Design For Meaning: Creating Effective and Artistic Book Cover Designs | Peter Mendelsund | Skillshare

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Design For Meaning: Creating Effective and Artistic Book Cover Designs

teacher avatar Peter Mendelsund, Associate Art Director at Alfred A. Knopf

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Identifying the Goals


    • 3.

      Reading as a Designer


    • 4.

      Turning Narrative into Design


    • 5.

      Sketching Ideas


    • 6.

      Considering Audience, Medium, and Examples


    • 7.

      Designing the Cover


    • 8.

      Troubleshooting: Ideas and Alternatives


    • 9.



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About This Class

It's not just what design looks like, but what it says. In this 66-minute class, acclaimed cover designer Peter Mendelsund shares his process for creating a book jacket that conveys the author's vision, sells the book, and pushes you as an artist.

Learn how to read as a graphic designer, iterate with imagination, and break the "rules" to make your message stand out. Nine video lessons follow Peter as he designs a Skillshare-exclusive cover for Wordsworth's "I Wandered as a Cloud," and a detailed project guide helps you create a cover of your own.

This smart, inspiring class is a must-take for graphic designers, illustrators, and everyone who loves to hold a book in their hands.

Meet Your Teacher

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Peter Mendelsund

Associate Art Director at Alfred A. Knopf


Peter Mendelsund is the associate art director of Alfred A. Knopf Books, the art director of Pantheon Books, and a recovering classical pianist. He has been called "the force behind some of today's most recognizable book covers" by The New Yorker, and his designs have been described as "the most instantly recognizable and iconic book covers in contemporary fiction" by The Wall Street Journal.

Among his most celebrated jackets are those for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; collections of the works of Joyce, Kafka, Dostoevsky, de Beauvoir, and Foucault; the contemporary works of Martin Amis, Tom McCarthy, Ben Marcus, Jo Nesbo, and James Gleick; and many more.

