As an aspiring author with one completed manuscript, I have spent the last two years following the publishing world, watching the current trends and comparing my favorite books to those being published now. When the opportunity arose in this course to design my own book cover, I was excited and a little overwhelmed. My novel straddles two contrasting genres (general fiction and fantasy) and two reading levels (young-adult and adult). I have had enough difficulties finding the right words to pitch my book to agents and editors, but trying to capture my story in a visually pleasing design was a whole new challenge. Eventually, I settled on three drastically different cover design options.
Most book cover designs I researched fell into three style categories, they were either graphic (made primarily with computer generated bold imagery and stylized font choices), photographic (composed of realistic and altered/enhanced photo images) or art based (the primary focus of the cover art being a painting or other styles of digitized physical artwork). These were the three different styles I tried to use when designing my book covers.
This first book cover was my attempt at a graphic design. It was design entirely in Illustrator and was the most challenging due to the simplicity I was trying to achieve. I chose a simple image that has meaning in the story, a road, and tried to make that image graphically interesting and appealing. My goal with this cover design was to leave the genre of the book deliberately vague while appealing to a wide range of readers, both young-adult and adult. I do not believe I was successful in capturing an adult audience with this book cover design. While it is simple and memorable, it lack a sophistication that is necessary to immediately attract an adult reader. My font choice, while I believe it is appropriate as I wanted it to appear like chalk drawn on pavement, appears a bit childish. I also wonder if I should have attempted for a bit more abstraction in my image choice. Simplicity in graphics is important and used extensively in book cover design, however while I believe my road design is simple, it is not interesting in a sophisticated way that draws eyes and keeps attention. If I were to redo this design I would attempt to apply some abstraction to the concept of the road to add interest while not adding complexity.
My second book cover design is photographic in that I used two open source photo images and altered them using Photoshop. I have worked with Photoshop extensively outside this course so it was not too challenging to work with layers and opacity to achieve my desired image. This is my favorite book cover design as it captures the central theme of the book in its mystery and fire while also clearly showing this book is about a young girl. This cover to me is strictly a young-adult novel cover, however it does successfully straddle the line between fantasy and general fiction. I like the balance achieved in this design where the image and the title have equal weight and don’t detract from each other. I also enjoy the use of several different fonts. I used a font style reminiscent of a classical typewriter to ground in reality the text of ‘My Life’ but used a watery messy ink style font for ‘Elsewhere’ to capture that essence of fantasy and offer the visual question of how real or solid is ‘Elsewhere’ compared to ‘Life’. For the rest of the text on this cover I used a clean san-serif font that I thought was clear and easy to read and complimented but did not compete with the two font choices on the front cover. A small thing that made me happy as a designer was the use of the same typewriter style font in the author name. This is deliberate because in the story there is a twist at the end where you learn that the protagonist is also the author. Using the same font is a subtle hint at this, but also easily overlooked.
In this design I also used Illustrator’s pattern tool to add a soft water-ripple pattern to the varying blues of the cover. I think the pattern helped add interest and tie the book design together visually.
In this last book cover I experimented with a physical medium using watercolor and ink to attempt to draw my main protagonist. I’m fairly happy with the results as I’m not a water color painter. Her eyes being uneven bothers me most, but given that it was my first attempt at painting a person with watercolor, I am happy with the results. I photographed this image and brought it into Photoshop to do some simple color adjustments and to make two layers of the painting, one with the foreground (my protagonist with the sword and flame) and one with the background blue colors. Between these two layers I added a custom pattern design I created with Illustrator. This pattern design I wanted to mimic flame and just add a bit of interest and unity between the painted image and the side panels. This cover design I feel is reminiscent of an older style classical fantasy book cover. If you look at fantasy books published in the late 90’s or early 2000’s, many of them use similar art style choices. For the font on this cover I chose something that I felt was classic and had some fantasy elements in the dramatic serifs and stretched x-heights. The text I chose for the inside flap on this book cover is also different because I didn’t feel this cover could be construed as non-fantasy, so I embraced the fantasy aspects of my story and wrote a truthful, but different, summary. I also experimented with text placement on the back cover where I placed a common quote from the book but split it up to fit inside the white portion of the flame. I think it is visually interesting and is successful in this example, however I feel that a longer quote would not have worked in this space.
Overall, I enjoyed creating these three different book cover designs and believe each is successful in its own unique way. Of the three, my favorite is the photographic image cover because I feel it is the most representative of my story. However, design wise, I do prefer my last art based cover, because I really enjoy how mixing the softness of watercolor art with the clean lines of Illustrator created patterns made a cohesive and visually appealing book cover.