A great book cover should be striking, memorable, profound, and, most of all, eye-catching. It should pull a reader across a bookstore with a flash of color or a slick effect. But today, designers must think beyond the physical bookstore and consider the digital one as well. The parameters of each differ in nearly every respect. So, how have designers adjusted? With the huge growth in online sales, has the digital bookstore begun to drive the design process?
Here are some tips offered by Penguin Random House experts on cover design and selling online.
The Sizing Challenge.
The most noticeable difference between a cover’s presentation online and in person is its size. On the shelf, a cover might be 10″x6″, but online it shrinks to about an inch on a computer screen—and even smaller on a mobile device. Given this discrepancy, you might think that the solution to this conundrum would be creating two different covers—one that works on a larger scale and one that pops at a fraction of that size. But designers warn against this. The cover is the most obvious consumer-facing branding of a book, and designers want to ensure that a reader can recognize that brand across all formats and platforms. Whether a reader sees the cover in a promotional email recommending the book, in the window as she passes her local bookstore, or online when she goes to buy it, she should see the same image every time. The consistency bolsters her relationship with the book and increases the likelihood of purchase.
Editor’s note: Packaging design presents its own unique set of challenges to graphic designers that differ from other kinds of print design. Here, we asked Brad Murdoch from Process, a premium packaging manufacturer based in Salt Lake City, to help us identify some common mistakes. Process handles custom packaging and fabrication through its network of overseas manufacturing facilities.
When evaluating the visibility of a logo design, most designers consider how it will look in all kinds of situations — printed on advertisements, cast in metal, embossed on letterhead, foil-stamped on packaging, blown up to a mega-size for environmental signage, etc. Logos for apps, however, are different. The most important test is how the mark will look at less than a quarter-inch high when viewed on a smartphone or laptop screen. Here’s a quiz to see if you can name these app brands, shown here larger than they are normally seen.
There are some retail brands that we can spot a mile away, driving 65 miles per hour, even before we can make out the letters in the name or the logo. We recognize the brand by its signature colors. Color is a critical part of any graphic identity system. Some designers reformulate colors by tweaking the hues –making shades richer, darker, lighter or more orange, green or purple, etc. — to strengthen their proprietary link to a brand. Others simply choose “off-the-shelf” colors but display them consistently in the same combination –e.g., red, white and blue and a certain North American country. This quiz challenges you to match these color swatches with the brands they represent. Good luck! See answers after the jump.
Designing a book cover is an exercise in balance. The image or graphic has to distill the story without giving away the plot. It has to create “shelf presence” to entice shoppers to pick up the book for a closer look. It has to avoid false advertising, but can’t be boring, even if the content is. It should give shoppers a sense of the genre – suspense, sci-fi, romance, self-help, current events – but imply that the author has a unique and fascinating take on the subject. While it is true that “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” it is also true that you can design a cover that makes shoppers want to buy the book. This video from Random House features interviews with book designers from its publishing groups (Random House, Knopf Doubleday and Crown) providing insights into the complex process of creating compelling, eye-catching and meaningful book cover jackets.
The Pantone Color System is nuanced and exact, which is why it is common to see designers agonizing over Pantone swatches to find the precise hue, tone, tint and saturation they want. When Pantone decrees the “Color of the Year,” designers in every industry pay attention. So it is not surprising that the cosmetic giant, Sephora, has teamed with Pantone to turn out a Sephora-Pantone Universe Color of the Year collection. Pantone 17-5641 Emerald is Pantone’s choice for 2013 Color of the Year, and Sephora has issued the color in a limited edition line of products for 2013. If emerald makeup isn’t flattering to you, maybe you can settle for an emerald makeup brush just to be in on the hottest trend.
For decades, Moleskine has been renowned for its little black notebook that artists, designers, and writers carry with them everywhere to capture their first inklings of brilliant ideas. Other brands offer notebooks too, but only Moleskine, in iconic black with its external elastic band and ribbon bookmark, signals that you are an authentic and serious creative type. So, Moleskine’s announcement that it is releasing its notebooks and planners in four bright colors, in addition to black, is newsworthy. Insecure creatives may be reluctant to buy a color other than black.
Wild Winter Ale is the fourth in a limited edition series of seasonal beers released by Danish brewery Mikkeller in 2012. The label, created by Swedish graphic design agency Bedow, features a simple silhouette of a leafy apple tree, printed with thermochromic ink. The ale is meant to be kept refrigerated or at least cold until serving. What makes this label intriquing is that the ink is heat sensitive. As the label gets warm from being held in the drinker’s hand, the tree begins to shed its leaves until only its bare limbs remain.
Thermochromic inks were first popularized in the 1970s, appearing in “mood rings” that changed colors supposedly indicating the wearer’s emotional state. Increasingly, designers are finding creative ways to use heat-sensitive inks in printing.
The words “typeface” and “character” are fitting terms to describe fonts. When listening to good designers talk about them, you would think they were gossiping about people. They talk about their emotional qualities, complain about what they perceive as their flaws, get blushingly specific about their physical beauty. For them, some typefaces are casual flings, good for a quickie when the mood strikes and the lighting is right; with others, they are in love and ready to commit for life. For many designers, a studying letterforms is more engaging than reading what the collected letters have to say.
