Covers

Secrets of The Book Designer: Creating Something from Nothing

4 November 2017

From The Literary Hub:

In designing a book cover, the how is more important than the what. The way something is visually rendered—in the form of typography, image, shape, pattern, color, etc.— is more important than what it symbolically represents. While content and meaning are obviously valuable, they come second to emotion and execution. First, the book has to be picked up. If the design does not get you there, the fact that the cover may perfectly encapsulate the text is irrelevant. It’s what the cover feels like that matters.

This is especially true for contemporary fiction, where more often than not a jacket simply needs to look big, important, and “warm”—this last term being a catch-all for “approachable,” “human,” and “covetable.” Something that is “warm” feels good and real. Conceptually straightforward, this can be tricky to achieve.

. . . .

The problem is always how to start.

So instead of waiting until the end of a design process I can’t begin to add this feeling of reality, I use a physical process to initiate and influence my design. Rather than seek out a library of visual references to copy and modify (endlessly and helplessly scrolling through Pinterest), I look through the manuscript to find material and procedural references. On the most basic level, this means if the book is about water, I play with water.

. . . .

Physically experimenting makes me feel productive, even if nothing immediately comes of it. I can either stare anxiously at a blank computer screen, or I can assign myself a task. Given the choice, I’d rather spend a day carving type out of a block of foam, ripping up paper, or playing with layers of transparency on a light box.

Sometimes the process is successful. Sometimes it’s not. But if I physically make something, I can look at it from different angles, pinch it, twist it, crumple it up. Occasionally this will produce unexpected and exciting results. I’ll end up with a design I did not plan for.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

Somehow, PG believes not all cover designers work in this way.

The Story Behind the Most Haunting Book Cover on the Shelves

6 October 2017

 

From Electric Lit:

Carmen Maria Machado’s debut collection Her Body and Other Parties has been shortlisted for the National Book Award, and readers everywhere are talking about her intricate stories. Machado’s collection is dark, disturbing, sensual and sexy. Her work refuses to fit neatly into a category, and includes elements of psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. In these eight stories, fables and classic fairy tales mix with a meditations on Law and Order: SVU, Girl Scouts lost in the woods, and a liposuction procedure.

The cover for Her Body and Other Parties picks up and intensifies the ambiance of the book. Kimberly Glyder, who has created numerous covers for Graywolf, Scribner, Little Brown, and more, captures Machado’s unique voice with a striking and sinuous image.

. . . .

Liz von Klemperer: What, if any, were your expectations for the cover?

Carmen Maria Machado: I had a Tumblr that I put together of visual inspiration, so when the time came I sent it to Kimberly. I also filled out a questionnaire my publisher gave me that included key words, images, and things I absolutely didn’t want on the cover. I suggested the colors black, white, grey and green because of the green ribbon in the first story, “The Husband Stitch.” In terms of themes, I just wrote “women” and “queer women,” and then I suggested the image be mid-century to modern, but the book isn’t really time period–dependent.

LVK: What were the things you absolutely didn’t want on your cover?

CMM: I said “no dudes!” for obvious reasons. Nothing pink or girly either. I just don’t think it would be appropriate for the tone of the book. I also wanted to avoid women with Spanish fans, or salsa dancers. Nothing like that. I’ve noticed this happens a lot with women of color, and it just wasn’t what the book was about.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

Cover versions: why are UK and US book jackets often so different?

29 September 2017

From The Guardian:

Covers sell books. But in the case of Hillary Clinton’s memoir What Happened, you can’t help thinking that the book’s sales in the UK are despite the jacket treatment, not because of it. Whereas the US jacket oozes the gravitas you expect from the woman who stood up to Donald Trump, the UK jacket has all the power of a shrugged “meh”.

The book is published worldwide by Simon & Schuster, and the company’s US division opted for bold lettering on a white-and-blue background (incorporating the Democrats’ traditional colour). The design screams its serious credentials: this, it tells the reader, is The Book by the woman everyone expected to be a shoo-in for the Oval Office, a woman defined by her service in husband Bill’s and Barack Obama’s administrations.

It is a cover worthy of the memoir that has a place in academic libraries. Weight is given to the title, What Happened. A simple statement, it hangs above Clinton’s name, reflecting the question on the lips of everyone who awoke on 9 November to find Donald Trump was soon to get access to the nuclear codes.

