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.
Celebrated Dutch book designer Irma Boom continues to push the boundaries of book design by defying the conventional use of publishing materials and printing. Boom’s special edition for Chanel No. 5 is loaded with images and text and uses absolutely no ink. The sheets are completely white and blind embossed throughout. The result is sensual, intriguing, ethereal and haunting, like the best fragrances. Boom’s approach to book design is that of a fine artist. In fact, of the more than 250 books she has designed, more than 50 are in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Boom created this limited edition book for the No. 5 Culture Chanel exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
BBC Knowledge & Learning (K&L) is exploring a range of topics, from social history to science, in a series of three-minute online Explainer documentaries. In this case, London-based Territory Studio was commissioned to produce an animated film on the subject of DNA. The Territory team, led by art director/ animator William Samuel, chose a primer-like retro approach that didn’t veer off into futuristic complexities. The graphics are kept simple and elegant, using mostly circular shapes, a limited color palette and mostly circular movements to explain the double helix of DNA. The information also is succinct and accurate, with molecular biologist Dr. Matthew Adams teamed with writer Andrew S. Walsh to distill the text to the most fundamental elements required to understand how DNA functions and affects living beings.
Lately several videos have passed our way telling a story by juxtaposing stock footage-type images on a split screen. They have no voiceovers or text, just music to set the mood. Some of the videos – such as this one issued by WWF — are quite compelling and poetic. Unfortunately, the WWF video had no production credits at the end, so we can’t tell you who made it. It does seem stylistically similar to “Symmetry” by Everynone, but that is just a guess.
Japanese graphic designer Masaaki Hiromura has made pictograms an integral part of the kanji characters he created for Tokyo’s Kitasenjyu Marui department store to come up with food words that can be understood in any language. The silhouette of the food appropriately replaces a stroke in the word so it can be read as text. Although Hiromura was probably focused on devising a witty and graphically interesting way to communicate to multinational customers who frequent the store, this display seems like the reverse of how written languages began in many ancient cultures. Japanese and Chinese characters started as pictographs, ideographic symbols describing objects and actions. Over time, these characters became less pictographic and ideographic and more visually abstract. What’s amusing about these pictogram characters is that we’ve come full circle.
Authored by Jessica Helfand and Michael Bierut. The Design Observer has hosted conferences, launched a publishing imprint, hosted three podcasts, and attracted more than a million followers on social media. All of these enterprises are rooted in the original mission to engage a broader community by sharing ideas on ways that design shapes―and is shaped by―our lives.
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