Sunday, September 9, 2012

Discovering Good Typographic Design within Book Covers

In my typography class, as part of our homework for this weekend, we were told to venture onto This is a site based off a collection of wonderfully designed book covers and sorts them by titles, authors, designers, and most importantly, fonts.

The big project that we are working toward is to design a successful book cover around a famous first paragraph of a fiction novel we were assigned. My assigned literature is The Secret History by Donna Tartt (published September 1992, what a great time in history).

For these book cover designs, we were to research fonts that were prevalent during the time the book was published and then pick two to use for our own designs. Garamond and Minion Pro our the two I picked and for our homework we were to go on The Book Cover Archive and research successful book covers that used our two chosen fonts.

Check out the link to the Garamond cover collection:

Title: Demonology
Author: Rick Moody
Publisher: Litte, Brown & Company
Designer: Paul Sahre
 The simplicity of this cover is one of its most successful attributes. It's easy to read and utilizes the design element of centering to draw the eye in towards the book. While primarliy focused on the text, the graphic (Sweet tarts...I hate sweet tarts) continues the style with its vertically dominant layout. 

Title: Joel on Software
Author: Joel Spolsky
Publisher: Apress
Designer: Gary Cornell
Archival and historical is what draws the reader in to Cornell's book cover. It utilizes the style of old-time linoleum prints and a limited palette to pertain to the subject of the book. Again, this designer centers the text to draw the reader towards the title. 

Title: Representative Democracy
Author: Nadia Urbinati
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Designer: Natalie F. Smith
I love the utilization of the lightness of the type paired with the light color palette. Although I have not read this book (nor do I really plan to), I believe that this subject is a pretty heavy one. It's interesting that Smith chose to represent this book in such a light and airy way. 

Title: Rose, 1944
Author: Helen Dunmore
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd.
Designer: Tim Ashton
I appreciate that Ashton chose to utilize the potential for Garamond to be bold. The title, as well as the author is written in all caps but alternates between bold and Roman. Primarily text-based, Ashton also successfully weaves the prominent graphic within the design.

Title: The Weight of Nothing
Author: Steven Gillis
Publisher: Brook Street Press
Designer: John Fulbrook II

Out of all the Garamond collection, this is probably one of my favorite covers. Fulbrook uses the idea of 3's within this cover, just like we practiced in Selby's class. The author's name is centered at the top and then the title of the book, while in two lines, represents the 2nd of the 3 elements. And then, written in tiny italics, is another element. Fulbrook successfully moves your eye throughout the book cover and continues to keep it moving through the simple, but interesting graphic.

Check out the link to the Minion Pro cover collection:

Title: The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears
Author: Dinaw Mengestu
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Designer: Henry Sene Yee
With this design, I really like how Yee sectioned off his cavas with string graphics. Dividing a design into 3's is a very powerful design tool. Yee utilizes contrast within her type as well as bridging her paragraph over the top section. By right justifying the title, she creates a centralized feeling with the graphics as well as the author. 

Title: Superdove
Author: Courtney Humphries
Publisher: Collins
Designer: Henderson Bromstead Art
Even though this is a very bad example of Minion Pro, I'm going to reference it anyways because The Book Cover Archive only gave me two search results. This designer also utilized centralized text and graphics to draw the audience inward. Playing with five elements on the cover, he sections them off to where they're evenly spaced but still not quite robotic. It's a very conventional design but works successfully with this book.

Note: The Book Cover Archive only had 2 designs in their Minion collection, so I turned to Google to get the remaining required designs.

Title: Wild Plants of the Sierra Nevada
Author: Ray S. Vizgirdas & Edna M. Rey-Vizgirdas
Designer: Cameron Poulter
Ignore the text on the right...but I really thought Poulter was successful in integrating the typeface into the subject of his book. By utilizing color (a light earthy brown) he was able to create the connection of dirt or soil along with the wild plants subject. I also like how he utilized size (huge title, all caps) to create an emphasis on what the authors were discussing throughout the book.

Title: Skies Over Europe
Author: Not sure
Designer: Unknown
This designer also used the centering design element to draw attention to the reader. It's a simple design yet beautiful. I really like how perfectly the style of the typeface meshes with the graphic. 

After we found good examples for each of our chosen typefaces, we were to continue browsing through The Book Cover Archive and discover five more designs that we found to be successful.

Title: Capture the Flag
Author: Arnaldo Testi
Publisher: New York University Press
Designer: David Drummond
I thought this was a very clever use of color as well as positioning with type. It's easy to read yet projects and very clear message of the subject of this book. Well done Mr. Drummond.

Title: Provisional: Emerging Modes of Architectural Practice USA
Author: Elite Kedan
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press
Designer: Project Press
This cover caught me eye because it was solely relient on text to make up it's design. The designers successfully integrate two different type faces (sans serif & serif) as well as bold/Roman and big/small type. It's a great example of just how far you can push the rules that Selby has give us. 

Title: Hiding Man
Author: Tracy Daugherty
Publisher: Picador
Designer: Jason Ramirez
This is another cover almost solely devoted to it's type. I think the use of different tints is really great. I also like the very opaque man "hiding" in the background. 

Title: A Short History of the United States
Author: Robert V. Remini
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Designer: Adam Johnson
I thought this was a great combination of graphic and bold type face. Although the graphic is interesting, it is really the type that gets the most attention. This is also a very good example of mixing sans serif and serif type. Johnson also successfully uses spacing and roman/bold type to bring out certain elements of information.

Title: Conversations with Woody Allen
Author: Eric Lax
Publisher: Knopf
Designer: Chip Kidd
I'm kind of a big fan of Woody Allen so it's a slightly bias decision of successfulness just based on the design but I believe that there are a lot of great elements within this cover. I like how the designer, unlike a lot of covers I've looked at, remained consistent with the style, size, and boldness of his type. He, instead, chose to focus on the placing of his words and create movement from the location of each typographic element. 

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