But the UK cover … where do you begin? Any sense that Clinton is laying it on the line, or even offering answers, is washed away by a design so hackneyed it even has a generic politico-at-a-rally headshot, albeit one in which Hillary’s firm-lipped expression is reminiscent of the look your mum gave you the first time you barrelled home drunk. Not only that, but the background colour is as pallid as one of her pant suits, and the title – a question on the lips of everyone in the UK as well as the US – is squirrelled away beneath her name.

When I ask, “What happened?” her publisher responds with a terse refusal to comment. But it raises the question: why did the Americans get it right and the British so wrong when UK book design is supposedly the envy of the world?

. . . .

Traditionally, US design tended towards literal interpretation, driven, Bache believes, by the complexity of the US market: the image that motivates readers in southern California to pick up a copy of a book is likely to be different to what appeals to readers in South Carolina. As a result, US jackets have tended to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and that does not make for good design.

“It’s a complicated [market], so the design becomes simpler and focuses on broader appeal,” Bache says. “However, things have shifted in the last few years,” he adds. “There are a lot more similarities now, particularly in literary novels where the luxury of creating much more elegant, beautiful covers has been afforded to the books.”

The designer and illustrator Neil Gower believes US designers have upped their game because of the explosion in digital books. “I think ebooks and the internet have definitely focused publishers’ attention on making books beautiful, covetable objects again,” he says. Publishers on both sides of the Atlantic realise that to justify the cost of a hardback, a book needs to be more than a container of words. It has to be an object of beauty in its own right, he says.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Here’s the US cover:


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And the UK cover:

Driving Down the Price of Publishing

14 September 2017

From Good Ereader:

Not too long ago, self-published authors were collectively admonished about the need to invest in their work. Hiring quality editors, proofreaders, cover designers, and formatters before attempting to sell a book was the constant mantra of industry experts. While some hapless writers continued to slap their Word docs up on Amazon and hope to snare a few readers, authors who took their careers seriously made the proper investments.

Around that time, a number of startups emerged, all billing themselves as eBay-like marketplaces for author services. Many of those startups have shuttered their virtual doors, while a few that produced meaningful connections between authors and publishing service providers have managed to thrive. But that hasn’t stopped newcomers to the game from trying to continually undercut the concept of paying for quality work.

“When I first began finding clients through online freelance postings, the self-publishing industry was a different place,” stated one editor who did not wished to be named. “Authors who had done their homework not only knew how much editing might cost, but they also knew enough to have sent their work to their writing group for critiques or even beta readers before declaring it ‘ready’ for editing. Now, I find new job postings almost daily requesting full edits of an 80,000-word book for $100.”

That’s one of the double-edged swords of self-publishing, of course. An indie author without a solid backlist and sales to go with it may not be able to invest thousands of dollars for a full suite of services, but that doesn’t change the income needs of those who are expected to do the work.

“I love spending time with other local authors, but conversations about finding editors and cover designers have become heartbreaking,” said Andrea Patten, award-winning author of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head. “Poor quality isn’t good for any of us. If we don’t support talented, experienced editors and designers, all that will be left are those who are willing to be the lowest bidder.”

Link to the rest at Good Ereader

Designing for Human Attention

13 September 2017

PG thought this item had relevance to author promo, website and cover design decisions.

From UX Planet:

I have always been fascinated by the way the human mind works. I am also convinced that being familiar with cognitive sciences is one of the key skills of any designer. To better myself professionally and perhaps to help other people learn something new, I decided to write about the cognitive topics I am interested in.

. . . .

Although the design is perceived by our senses (vision, touch, hearing), it is immediately processed by our brain. As designers, we have to understand how to create experiences that go hand in hand with how the human brain evaluates them. While being a designer, you have the power to control the human mind during and even beyond the interaction with the product.

. . . .

Attention = working memory

Everything we see, hear, touch or smell is processed by our brain and affects our memory system. This system is divided into:

  • working memory
  • short-term memory
  • long-term memory

Working memory contains information about the focus of our attention. As the capacity of our working memory is rather small (research shows the capacity can range between 5–7 unrelated concepts), our attention is considerably selective. Our brain is simply not able to process all that is happening around us at once. It is instead narrowing down its focus to the most relevant pieces of information. The relevancy is determined by our own objectives.

