Yes! I do judge a book by its cover. So do you, probably. Most of my readers are pretty design savvy so you know you are critical, but even those of you who are not are still having a subjective response to the books you chose. Sure, we chose our books by author, by title, by subject or by a review we liked. These days, who is going to buy a book just for its brilliant cover? Yes, I see some hands rising. But what if we are wandering around the bookstore? Or reading a review with a picture of the cover? What catches our eye? More importantly, what thrills us? What demands our attention? The cover.
Ian Shimkoviak: book design. I love this! The images are from The Human Body, by Cyril Bibby and Ian T Morrison. Puffin Picture book No. 102. Shimkoviak found the image here at SeeSaw. No worries, he's been generous on twitter and Facebook, and I don't own the image anyway.
There are books I will pass by in the store simply because the covers are bad. They offend my eye. They do not thrill. Sure, for my favorite authors I'm willing to forgive almost anything just for the pleasure of the read, but a bad cover diminishes the thrill, and will likely kill random bookstore sales.
Authors have little or no control over the visual packaging of their books. It's not their fault if the design department of their publishing house has bad taste. But I do blame the houses for hiring designers who crank out...visual garbage. Such a shame.
That said, there are so many brilliant book designers and so many ways to enjoy their work, on the books themselves and through their websites and design blogs. Book design is a good enough paying gig not only for the designers but for the artists and photographers whose work they often feature. Here are some book covers featuring work by artists who have shown at Pine Street Art Works, or who are related in some way.
First, a photo by Cara Barer, whose work is always available at Pine Street Art Works. What can I say? Cara's work is stunning. Nicely featured here, with no distractions. Image relates to the book topic in an almost metaphysical way. Although it is a book of theory, the cover itself is lyrical.
The Late Age Of Print. Photo by Cara Barer. Design by David Drummond. Columbia University Press.
Next, Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel. Alison's original ink drawings from her comic series, Dykes To Watch Out For, are available here at PSAW.
Fun Home, Alison Bechdel. Illustration by Bechdel.
Next, a photo by me, Liza Cowan, for Laurie Essig's Queer In Russia: A Story of Sex, Self,and The Other. I took this picture in Moscow in 1994. The publisher made it blue and photoshopped it so that the figure of the author stands out. I'm satisfied with the cover, which I didn't design, although I would have right - justified the subtitle and changed the line spacing to make it closer together. Would have made the Q smaller too, since it's huger than the head, but still, I'm proud of it. Not so pleased that they never paid me, but I was new to the field, and didn't understand that cover photos actually pay quite well. They said it would be good publicity for me. Hah. Fool me once.
Queer In Russia: A Story of sex, self, and the other. Laurie Essig author. Photo by Liza Cowan. Duke University Press.
Next: American Photobooth by Nakki Goranin. Nakki exhibited images from this book at PSAW in March 2008. We look forward to exhibiting images from her next book on Tintypes. In this cover images sell the book. Anything but a simple title would diminish their power.
American Photobooth, Nakki Goranin. WW Norton, publisher.
Next, Connie Imboden, Reflections, 25 Years Of Photographs. Another photography book, the image is left to speak for itself, which it does eloquently. Connie showed her work at Pine Street Art Works in September 2007.
Connie Imboden, Reflections, 25 Years Of Photography. Insight Editions, 2009
Next, Alix Dobkin's My Red Blood. Alix will be doing a book signing here at Pine Street Art Works in May. This cover uses an old snapshot of Alix in her girl with a guitar folkie phase. I saw the original mock up for this cover with a very different typeface, and it was weak. With this the title in bold caps, right justified, the cover becomes a symbol of strength, played against the sweetness of the muted rainbow tinted image. I would have made the subtitle shorter (not the designer's job) used upper and lower case of the same font family as the title. I don't really like the juxaposition of the two typefaces, but on the whole, the cover works well for me. In case you are interested, Alix writes about me in the last chapter.
My Red Blood, Alix Dobkin. Alyson Books, 2009.
If you are interested in book cover design here are some great resources. Enjoy!
blogs and websites about book design.
Caustic Cover Critic
Book By It's Cover
premiere de couverture
book covers anonymous
The Book Design Review
Book Cover Archive
My Book Covers: Megan Wilson
Good is dead: Chip Kidd
Beyond The Covers: Ian Shimkoviak
Everyday design goodness: