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.
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.