Our brains receive about 11 million bits of data per second, but we’re only able to process roughly 50 bits per second.

Information from the working memory can be lost very easily if the focus shifts. Many of us can relate to a situation like this one:

In the middle of counting someone suddenly interrupts you. Afterwards you have to start all over again, because you don’t remember exactly where you left off.

You walk into a room, suddenly realising you have forgotten the reason you went there in the first place.

. . . .

While using the search function on a website, users enter the search terms and then review the results. The attention shifts from the input to the results. That means the users often forget what the initially typed search parameters were. Sites with a search function should have the input parameters displayed prominently even when already showing the search results.

. . . .

Nowadays, our brain gets most of its information through the eye. Our eyes play an important role in how we perceive design. The structure of the human eye is complex, but the most important finding is that there is a part of the eye called an “eye fovea” in the central part of the eye. It is a small circle (1.5 mm wide) and it is the part through which our brain gets most of its information. There are 3 reasons for this:

  1. This small part of the eye has a significantly bigger resolution than the rest of it.
  2. The cells in the fovea are also connected 1:1 to the ganglial nerve (which transfers information to the brain), which is why they don’t have any data compression — in contrast with other parts of the eye.
  3. The fovea is only about 1% the size of the entire eye, but the visual cortex of our brain devotes 50% of its resources to it.

All of this results in humans having a very narrow focus.

. . . .

These findings are easily applicable to design. Users are not able to see the whole website at once. They can merely scan the page. That means their eyes jump very fast from one part to another. The most attractive usually is the part of the website that is in contrast or involves any kind of motion.

. . . .

Important, mutually related information has to be shown in a compact way, so that users can perceive these elements together. Use the gestalt principle of proximity that says:

Objects or shapes that are close to one another appear to form groups.

Link to the rest at UX Planet

When Your Favorite Writer Does Not Like Your Initial Cover Designs

11 September 2017

From The Literary Hub:

Making personal work has always been a part of my practice. In fact, until a few years ago, my only job was being a bartender, and my personal illustration work was my single source of visual output. With a little luck and a lot of help, I stumbled into my career as a book cover designer. With so much to learn in design, I had to organize my time wisely. As a result, the time I spend on my personal work has diminished, but the occasional selfish urge will compel me to make something. It’s a way of practicing my skills and exercising my ego—a task I think is necessary in order to thrive as an artist.

My foray into book cover design has brought many perks, one of which is working for authors I’ve long admired. Lo and behold, I was recently assigned with a new collection of short stories by one of my favorite writers, Jeffrey Eugenides. Hell yes. Furthermore, he wanted an illustrated cover. Jackpot.

I read the manuscript overnight. I couldn’t believe how good it was. I poured all of myself into designing this cover for the following week and hit “send.” As I eagerly awaited approval, I enjoyed a rare moment of satisfaction.

. . . .

The following morning, I was not met with the reaction I expected. The author, whom I planned on wowing with my ingenious designs, did not write me a personal email saying, “It is more beautiful than I could possibly have imagined. Whatever the book’s success is will rest in significant part with your work on it; I’m so grateful!” Instead, due to the mercy of my editor, much of the author’s response was redacted and summed down to, “I’m afraid I’m bearing bad news . . .” I did not pass go, and I certainly did not collect $200.

Let the spiraling commence.

What started weeks ago as a sure winner had turned into a hundred-page InDesign document. Embittered, I started bargaining with myself through cheap edits. Surely, italicizing the subtitle will do the trick. No? How about making it sans serif? Two more weeks dragged on, and I was no closer to an approved jacket. People started getting impatient, and the aforementioned mercy of my editor was nowhere to be found. Quiet threats of assigning a freelancer to finish the job began floating around. The anxiety trickled down and spread through me like a pox; manifesting itself at 3am as a recurring nightmare in one act.

. . . .

