Cover design • 22 September 2007 • The SnowBlog

Cover design


I've just read a rubbish book on cover design. The author of Designing Books: Practice and Theory is obsessed with the, apparantly raging, argument that exists between designers who favour symmetry in their design, and those who inisist on asymmetry. Ironically his captions are almost impossible to decipher or figure out which image they relate to. His use of language is clunktastic ("Disputatious all his life, [Tschichold] found himself proclaiming much that was exactly opposite to what he held to be correct in 1928.")  Disputatious? Lawks. Sadly, the examples that he gave throughout the book - in much the same way as the examples of cover design I saw a few months back at a lecture on book design at the RSA - were to my eye jarring, poorly formed, laboured and often archaic-looking. 

Maybe I'm insufficiently educated. Maybe I have terrible judgement. Perhaps. But instead, here are a few of my views on cover design. 1) The cover has to position the book in its genre. 


Easy, really, to check if you've got this one right. Take a copy of your book cover into store, go to the relevant shelf and see if it fits. Does it stand out? If it does, it's probably wrong. The blurb and the cover and the writing is unique, but the only way the reader will discover it is if the packaging explains, at a subconscious level, what the words are about. You wouldn't expect to open a cornflakes pack and find pasta, would you? Same deal. 

2) The elements of the cover have to blend. 

lit copy.jpg

Often the font of the title can look plonked. Make sure that the layout of the words, like on these fine books, is integrated with the image. 

3) Observe genre conventions. 

A bit like #1, but here are some rules of thumb: 
- Crime has a 'destroy' type font (see Death Artist and the Kathryn Fox, above)
- Zombie / werewolf / vampire horror has a layer or two of distressing: 


- Commercial fiction aimed at women has a handwritten font


Of course all these rules are to be broken at will - but they are excellent starting points in a cover design project. I'll add to these 'rules' as I think of them!  Right now I have to go to prepare for the Gardners trade show tomorrow. See you there if you're going! 


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