In my workshops on ‘Book Cover Design’, attendees re-design covers of books to create added impact and interest, and the children are often very creative and come up with stunning ideas which are not limited by traditional expectations. As this is fun and the design has to reflect the text, reading is necessary - often works that they would not otherwise have chosen. If they enjoy reading the book, they may read more. Participants also browse library or bookstore shelves to help them gain a recognition of the importance of the design of the spine to tempt potential purchasers to take a book from a shelf.
Here’s a section of children’s books on a shelf in my studio.
Which ones stand out most to you?
For me, it’s those with stripes of colour, and the bright yellow ones (or having a significant portion of yellow/orange), and yellow script on a black background.
'Wombat Went A Walking’, illustrated by Lachlan Creagh, is only 24 pages with a wrap around cover, but his clever positioning of the characters that flow from the front to the back cover, with white space between them, produces the eye-catching stripes on the narrow spine. (It’s also superbly illustrated inside and a book that children love - published by Lothian in 2011.)
My pick for the all time 'most effective, most memorable cover design in the history of the book'?
It's the highly contrasting black and yellow stripes of ‘for Dummies’ guides. You may not agree, but I’m sure it's contributed enormously to making the series highly profitable.
(Publishers - you must realise that a high percentage of males are colour-blind and will never see a contrast between red and green.)
Readers also have expectations for cover and spine design, and typography. The spines of fantasy novels are usually ‘of a similar kind’ – so if you are a fantasy author, you want your book to stand out from the pack ...but it should still have the appearance of 'a fantasy book' (and the same for other genres).
Nowadays, when so many books are purchased from internet stores, an impressively designed front cover is also vital to maximise sales – but that’s a subject for another day.
But not all bookshelves are the same. I’ve seen some that are constructed as a series of diagonally arranged boxes so that books are supported on sloped surfaces.
Why are books generally lined up from side to side on a horizontal shelf? Certainly it makes it easy to remove a single volume, but they don’t necessarily take up less space that way round. Here are some book stacks that have been created by artist Mike Stilkey, who paints the spines and covers of already published books with ink and acrylic and also works on them with coloured pencils to create acclaimed artworks.
Perhaps publishers should more often consider incorporating designs that flow from cover to cover across all books in a series so that they can be displayed like this, either on their own shelf or alongside those in a traditional arrangement. It would surely encourage readers to purchase the whole set - and as you see above, it is possible to use as few as three books.
Or why not display books with covers facing outwards, with designs that fit together? 'Book walls' do not have to be this large:
Many thanks, Mike, for giving me permission to share these images – I hope readers of this blog will check out your complete website at http://www.mikestilkey.com/ and your facebook page and images of your work at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mike-Stilkey-official/271560459538235 ...and I look forward to seeing what you show at your forthcoming exhibition in Times Square, Hong Kong in July.
Here are two of Mike’s larger installations:
Time to be creative...