Welcome to Cover Design in a Digital World! If you are a first-time reader, please start with the Introduction and continue with each post in chronological order (see the calendar, to the right of this page). This blog has been an interesting journey across time and genres, while attempting to navigate the process and development of cover design through the years, until the present and the relatively new, digital challenges these last few years have brought.
Of course these posts are only a small example of the wide range of cover designs across the publishing industry throughout the years but I nevertheless believe that they give some idea of the factors and concerns facing publishers and designers, then and today, who need to make decisions on cover design in order to get each book the recognition it deserves (or simply to get make sure it is received by the right audience).
Every year there are hundreds of thousands of books published worldwide, new or updated, while publishers continue to try to sell books that they already have in stock. This means that there are other factors to consider than simple aesthetics; a designer can (perhaps sadly) not be creative and play with a book cover any which way he or she likes. After taking a look at different genres with each new post it is clear that there are established rules for each genre that must be followed; it may have taken time but eventually each genre has developed a certain look that must be duplicated in order for the audience of said genre to spot it quickly and easily through certain images, colours and fonts.
There are of course exceptions from this, literary fiction for example deviates from this formula exactly because it isn’t formulaic, the stories are complex, more serious, and usually critically acclaimed, if they belong to literary fiction. As such those covers would be more artistic, they could look completely different from other books of the same genre (which may have nothing in common with each other) as the idea is to distinguish them from other literary fiction. Graphic designers, when choosing great cover designs, would certainly choose the covers that are distinct from those that they would have seen before. On the other hand, those books are more difficult to sell because they do not belong to a recognized genre such as science fiction or chick lit, whose covers are not as overtly artistic – yet they speak volumes to customers as they are based on models that have been proven to sell.
In the end that is what cover design is about; it is a tool which helps to sell the product. We may live in a new world, we may have e-books that do not need covers, and yet people still choose to buy e-books that have covers instead of the ones who don’t. The digital market means that customers no longer view books the way they would in a bookstore, the images are much smaller and that must be accounted for, which explains the development to bigger fonts, bolder colours and a simplicity which makes the most important elements stand out, such as the title of the book and the author’s name. Despite those changes the landscape is still the same; book covers are advertising, and for the foreseeable future, they will continue to be used, both digitally as well as physically, to entice customers to buy the product. The cover is not dead, far from it.