Beach Read Book Cover Design
You might think a lot of science goes into designing the cover of a best-selling summer novel: data from booksellers, perhaps, showing that romance covers with indigo script fonts have a 23% better chance of reaching the New York Times best-seller list, for example.
The reality is that book jacket design is more about following the prevailing trends and gut feelings. When you’re designing the book jacket for a potential blockbuster, there’s a lot of gut feelings in the mix: authors, agents, publishers, booksellers, and so on, all of whom have their own opinions about what makes a perfect cover.
So how does a graphic designer navigate this minefield? To find out, I asked art directors at imprints of HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster to walk through the cover-design processes for some of this summer’s most anticipated books.
For Queen Bee, Reina looked for a photo of a woman who would resonate with both older and younger readers. Once they found a model everyone could agree on, the rest came together quickly, right down to the elegant script of the title (Hoefler&Co.'s Requiem Display).
“Cover design is all subjective, you know?” Reina notes. “There can be a lot of disagreements about, say, how blue the ocean should be and what that means. So even simple covers can take a year to put together. This one only took a few months, though, which was nice.”
Gregory had a vision for the cover visuals: the marshy tidelands of England’s south coast, as experienced during the summer of 1648, and as described in vivid detail in the book.
The only problem? There are no photographs from 1648, and so Iacobelli had to composite a realistic vista using stock photography and hundreds of Photoshop layers. “Sometimes you get asks like that, where you have a big author with a vision, and it’s your job to execute it in such a way that it still works as a consumer package,” Iacobelli says. “In this case, I think it came together nicely.”
The final design features the silhouette of a young model standing in front of a fiery paisley wallpaper pattern, with the title and author credit elegantly conveyed in House Industries' Neutraface Display. The new cover conveys at a glance the idea that this is a story of mystery and intrigue, involving a woman stepping out of the shadows of history…and hopefully into the hands of a new audience.
“Having the sisters overlap was a way to show the connection between them,” says Iacobelli. “We nailed the colors pretty early. One of the only changes we had to make was to tweak the figures so they looked a little fuller–we didn’t want them to come across as supermodels, but as real women a broad spectrum of readers could identify with.”
For the jacket Mrs. Everything, Iacobelli chose two different typefaces: Neil Summerour's Lust for the author’s name, the contours of which interplay wonderfully with the fall of the two women’s necklines and hair, and Jeff Levine's Payson for the title. By balancing a modern serif with a clean sans serif that evokes a simpler era, the jacket design subtly evokes the novel’s multiple time periods.
To make it work, Iacobelli went abstract. The cover of It’s Great To Suck At Something is almost a celebration of sucking, with purposefully askew type rendered in Hipopotam Studio’s Mr Black. Yet the surfing element is still there, courtesy of wiggling blue lines atop which a partially wiped-out “at” bobs and floats.
“It’s hard to design something that evokes sucking without actually sucking,” laughs Iacobelli. “Hopefully, we succeeded.”
Although the finished design only features two figures, “I composited about four different vintage photos together in Photoshop for the cover,” says Corcoran. He then used a combo of Brian Willson's American Scribe and Jorge Cisterna's Taberna Serif Black to give the cover a dynamic quality. It's clear at a glance that the novel is historical adventure, not some dry treatise on Civil War arcana.
The answer, apparently, is "all of them," which seems appropriate: The novel is about a protagonist with an unhealthy fixation on the ’80s. To bring these disparate elements together, Corcoran even referenced a retro device: in wraparound, Selling Nostalgia’s cover looks like an old VHS box.
Once he was satisfied with the cover's composition, Corcoran added noise to it in Photoshop to give the finished some vintage grit. “It helped balance all the colors together,” he says. “In my opinion, it was perfect.”
Corcoran’s favorite touch: “I love the blinking word processor cursor in the subtitle,” he says. “Those little things are the most fun for me, because people never consciously notice them, but if they weren’t there, they would stand out.”
The stereotypical summer novels may be light and frothy, but now you know how much thought goes into the book cover designs.