet on each spread. The colours first started off randomly but slowly, we made things more uniform and equal.

Adding colour
Colour Variation
 The designs quickly started to develop. We had lots of ideas and lots of colour was used. Nothing was consistent at this point. We was really experimenting with different shapes, colours, and text size. We tried the beige background with no white background on the music score sheet and this worked well. The buttons had too much text leading so we changed this. We soon realised that a mix of colours was not working and rather each section should have its own colour. For example, the about section should be green. The buttons should be yellow etc.
If we take a closer look, we can see the colour blocks just don’t seem to be working. The blocks are big, and the text is small. Nothing seems to align. And there is also too much white space. Coloured type on coloured backgrounds was just working out. Keeping the title in colour was the only way we could keep all the colours in on the page at the same time.
This is when I decided to rearrange the age layout slightly. Firstly, removing the white background of the music score sheet and secondly, changing the position for the “about” section and the buttons.
More colour variations
More variations
After liaising with the client, we understood she liked the idea of the buttons, how the about section being in its own box to segregate it from the main song lyrics and how the main layout was looking. We also explained how the white background of the music score sheet was removed, and she seemed to be understanding and also liked it even though she wanted them in white. The one thing she still wasn’t happy and certain about is the use of colours. After discussing multiple times, we concluded each section having its own specific colour.
These consisted off:
Song name: rainbow
Audio button: yellow
Video button: pink
Lyrics, phonetic & translation subheadings: pink
The actual lyrics, phonetic & translation: black
About section: in a purple box
Final Layout
The inside pages were looking great and exactly the way the client wanted it to be. However, we wanted to add some final colour and finishing touches. We created a few spreads with a coloured page border. The colours for the page border came from the colours of the flag. The flag is there as it represents where each song originates from. We showed the client these spreads and they loved the pages even more and were happy for us to go ahead and make every single page like this. We were glad the client trusted us.

Front & back cover

The front and back covers of the book were done really well. We wanted the children at the choir to be a part of the book. They were the ones who collected these songs which is why we was able to make a book of songs. We really wanted them to own the book and got them involved as much as we could. The main idea for this was to collage the sketches together to create a unique cover. The logo is also added at the top on the front cover. The scrunched-up paper effect on Photoshop really made the design work stand out. It gives a childish school feel.
Final front & back cover

Final inside pages

Final inside pages


Once the inside pages for all the songs where complete creating the opening and end pages were easy. Formatting these in a concise way to make it readable was the main aim. I chose to have the logo at the bag with a very low opacity. And this is because it looked to empty without it and it gives the book the element that this book belongs to universal voices. As we know parents, and external people to universal voices will be using this book so, I really wanted to give it that personal touch. Keeping the rainbow multicoloured titles and subheadings really kept the book coherent across all pages start to end. It really gives off the children, school and learning effect.
Opening & end pages
The client’s logo was redesigned by us because the logo they provided originally was very pixelated. We also had colour options of black, white, and grey, but went for the red as a final because the children in the choir wear red t-shirts. They also wanted the red version on the front cover of the book. Red was the final design chosen by the client as they wanted it to match their choir theme.
Redesigned Logo with other colour variations too

Visiting Universal Voices

We had the honour of visiting Universal Voices launch day. The event was a fun experience were our client ‘Rebecca’ allowed us to present the book we designed to all the children and parents who attend the choir as well as other staff members. It was really fun, and we really got to showcase our work and explain our thoughts and design process for the book itself. Parents were impressed and had lovely questions for us to show their enthusiasm. Seeing the children’s faces when they saw their designs on the books front and back cover was a really nice feeling for us.
Visiting Universal Voices


Overall, this project was a great success. I am really proud of the book we designed. The skills I learned and further developed were how to create buttons and hyperlink them to websites or YouTube. The project also enhanced by ability to work in a team as well as individually. I did this project with a partner so having regular meetings with her and staying connected whilst we both did our own sections of the book was helpful as we both got to talk weekly and see what the other one was up to design wise and if there was any ideas or changes, we would discuss this together but work on our own. If I could do this job again, I would love to do it on Adobe InDesign rather than the Canva software given to us. Typesetting and image placement on InDesign would have further developed the book and given it a more enhanced finish. However, Canva was used so the client can keep the book as a template for future songs/changes as new people join the choir.