Trees and Shrubs to Know Field Guides

EESC’s publishing and design expertise keeps popular field guides useful for decades.

Situation

Former OSU Extension forester Charles R. Ross was touched as a child by a series of books on North Carolina's natural history. It inspired him to write a similar book, Trees to Know in Oregon, in 1950.

Edward Jensen, OSU professor of forestry, took over as author in 1994 and revised the content to focus more on identification. EESC has worked alongside Jensen to harness advances in publishing technology to ensure the guide is attractive, helpful, and easy to use.

Throughout the years, EESC offered expertise in editing, graphic design, production, and project management to assist Jensen with an increasingly complex layout for Trees to Know. What started out as a small Extension bulletin is now a 156-page, full-color, comprehensive field guide. It’s consistently one of the most-requested publications in the OSU Extension Catalog.

The success and popularity of Trees to Know inspired Jensen to write a companion guide, Shrubs to Know in Pacific Northwest Forests.

Our Approach

Jensen proposed the idea for publishing Shrubs to Know in late 2008. EESC did some basic market analysis and met with Jensen to discuss a general plan and timeline for the project. As with Trees to Know, Jensen was the author and primary photographer. A forestry colleague assisted with photos and maps. EESC managed the project, including scheduling, editing, illustration, design, production, and publishing.

Over the next couple of years, while Jensen was drafting content and taking and organizing photos, the team continued to discuss style and format.

“The challenge early on was creating an easy-to-replicate design that would allow more photos and a small but readable font size,” said Erik Simmons, EESC’s outreach design leader. “Our team developed a template and agreed on a word count for the basic species descriptions. As a result, we didn’t have to cut much content while editing, and we avoided last-minute design changes, which can really derail a project.”

Jennifer Alexander, an EESC publishing manager and project manager for the Shrubs to Know project, says early planning and regular communication made this project successful.

“Any long-term project will change over time,” said Alexander. “Our team created a project schedule that provided enough flexibility for small additions that weren't in the original outline, such as a glossary, but still allowed us to meet deadlines for editing, design, and production.”

EESC's involvement didn’t stop with publication. In addition to writing news releases, EESC worked with Jensen to market both guides through creative campaigns, including book signings, blog giveaways, holiday sales, and social media mentions.

Results and Impact

Jensen’s comments to the team during the final stages of Shrubs to Know production speak volumes about the benefits of working collaboratively—an approach EESC uses for all publishing projects.

“You are a dedicated, patient (with me) set of teammates!” said Jensen. “We've really done a great job together and the party is on me!”

As for the guides themselves, both are getting into the hands of people who will use them while exploring forests throughout Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.

EESC has sold more than 6,000 copies of 2010 edition of Trees to Know and 700 copies of Shrubs to Know since its publication in September 2013. Extension offices, university and community bookstores, libraries, visitor centers, and organizations around the state have purchased copies. Sunset magazine and the Eugene Register-Guard newspaper, which has a circulation of nearly 52,000, picked up EESC’s news releases.

“Local blogger Michael Barton reviewed Trees to Know and Shrubs to Know on his blog, Exploring Portland’s Natural Areas.

“I know some people who do not use any other guide for tree identification in Oregon than Trees to Know and absolutely love their copies,” Barton wrote. “Hopefully, this shrub companion will likewise become a treasured book on the shelf or in the backpack of botanists, educators, and natural history buffs all around the region.”

Partners

Edward Jensen and David Zahler, OSU College of Forestry; OSU Printing and Mailing; Lynx Group, Inc., Salem, Ore.