Book Cover Design: Jessica Colvin

When reading through Chapter 4 of Timothy Samara “Design Elements A Graphic Style Manual” a couple of principles really caught my attention: the range of literal to abstract in images and how that plays into the scale of reality/believability to the symbolic; how words with pictorial qualities transform into super signs that evoke visual, emotional and intellectual qualities that make them memorable; and how metaphor can be used for mental brainwashing because viewers given a series of images or text and an image will automatically create a narrative to connect those things.

Looking through the Book Cover Archive by Ben Pieratt and Eric Jacobsen, I found three book covers that relate to the project I would like to design and also demonstrate the principles taught in the selected reading.
“The Crow’s Vow” uses a literal image of a crow that is highly realistic in a way that makes it into an abstract symbol.  By placing the image of the crow in a line of text it makes a complex statement without complicating the design.  It forces the viewer to fill in the missing word with the picture in a way that I believe captures the ‘super sign’ quality and makes it a highly memorable cover design.

“The Crow’s Vow” by Susan Briscoe, Designed by David Drummond

“Pale Fire” by Vladimir Nabokov, Designed by Stephen Doyle.

“King Arthur in the East Riding” by Simon Armitage, Designed by Samantha Johnson.









The cover of “Pale Fire” is a metaphor that creates a mental narrative for me.  The title and the spent match invite me to create a story out of those two things.  It is thought provoking in that it is not clear what is actually meant by ‘pale’ fire, but when paired with the spent match it makes you think that smoke could be ‘pale fire’ or perhaps the fire that used to be on the match had some special quality before it was blown out.

The third cover I picked out was the closest to a traditional fantasy style cover that I could find.  “King Arthur in the East Riding” has a photo cover which, despite the anachronism, makes it quickly recognizable and gives me the illusion that I know what the story will be about.
I primarily read fantasy and the majority of cover designs are highly realistic paintings or photographs.  While I enjoy this type of artwork, I also enjoy the simple abstraction that is present on many general fiction or poetry covers such as “The Crow’s Vow”.  When considering what I would like to design for my own book, which walks the genre line between women’s fiction and YA fantasy, I would like to capture this uncertainty in genre in a simple but evocative cover design that would appeal to readers of both genres.  I think I would like to experiment with digital collage and metaphors when creating my design.

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