Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


Book Covers of the Future

Chip Kidd's book cover design for Murakami's latest book, 1Q84

Good book covers in the old print forest were an artful endeavor that actually enticed sales and set mood for the whole damn story.

Now comes digital — with new book cover challenges as well as opportunities. The advent of digital has actually, I believe, enhanced the visual design of print covers — but, that’s another story.

Viewing/reading digital book covers of different formats over different e-reading devices (like a Kindle) is sometimes like “reading through a tub full of dirty dishwater” according to one renowned book designer.

Here is some hot buzz on future book cover designs by Hannah Johnson on Publishing Perspectives:

Designers on Book Covers of the Future

The reading experience on a Kindle is like “reading through a tub full of dirty dishwater,” said book designer Carin Goldberg at an event entitled “The Next Chapter: The Design and Publishing of the Digital Book.” E-books, and the endless uniformity of their reflowable text, are some of the most egregious offenders of bad aesthetics.

The event took place in late January at the New School for Design in Manhattan and was organized by AIGA, the professional association for design. Goldberg (designer and design instructor), along with Chip Kidd (Knopf), Jeremy Clark (Adobe) and Craig Mod (writer and publisher) spoke about the design challenges and opportunities that digital books present.

One thing that the speakers made clear is that the design of a book is very much informed by the format. Chip Kidd flipped through images of his wonderfully designed cover for 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, and lovingly explained how the design of the hardback reflected the two planes of existence in the book. But of the two-dimensional cover on the iPad, Kidd remarked sarcastically, “whoop-di-f*cking-doo.” The audience roared with laughter. In truth, however, the iPad cover is what many readers are going to see — both when they browse in the iTunes store and when they open the book for the first time.

When designing for digital, Goldberg said, “the vocabulary is very different from print.” Maybe the mindset needs to be different as well. Shoving print design into digital format can result in less-than-exciting outcomes, like Kidd’s reaction to his own design on the iPad.

So what is the solution? If there are design limitations with digital content, there are also new opportunities. Goldberg presented a showcase of animated book covers her students had produced. My first reaction: why don’t more publishers do animated book covers? Of course we have to ignore the fact that such animations are impossible on black-and-white e-readers.

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Covers: Design and Production

Let’s talk a little today about creating covers for printed (and digital) products. In the deadline business of magazine production, the cover is often times a last minute change (due to changing news stories) requiring a talented meshing of disciplines. Book covers, on the other hand, are easier simply because you have more time to think them through. Both books and magazines, however, share cover design and production similarities.

An insightful slice into cover design by Vanessa Voltolina, Design & Production @ FOLIO Magazine:


Issue: December 7, 2009
Frequency: Weekly
Launched: 1930
Circ: 850,523
Publishing Company: Time Inc.
Managing Editor: Andy Serwer
Creative Director: John Korpics

Last minute covers are an all too common occurrence in magazine publishing. But turning around a cover with all original images and a painstaking retouching process is a feat for even the best of them.

The December 7 cover of Fortune “was originally going to be something else,” says Fortune creative director John Korpics. “We had this great, creepy-looking mechanical bug drawing that we were going to use [on Intel being sued], but right before we were going to begin work on the cover, the case was settled out of court and the story got killed.”

Acting quickly, Korpics enlisted photographer Geof Kern, who was working on another issue feature, “How To Build Great Leaders.”

Kern began working on the “brick man” cover the next morning. The design, based on his earlier feature spread photos, “had to be cleaner in background than the feature spread in order to have room for cover lines,” Korpics says. “I think in the original sketch, the brick man was completely finished, but we decided to leave his head unfinished to give the impression that it was hollow and being built as we went.”

The final brick man image was created through photography and retouching and involved Kern shooting a male model wearing a suit and tie in the studio, who would become “the map of the future work in post, transforming his contours and their light into brick.”

He then photographed a brick turned in different directions to the camera and light because “the man is a contoured landscape, and I knew the bricks would have to make paths around contours in different perspectives, so we had to have many views of the brick with corresponding light quality.”

The amount of the retouching, however, was significant—Kern hasn’t worked on a magazine cover requiring as much as this one. To perfect the brickwork, Kern enlisted retouchers (Imaginary Lines) who worked on each brick, one by one, in Photoshop for three days.


“I love the conceptual illustrated cover and it¹s a great image for the feature story and will appeal to Fortune’s demographic. Aesthetically, the cover is too busy for my taste. With all the repetitiveness of the bricks, pinstripe, pattern of the tie and textures of the type my eyes just want to move on and not read the text. There are too many typefaces for my eyes to focus on what to read. I’m not sure where to go and there is no real domination of the feature story headline. It might have been saved with the lines on the left being smaller. Overall I like the cover as a conceptual execution, but think it fails on type legibility.”

Holly Holiday | Design Director | US Airways Magazine

“One must admit, this cover is very well executed. Sans type, it’s a very impactful image. On a newsstand, it would make you stop, pick it up and see what they are trying to say. I love the idea of leaving the top part of the head remaining open, since it really opens up a lot for interpretation. The Fortune masthead really jumps off the page here, it’s very clean and has a nice backdrop for it to rest upon. The main cover lines could be in a bolder face to stand out from the rest. Yes, they are larger, but there is a bit of competition here with the inside story lines. The ‘Plus’ lines could be a smaller point size with no Italics. On a positive note, they wrap around our main image here very nicely. Bottom line, this is strong on impact and straight to the point.”

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