Should Designers Read the Book Before Creating a Cover?

Book cover design is a very particular form of graphic design. It should communicate something about the book – obviously. It should also be engaging and stir the reader’s interest. Some books are more open to creative covers. Some books need a more conservative approach. What should a designer do to get it right? Read the whole book or just a few reviews?

Here are a few thoughts on the issue:

1. The Cover Before the Book

On many occasions, designers get the commission for a book cover before the book is even completed. The brief may be as brief and vague as it gets. The designer does not have many options in this situation. He may follow his instinct and present a rough draft early in the publishing process and get feedback from the publisher before moving on to details.

Otherwise, he may try to contact the author and obtain a draft or a synopsis of the book, a few themes approached in it or an outline of the characters. On a different note, the design for the cover should be self-sustainable and communicate something to the reader on its own. Although the saying is “do not judge a book by its cover”, when there is such a huge market for books, the cover is the first contact between the prospective reader and the book.



2. Redefining the Classics

Many designers find it easier to deal with republished editions of classic novels. They usually know the subject very well and need no further instructions with regard to the design. However, the really challenging task for a designer is to create a fresh, new approach to the “old-time” classic and to give people new symbols and new keys for interpreting well known subjects and characters.

Some designers will go for a re-reading of the book, simply in the quest for a new interpretation, a word or a phrase which will become the central meaning for their design proposition. Others believe in detaching themselves from the book in order to develop a fresh approach.




3. The Challenge Of Designing Covers for Non-Fiction Books

Scientific books, manuals, handbooks are special and designing their covers is not an easy task. You cannot be too creative, but not dull either. You can explore color palettes that go well with the specific subject of the book (shades of green for biology, for example) and, whenever in doubt, go for abstract designs. In this situation, you are not supposed to read the book (if it is too technical, you won’t even understand it), but get the major theme and work around it.


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Ionut B
Digital Art Director with an innovative creative thinking able to translate ideas and concepts into useful and memorable interactive marketing campaigns.

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