Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Notes on Book Cover Design

This Means That

The reader is challenged to think about how they perceive the images shown in the book.

Semiotics- The theory of signs. Signs heavily rely on context.

Signs can change based on convention.

In the equation Apple = Temptation, Apple is the signifier and Temptation is the signified.

Indexical Relationships- When there is a physical or causal relationship between the signifier and the signified, the non-arbitrary relationship is indexical.

"We are 'thinking things'"

The person's perception has a great effect on the interpretation of any symbol, icon, index, or sign.

Synecdoche- The representation of something by the removal or absence of some of its parts.

Q&A on Smithsonian

The book being designed should preferably not be incredibly lame if you have the choice.

The designer can be encouraged to do a good job if the writer is doing the same.

One should avoid literal book designing. Also, one should be careful when dealing with controversial material as it could backfire or have a negative effect.

One doesn't always have to appeal to the majority as long as it is successful.

"The challenge is to subvert the genre" (In relation to the genre affecting the book design).

An idea for a book cover could be taken from anywhere.

John Gall Interview

When independent publishers join with larger corporate entities, it is much more difficult to achieve uniqueness.

Knopf Group put book cover design back on the map with designers like Chip Kidd, Barbara de Wilde, and Archie Ferguson.

Different groups within the publishing company will have different answers to the question: "What makes a good book cover?"

"A really great cover is going to convey the essence of the book in a unique and surprising way that maybe pushes the design envelope a bit."

"The mission is really to allow the book to make a great first impression"

Personas and Scenarios

"If successful information design requires a thorough understanding of a commitment to the audience, creating personas (sometimes also referred to as user profiles) is an easy and fun way to walk a mile in the shoes of your users"

"Personas are like actors"

Book Cover Examples

I understand why the designer chose to use only a few letters of each word to show the title, illustrating the idea of fastness in typing. However, it does make it slightly confusing to look at and read. From afar it would read "FSTR JMS GLCK", that doesn't really sound like anything recognizable unless you already know the title and author. Once one gets up close to read, the large caps are still competing for your eyes' attention while you try to read the actual title and author. An interesting idea nonetheless.

This cover interested me because of its blur effect. I don't know how effective it is at portraying the material inside the book though. Also, the "Stories" part is somewhat lost in the flurry of movement, but serves as somewhat of an anchor and a place to relax for the eye. An exciting way to use type, but I'm don't think it is very successful.

The handwritten title along with the painted illustration go very well together. I think the head does a nice job of leading the eye down to what should be read, or vice versa. The balance in this piece works well, and the colors make it easy to distinguish what is what. Overall this is a successful cover in my opinion.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sign, Index, and Symbol

Sign: action, event, pattern, etc., that conveys a meaning.

When you walk up to a wild tiger in the forest and it growls at you, that is a verbal sign that you should back the hell up.

A hand in this position is a sign for the letter A in sign language

Index: something used or serving to point out; a sign, token, or indication: a true index of his character.

"Meow" is a verbal index for a cat.

Smoke in your house is a visual index that something is burning.

something used for or regarded as representing something else; a material object representing something, often something immaterial; emblem, token, or sign.

"Freeze!" Yelled from behind you is a verbal symbol that someone is aiming a weapon at you.

The skull and crossbones symbol represents dastardly pirates or death.

is character.

"Meow" is a verbal index to a cat.

Smoke in your house is a visual index that something is burning.


Thunder is a sign for a storm

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Possible Book Choices

1) Island

2) Aldous Huxley- He was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley Family. He spent the later part of his life in the United States, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death in 1963. Best known for his novels including Brave New World and a wide-ranging output of essays, Huxley also edited the magazine Oxford Poetry, and published short stories, poetry, travel writing, and film stories and scripts.

3) Eyeless in Gaza, Ape and Essence, The Doors of Perception, The Genius and the Goddess, Antic Hay, Those Barren Leaves.

4) Will Farnaby, reporter and underground agent for an oil magnate, is shipwrecked on the island of Pala, where for 120 years an ideal society has flourished. In the mid 19th century, a Scottish doctor successfully treated the enlightened Raja of Pala and settled on the island. These two men then designed a perfect society in which (according to the book jacket's description), "sex lives are unabashed; children are carefully conditioned from infancy and none is at the mercy of one set of parents; jobs are assigned according to physique and temperament," and everyone uses "moksha medicine," a drug that sharpens and deepens powers of consciousness. Farnaby learns more and more about this seemingly perfect society as he gets caught up in its political and economical problems.

5) Thought-provoking, complex, spiritual, inspiring, contemplative, argumentative.

6) A commentary on today's world. Serves as a mirror in which modern man can see all that is rotten in his society and in himself.

