Creative: Cover Design, Same Image

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I’ve done cover design posts before, but I think this one is a good one. At least a good visual post. I created this post because I see a lot of bad covers coming through the Blurb network.(I see plenty at the local bookstore too.) And I’ve made plenty of books with lame coves, so always looking to improve my skills. I think often times people are so excited about the book they end creating the cover first, then rush through the remainder of the book because they are so amped to see their work in print. I’ve done that too, several times.

But the cover is unforgiving. Yesterday I spent an hour going through the Blurb bookstore’s “recently published” category and saw lots and lots of bad covers. Really bad. But I also saw more than a few that were very well done, and I found TWO that were brilliant. (at least in my unskilled opinion) The cover is going to make or break your book in a very, very short amount of time. The cover sets the mood and feel of the entire project, and should leave viewers wanting more. Humor, shock, drama, beauty, simplicity, all things I’d use to address the idea of a solid cover.

In this post I’m showing you four different treatments with the same cover image to give you an idea of how impactful your cover design is. Just feel how small changes in image placement, type face, font size, layout all work for or against the overall feel. Also note how the image content works with some designs better than others. Which designs feel like a travel magazine? Which ones like an adventure magazine? And what cover design fits the actual content of the images and the copy? To follow up my post from a few days ago, I’m using templates here so I can create options in a very short amount of time. I can print these out and lay them on my desk, living with them for a few hours or days to see what grows on me, the same way I do with my images.

Also, as I said before, the template is my trail map. I can hold to it like the law or I can morph it into something entirely my own. The point is to give yourself options. Take chances and experiment till you find that perfect feel. You can find Blurb templates here.

I gave a talk in San Francisco last night and told one of the attendees that as a creative person I always try to keep myself on the fringe of what I feel comfortable doing and that most of what I make ends in abject failure. But, I’m old enough, and seasoned enough to know the edge of the abyss is where most good things are made. These templates I’m showing here aren’t cutting edge but the point is to study them to find what resonates with you and what doesn’t which will hopefully help you get started when your next bookmaking voyage begins.

Comments 6

  1. It’s obvious from the above examples that the cover is so important in setting the tone (or perceived (by viewers) tone) for any book or magazine. I’m going to spend much more time on cover design from now on. Thanks, Daniel.

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  2. Do you do covers first? Last? Something else?

    I do them last, and very quickly, following my nose. This is, in part, because I am both lazy and anxious to FINISH (since I do them at the end), but I think there’s also an element of “If I keep messing with it, it’s going to turn into an overdesigned turd that I am, momentarily, in love with, but which is still a turd”

    Mostly I design things very lightly. Steal an idea or two, keep it simple, and press print.

    But my covers are thus not very compelling.

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      I normally overdesign up front, show a few people, watch their faces turn to horror then back off a few steps.

  3. Great examples, the cover can make a big difference. On my recent and first Trade 6×9, I opted to just let the full page image speak for itself. Not sure adding text would have made it more compelling. Like many things, there’s always an exception. I think my current project will indeed benefit from a thoughtful review of the cover design. Thanks for the inspiration and motivation!

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