It’s happened before, and it’s liable to happen again. My instincts as a designer had unwittingly betrayed me. I wanted to make a beautiful book jacket, but had forgotten why. I reminded myself that a well-designed book jacket ultimately serves the book it’s made for. Like a neon sign, a three-letter word switched on in my head: J O BThis is a job. I closed all the tabs and windows on my screen. A fresh start would do me good.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

The Typographic Details Behind Typewolf’s Favorite Sites of August 2017

1 September 2017
Comments Off on The Typographic Details Behind Typewolf’s Favorite Sites of August 2017

Indie authors are advised not to attempt too creative with their fonts in manuscripts destined to become ebooks. Given the limited font support in the variety of ebook readers, tablets, ebook apps, etc., the results can be unfriendly to a good reading experience.

However, fonts used on ebook covers, websites and in social media promoting an author’s books are a different story. In those media, right or wrong fonts can have a big impact.

From Typewolf:
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Tom Ross

This site is more type-focused than your typical photographer’s portfolio which helps to set the mood before the visitor actually explores any of the photos. The logo is set in Introspect, a hippie-esque font that was popular in the 1970s—it’s actually the same font used in the Albertsons grocery store logo, but here it’s artificially skewed to the left in a reverse italic style which makes it less recognizable. Extended cuts of fonts have been trending lately, but we usually see neo-grotesques used like Helvetica Neue and Nimbus Sans. So seeing something from the gothic genre, like Trade Gothic used here, is a bit different.

. . . .


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Linda Huang

Linda Huang has an amazingly good collection of book covers in her portfolio which shows type being used in all kinds of clever and creative ways. The font used on her site, The Stroke Sans, is unique as well. It draws on similar calligraphic influences as Frauen, the font I used for my own personal portfolio, but combines that style with a “computer-generated” pen stroke. Notice the unusual connecting strokes on the letters w and M. It’s definitely a distinctive font, however, the kerning looks to be a little off—notice the gaps in the words graphic and covers in the above screenshot.

Link to the rest at Typewolf

How to Judge a Book by its Cover

24 July 2017

From Design Observer:

AIGA and Design Observer’s 50 Books | 50 Covers competition, which reviews and awards the best of book and cover designs published within the past year, has just concluded its 94th cycle. We’re pleased to announce this year’s winning cover and winning book selections, along with a few trends the judges couldn’t help but notice while digging deep into the stacks to pare nearly 700 submissions down to 100 final selections.

. . . .

As popular as the ebook (supposedly) is these days, to our judges—Gail Anderson, designer and professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City; Michael Carabetta, Creative Director of Chronicle Books; and Jessica Helfand, Co-Founder of this publication—the strongest trends from the hundreds of selections they reviewed were of the tactile variety.

. . . .

Carabetta, who has previously juried the competition, noted after a full day of reviewing entries that the final books selected were excellent “not only in design—[but] in production; in paper, mixing coated and uncoated… People are getting into the real, physical qualities of the book.” He went on, “Maybe it’s because of the screen age we live in that they are appreciating the tactile quality.”

The book, in the mind of the bibliophile, has been threatened for some time now: due to the adoption of radio, or tv, or the direction that the current political wind is blowing. And book designers responded to these influences in the way designers know best—visually. In one particularly symbolic example, author Ray Bradbury ensured his 1953 book, Fahrenheit 451, would avoid the untimely demise experienced by those books of his plotline by binding the second edition in fireproof asbestos to prevent its burning.

With the adoption of ebooks, it seemed book lovers everywhere were not able to shake the fear that the humble object of their affection–a book created by the art of ink on paper (no battery required)–was similarly under fire. But the book has persisted in new forms, designed in even more inventive and delightful ways with each passing year. After reviewing one cover design, Anderson said, “This is one of those covers that I wish I’d done, but can now never attempt because the designer executed it perfectly.” If that’s not a high accolade, I’m not sure what is.

Link to the rest at Design Observer

PG is not an expert on cover design (plus a great many more subjects), but he had a difficult time picking a couple of award winners that he actually thought were well-designed for inclusion at the bottom of this post.

From the photos and descriptions in the OP, PG surmised that the judges of the design competition may have performed their duties entirely with physical books without examining how those covers translated to a computer or smartphone screen.

He has no doubt that the tactile qualities of the paper, etc., were lovely in person. However, a book cover is, first and foremost, a marketing and promotion tool. Tactile qualities only contribute to book sales in physical bookstores.

