Design I « Caderneta

Book cover design

The purpose of a the cover of a novel is simply and obviously to sell the book. To a reader however, a book cover has another life. It set the scene before a word is read and it is returned to throughout reading. The cover has an influence on the feeling that a reader will experience each time she picks up the book to return to the story. The colour, the images (if there are any) and the type (which it must have) combine to frame the story and a really good cover, well-matched with its contents, adds another dimension to, and enriches, the experience of reading a story.

Any story can be represented by images in a multitude of ways, none of which would be absolutely ‘right’, because something always must change when moving from image to word or word to image. It is not even true that the cover must show what is inside the book. It could relate to the story by boiling down the theme to some essential quality. It could show only some small detail on which the story turns, it may be enough that it shows the title and the author’s name in a way that seems to fit.

For a designer, a book cover design should always be considered as a prize, since if the book is good, it may have a life of decades or more and a good cover design may be as well loved as the leading character of it’s story.

Some notes and departure points for looking at book cover design

William Blake, working long before the mass-produced full colour book cover:

William Blake, hand painted frontispiece for Songs of Innocence and of Experience 1789

Medieval illuminated pages:

Illuminated text, The Book of Kells, circa 800

At the end of the 19th Century, as in many other areas of design, modern movements such as the Arts and Crafts movement and Art Nouveau started to have an effect on the design of the book cover. Covers of the literary journal The Yellow Book illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley:

Aubrey Beardsley, The Yellow Book, 1894

Aubrey Beardsley, Salome, 1896

Futurist book covers, here an example by Bruno Munari:

Bruno Munari, L’Anguria lirica by Tullio D’Albisola 1934.

And his later work:


Bruno Munari, Speak Italian: The Fine Art Of The Gesture

Innovative designer and illustrator Pierre Faucheux:

Pierre Faucheux, Le K à la manière de Lewis by Paul Malar, 1952

Robert Massin, there is an article on his book design here.


Massin, Tropique du Caducée by Paul Malar, 1952

A TED Talk on book design from prolific book designer Chipp Kidd.

Chipp Kidd, Nothing If Not Critical

Rick Poynor articles about the Penguin Essentials series, J.G.Ballard’s book covers. An Article on Germano Facetti by Richard Hollis. Large collection of book covers: The Book Cover Archive. A talk by Penguin book cover designer David Pearson:

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