7) Protagonist (Will Farnaby) comes to respect the island and it's ways, and abandons plans to promote oil development on the island.

8) Antagonist (Murugan) frowns upon the sexual freedom, drug use, and general lack of "ambition" among his countrymen. He secretly conspires with Colonel Dipa (dictator of a neighboring island) to sell-out Pala.

9) "Nobody needs to go anywhere else. We are all, if we only knew it, already there. If I only knew who in fact I am, I should cease to behave as what I think I am; and if I stopped behaving as what I think I am, I should know who I am. What in fact I am, if only the Manichee I think I am would allow me to know it, is the reconciliation of yes and no lived out in total acceptance and the blessed experience of Not-Two. In religion all words are dirty words. Anybody who gets eloquent about Buddha, or God, or Christ, ought to have his mouth washed out with carbolic soap."

"Faith is something very different from belief. Belief is the systematic taking of unanalysed words much too seriously. Paul's words, Mohammed's words, Marx's words, Hitler's words - people take them too seriously, and what happens?"

"Here and now, boys"

10) I thought this book to have a highly complex plot and meaning. The paperback cover that I have and the covers I have seen do not reflect this. I thought this to be a good opportunity to design my interpretation of such a thought-provoking book.


1) Dracula

2) Bram Stoker- was an Irish novelist and short story writer, best known today for his 1897 gothic novel Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business mangaer of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned.

3) The Snake's Pass, The Lady of the Shroud, The Jewel of the Seven Stars, The Mystery of the Sea.

4) he novel is mainly composed of journal entries and letters written by several narrators who also serve as the novel's main protagonists. Jonathan Harker and several others battle with an undead count who wishes to take over the woman of the novel and all of London.

5) interesting, horrifying, mystifying, suspenseful, creepy.

6) There are horrible and malicious things on earth that one should be wary of.

7) Jonathan Harker (Protagonist)- His love for his wife and horrible experience in a castle lead to his hunting down and killing of Dracula.

8) Dracula (Antagonist)- Seduces and bites Harker's wife and Lucy. He also plans to turn all of London into blood thirsty vampire minions.

9) "As the Count leaned over me and his hands touched me... a horrible feeling of nausea came over me, which, do what I would, I could not conceal."

"When the Count saw my face, his eyes blazed with a sort of demonaic fury, and he suddenly made a grab at my throat. I drew away, and his hand touched the string of beads which held the crucifix. It made an instant change in him, for the fury passed so quickly that I could hardly believe that it was ever there."

"I shall cut off her head and fill her mouth with garlic, and I shall drive a stake through her body."

10) It is a classic tale of pure horror made quite a while ago. The time period the story takes place is of great interest to me and I believe I could work upon it.


1) Something Wicked This Way Comes

2) Ray Bradbury- s an American fantasy, horror, science-fiction, and mystery writer. Best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 and for the science fiction stories gathered together as The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man, Bradbury is one of the most celebrated among 20th and 21st century American writers of speculative fiction. Many of Bradbury's works have been adapted into television shows or films.

3) The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, Fahrenheit 451, A Graveyard for Lunatics.

4) It is about two 13-year-old boys, Jim Nightshade and William Halloway, who have a harrowing experience with a nightmarish traveling carnival that comes to their Midwestern town one October. The carnival's leader is the mysterious "Mr. Dark" who bears a tattoo for each person who, lured by the offer to live out his secret fantasies, has become bound in service to the carnival. Mr. Dark's malevolent presence is countered by that of Will's father, Charles Halloway, who harbors his own secret desire to regain his youth.

5) symbolic, mysterious, amazing, awe-inspiring, suspenseful, happy.

6) The battle between good and evil, age, death, belief, fear. Also, the idea that the power of people, objects, and ideas depends on the power you instill in them with your own mind.

7) Charles Halloway (Protagonist)- starts out in the novel as a quiet and unhappy man, not very close to his son, but eventually gains self-awareness and faith while up against the carnival, and becomes a fighter in his right by the end of the novel, along with gaining the admiration, love, and friendship of his son.

8) Mr. Dark (Antagonist)- initially holds sway over the other main characters, but his power weakens when Charles uses happy emotions against him, something he cannot comprehend or withstand. Charles' happiness crushes Mr. Dark.

9) "A stranger is shot in the street, you hardly move to help. But if, half an hour before, you spent just ten minutes with the fellow and knew a little about him and his family, you might just jump in front of his killer and try to stop it. Really knowing is good. Not knowing, or refusing to know is bad, or amoral, at least. You can’t act if you don’t know."

"Acting without knowing takes you right off the cliff."

"Who has more pockets than a magician?
A boy.
Whose pockets contain *more* than a magicians?
A boy's."

10) This book affected my imagination. I think that the themes and richness of this book make for great fodder for design.