If the covers are only attractive and attention-getting in their physical forms and fail electronically, PG suggests they have also failed in their principal business purpose. Cover designers can probably have a lot more fun with a physical instantiation of their creations, especially with interesting papers, textures, etc., but if the objective is to enhance sales of the book, the cover will fail if it flops on Amazon.

 

Some Rain Must Fall and other stories
AUTHOR: Michel Faber
PUBLISHER: Canongate Books
CREATIVE+ART DIRECTOR: Rafaela Romaya
OTHER CREDITS: Illustrator: Yehrin Tong

The Children‘s Home
AUTHOR: Charles Lambert
PUBLISHER: Scribner
CREATIVE+ART DIRECTOR: Jaya Miceli
DESIGNER: Jaya Miceli

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14 Sites for Making a Spectacular Book Cover

21 April 2017

From The Digital Reader:

A book’s cover is often the first thing a reader sees when they find your book for the first time.

You never have a second chance to make a first impression, as the saying goes, which is why many would suggest you hire a professional to design your book covers.

But some authors have the skill to DIY or want to learn about cover design by doing so they can work better with the designers they hire, so here are fourteen sites, services, and apps that you can use to make an awesome book cover.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Nate has included several interesting-looking sites with which PG was not familiar.

He has used Canva, however, for creating and formatting some social media posts (not for TPV and not book covers, but for other parts of the PG media empire).

Here’s what Canva says about book cover design:

You’ve done the hard work and created an amazing book. Make sure it sells out by creating an awesome cover design!

Canva’s free book cover maker is ridiculously easy to use – even for the novice or not-so-tech-savvy writer. Our book cover maker allows you to choose from hundreds of layouts, making it easier than ever to create a memorable cover.

. . . .

Create a beautiful book cover in under 5 minutes

  1. Open Canva and select the “Kindle Cover” design type or insert your own custom dimensions
  2. Choose from our library of professionally designed layouts
  3. Upload your own photos or choose from over 1 million stock images
  4. Fix your images, add stunning filters and edit text
  5. Save and share

Customize your book cover to suit your book genre

  1. Change the images. Upload your own images or choose from our stock library of over 1 million photographs, graphics and illustrations.
  2. Change the fonts. Choose from of over 130 fresh fonts.
  3. Change the background. Choose a background from our library or use an image.
  4. Change the colors. Change the color of your text boxes and text to add extra flair.

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Here is a demonstration of Canva’s power (for good or evil). PG created this cover in a few short moments without even thinking about it.

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Typography can make or break your design: a process for choosing type

15 April 2017

From freeCodeCamp:

One of the most important skills you can learn as a designer is how to choose type. This is because text is one of the primary ways designers can communicate with users. Typography can make or break a design.

There’s a beauty and complexity to typography. Some people devote their entire careers to type. Thankfully, their work is well documented, so we have tons of online resources for typography.

This article is designed to serve as a starting point for helping you learn how to choose type for your designs. It will encourage you to explore fonts and font combinations beyond those you’re familiar with.

. . . .

[I]f you are designing a greeting card that’s illustration heavy, choose a font that fits the style of your illustration. Harmonize your type with the rest of your design.

. . . .

After determining the purpose of your design, identify your audience. This step is crucial because age and interest will influence your font options.

After clarifying the purpose of your design, identify your audience. This step is crucial because information about your users such as age, interests, and cultural upbringing could influence the decisions you make for your type.

For example, some fonts are more appropriate for children. When learning to read, children need highly legible fonts with generous letter shapes. A good example of this is Sassoon Primary. Sassoon Primary was developed by Rosemary Sassoon and based on her research into what kind of letters children found easy to read.

. . . .

 Other fonts are more appropriate for seniors. Senior-friendly fonts use readable sizes, high contrasting colors, and avoid scripts and decorative styles.

. . . .

 Armed with research and inspiration, you are ready to choose your type. When it comes to choosing type, keep the following principles in mind: readability, legibility, and purpose.

. . . .

Choose fonts that are conventional and easy to read. Avoid highly decorative fonts in favor of simple and practical fonts. Also, be mindful of the purpose of a font. For example, some fonts are more suited to be headers rather than body text.

Link to the rest at freeCodeCamp

PG immediately thought about fonts used on book covers when he saw this. Lots of examples at the OP.

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