The covers of most university catalogs typically show photos of the campus or students lounging around the quad, or just present a plain typographic title. The covers for the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Extension catalog are an exception to the norm. Since 1990, they have featured the works of several of the world’s best-known graphic designers, beginning with Paul Rand.
Rob Forbes, founder of Design Within Reach, has founded another company – Public Bikes. To introduce consumers to his new venture, Forbes recruited 27 world-renowned designers and illustrators to create art posters around the concept of “public.” All of these posters are being gathered into a book called “Public Works,” sold as individual posters, and shown in exhibitions slated for San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City.
Forbes, an avid biker, urban dweller and environmentalist, explains the impetus for his Public Works project was to bring greater attention to the critical issues of public space, access and livability of cities. “In recent decades, our cities have been evolving from manufacturing and industrial centers into cultural hubs,” Forbes says. “The 20th century movement that encouraged people to leave cities for the suburbs has now been reversed. For the first time in our history the majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and this trend appears irreversible….People choose cities for what they offer: connections with people, ideas, stimulation, opportunity, creativity, and diversity. Our public spaces should facilitate these connections, not stifle them.… We believe that more of our urban streets and sidewalks should be reclaimed for walking and bicycling, and that our public spaces should be developed for better human interaction and conversation.”
When you are given an assignment to demonstrate the awesome special effects possible on paper, you need subject matter worthy of such dazzling printing feats. Superheroes. Pirates. Bigfoot. Weird larger-than-life creatures. Spies. It didn’t take long to figure out where to find all of them in one place – at 826 National, a nonprofit network of tutoring, writing and publishing centers for kids, ages 6 to 18. The 826 centers are “disguised” as retail stores, selling gear for “real” working pirates, superheroes, time travelers, bigfoot researchers, robots and so on.
Extending a brand into global markets isn’t a straightforward process. Product makers have to consider all kinds of cultural and language barriers. Can the letterforms be read? Can the name be pronounced? Does it have a pleasing or harsh sound when spoken? Does the name mean something else in another language? (An example is the famous case of the Chevy Nova, which in Mexico translates to “doesn’t go.”) Then there is the challenge of trying to maintain some graphic consistency so the brand is truly global and not the same product that looks different in every regional market.
Consider how Carlsberg Beer and Coca-Cola graphically translated their logotypes into multiple languages, for example. LogoDesignLove brought the Carlsberg comparisons to our attention. With Carlsberg, note the way that the designers tried to carry over the signature style of the brand — the flat-top squared-off “C,” tri-leaf accent pattern, the swash decorative flourish under the type, the brushstroke-like serif on the last “r.” Although the letterforms differ dramatically from language to language, the various logotypes have a family look that suggests their roots stem from the original Danish Carlsberg logo.
City-dwellers know that we are constantly bombarded with graphic messages. It’s the “white noise” of urban living. Most of us tune it out like the omnipresent sound of traffic and pedestrian chatter.
This 2006 award-winning film, made by Netherlands-based Studio Smack for Museum de Beyerd in Breda, has become a classic. Like an x-ray, the film “Kapitaal” zeroes in only on the graphic stimuli encountered by an “unseen commuter” waiting on a platform for the train, riding the subway and walking through the city. Everything but the graphic information is reduced to black silhouettes. Signage, logos, ads, train timetables, graffiti, posters and packaging labels stand out in stark white contrast. There is no voiceover commentary, just the claustrophobic visual assault pressing in from every direction. It begs the question: How much do people really notice in a world of information overload? How can designers and advertisers avoid adding to the visual clutter and give the public something they really want to see?
A USB socket that doesn’t need an adapter? It’s about time!! Product designers and engineers have focused on extending the battery life of laptops, iPods, cell phones, digital cameras, wireless headphones and the like. That’s all well and good, but at some point, they still all need to be recharged. They still all require a clunky AC adapter to plug the device into the wall socket. Here’s a solution that approached the problem from another direction – not by redesigning the electronic gadget, but by redesigning the electrical outlet.
The U-Socket is a duplex AC receptable with built-in USB ports that can power any device that is capable of being charged via a 5V power adapter. Replacing the standard 3-prong AC wall socket with one that has two USB sockets alleviates users of the need to have an adapter. In addition to making consumers happy, it would seem that any portable electronics device-maker would welcome this change. Here’s the rub: You have to swap out your wall sockets if you want to live in an adapter-free world. The best place to start, in my opinion, is in hotel rooms. Not having to haul around a tangled mass of cords and adapters would free up space in your luggage and make it lighter to carry too. A USB socket would be a hotel guest amenity that beats having a piece of chocolate on your pillow at night.
Aside from the fact that these are charming images embroidered by New York-based illustrator Jillian Tamaki, the covers of Penguin Threads Classics signal yet another move to define non-electronic publishing as more than a vehicle for communications. Traditional publishers can no longer assume that readers will stay loyal to print because e-books are harder to read due to screen glare, not offered in full-color, crippled by short battery life, limited in availability of subjects and titles, etc. Over the past year, the iPad, Kindle, Nook and other e-readers have proved otherwise, and are getting better with each iteration.