He is the author of Cover, an art book featuring jackets from throughour this career as well as reflections on the de... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Peter Mendelsund and this is book design on Skillshare. Today in this class I'm going to be reading you a short text and I'm going to walk you through that text. We are going to parse that text and then we are going to design a cover for that text. I worked Alfred A Knopf and worked freelance for all the other kinds of publishers. Twelve years ago I was not a graphic designer I was a classical pianist, which is the thing that I've done for most of my life. Started when I was four. When I was in my early 30s I discovered to my dismay that I needed to be making more money, I needed some health insurance for my growing family and my wife gamely suggested graphic designs, and the most important thing for a graphic designer to be able to do is to look around at the world, not even necessarily other examples of graphic design, but just visual optical things in the world that are made by other people and ask yourself do you like them or do you not like them? And if you like them ask yourself why you like this particular thing in the world and the way it looks, and if you don't like it then you need to ask yourself the same question why doesn't it succeed? What I did is I just sort of kept notebooks of these things, and they could have been posters, or graffiti, or it could just be something in nature, it could be something, it could have been a book cover, it could have been anything. At first it's okay to steal the things that you think look good. You need to learn how to make those things yourself, and the best way to do that is to imitate them. And so, at the beginning of my career as sort of a glamorous way to put it, but at the beginning of this process I spent a lot of time just imitating other people's work. So, the fact that I ended up in book cover design was an extremely lucky coincidence because this interview with Chip Kidd was set up for me. If the interview had been set up with any other kind of designer, who knows, I might have been doing that kind of design now. It's really for people who love to read and then render that experience somehow visually. All the material that I use on the cover comes from the text that I'm reading. So, to be able to read a text well is really the critical tool in terms of making a book jacket. I might also recommend becoming a book designer because it is a very pure form of design. And what I mean by that is, first of all, you have very little ancillary material that you are given to work with. You're not working with a logo for a corporation that has a whole history of branding and culture. There are very few clients that you actually need to appease. The cover of a book really has the material that you bring to it plus a certain amount of typography which is pre-determined: The author name, the title of the book and maybe a reading line or an author of line, maybe not. But generally speaking, I think of the material for a cover as being imagery, the author name and the title of the book. That's very little material in that equation that's given to you that is mandatory to work with. So, it's very much like making a poster in a way. It's a beautiful, rectangular format and you really get to express yourself creatively within that. And then finally, your name goes on what you do which is a real rarity in the world of graphic design. If you're branding a car, it's not like the Coca-Cola logo has the name of the designer that came up with it on it. Now, the point of purchase is a wonderful display for your work. Every time you walk in a book store, you will see your work there. 2. Identifying the Goals: So, there are three things a book jacket has to accomplish to be successful. The cover that you make has to be consonant with the author's work. The author set out to write this particular work. It might be a novel or a set of short stories or work of nonfiction. They had a very particular purpose in mind. There's a reason that they wrote this book and not some other book. So, once you've determined what that reason is, you really should try to represent that reason on the cover. Number two is less about your responsibility to the author and the text and more about your responsibility to the publishers and editors, and the people who make these books and sell them. That's exactly what your second responsibility is, to sell the book. The third important thing and this is really just important for you as the designer to keep you engaged and interested in this path of design that you're on is to make something that's new for you that stretches you as a designer. When I worked on Ben Marcus's book, The Flame Alphabet, it occurred to me around that time that there weren't any paper cut outs on book jackets. So, I started experimenting with, what would be like to cut something out of paper, a colorful paper, and start moving things around, and try to make something that way. The initial idea was to use the metaphor of the bird, which is an important metaphor in the book, and make feathers out of cut paper. I didn't really love the way it looked. It turned out that if you flip it this way, that the feathers became flames in a stylized way. I love the way that turned out. As it happens, it was a really successful book jacket. People commented on a lot. This is a highly experimental difficult novel to read, absolutely brilliant. But in a way, I think the jacket made it much more approachable. My point here is that medium can be a way for you to stretch yourself, just this idea of cutting things out of colorful paper, you haven't seen that around, you try it, you do it, you make something pretty. It represents the text. It sells the book. So, that's the trifactor. You want all three of those categories to be hit. I did repackaging for the works of Franz Kafka, Czech-German-Jewish fiction writer. Traditionally, Kafka's works have been jacketed very much emphasizes Kafka's interest in the darker parts of not just humanity but organized humanity in the form of politics. They were very neo-fascist looking jackets, lots of black and red. If you read Kafka deeply, there is definitely a darkness to his writing but there's also and incredible humor and yay saying life affirmation to his writing as well. I had felt for years as a reader that here was a writer who had been misrepresented. So, when the opportunity came to put new covers on Kafka's work, I jumped at that opportunity to bring in some color. The idea here was to turn the gaze a little bit back at the viewer and to experiment with a playfulness. Here, this is metamorphosis in which Gregor Samza is termed into a large ungeziefer, which is a bug or vermin. So, you see we have a human eye and insectoid eye here. So, you get both sides of the transformation. Another great backless project that I worked on was the works of the great philosopher Michel Foucault. Here, we have a bed spring for the History of Sexuality, History of Sexuality volume two is an apple with a bite taken out of it. So, this project for me was about trying to represent a school of thought, as simply as possible and with the use of a single object. Some of my work is all type and I really enjoy working with all type jackets. Ulysses is obviously for book designers a holy grail to be able to work on. Here, my initial idea was just to do absolutely as little as possible. My initial inclination was to do an all type jacket for Joyce that had no particular conceit on it at all. Just to let the work speak for itself and I would lay out the type in a classic calligraphic Serif font and that would be that. One of the wonderful and mysterious things about performing graphic design is that the process is mysterious and sometimes things come to you in a stroke of inspiration and I was looking at the old type jacket that I set and I saw the word yes imbedded in the word Ulysses. Yes of course is the last unspoken word of Ulysses and the Molly Bloom Soliloquy, and arguably the best way to describe the book itself. Seeing the word in there, was a real revelation for me. I subsequently wrote the word yes over 100 times, until I found one that I thought was suitably punk rock enough. Then, overlay that on the type and there you have an old type jacket. 3. Reading as a Designer: So, the text that I've chosen for us to read today is a poem. The poem is called I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud and it was written by William Wordsworth. I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o'er vales and hills, when all at once I saw a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils. Beside the lake, beneath the trees. Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Continuous as the stars that shine and twinkle on the milky way. They stretched in never-ending line along the margin of a bay. Ten thousand saw I at a glance, tossing their heads and sprightly dance. The waves beside them danced; but they out-did the sparkling waves in glee. A poet could not but be gay, in such jocund company. I gazed and gazed but little thought what wealth the show to me had brought. For oft, when on my couch I lie in vacant or in a pensive mood. They flash upon that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude and then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils. This is where designing starts with the text. I wandered lonely as a cloud. The title is the first part of this. A title for an author is very much like what a jacket is for a book designer. Coming up with titles is a very difficult thing much in the way that coming up with a book cover is a difficult thing. So, the first thing that I always look at is the title. So, I wandered lonely as a cloud, which is also in this case happens to be the first line of the poem. What are the component parts of that title? Wandering and loneliness and clouds. So, we have sort of three things to work with there. So, it described the way the cloud is it floats on high over vales and hills and then he sees these daffodils. So, now we have a new component which is the flowers. I might just think about that. I might just write the obvious thing which is flowers and lake. So, then he goes on to describe the flowers using other kinds of metaphors. He likens them to stars and then they're dancing, he says. Ten thousand saw I at a glance tossing their heads in sprightly dance so dance. So, again what I'm doing here is I'm just pulling all the important component parts of the poem so that the waves on the pond they're also dancing he in a way dismisses the idea of waves as a concept right there so I'm just I would just cross that out. So, the waves are there but they're not quite as interesting the flowers or the thing. A poet could not but to be gay in such a jocund company. He's happy about it so maybe happiness. I would write as sort of less a thing and more a feeling or affect which is another important sort of component part of the narrative that you want to be able to represent. This next part is important. He writes I gazed and gazed but little thought what wealth to me the show had brought. So, he looks at it. It makes him happy. But the true wealth of seeing what he refers to as wealth. The true impact of this particular display that he stumbles on doesn't occur to him until later. So, then the last stanza ends of books are very important. First question people ask me when they find out I'm a cover designer is do you read the manuscript. Obviously yes I read the manuscript and the second question they asked me which is a follow up question is did you read the whole manuscript and I will say yes of course I read the whole manuscript because often the kicker or the punchline the most important part of what you're going to read often happens at the end. Sometimes in the last line even of a 1000 page novel. It is very important to get to the end. The ends of books are just full of significance. So, here he writes for oft when on my couch I lie in vacant or in pensive mood. So, he's later on far away sitting on his couch and he's in pensive, he's thoughtful or vacant even. He's just thinking of nothing. He is just lying on his couch as we do. He writes they flash upon that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude. So, something really great is happening now. At the beginning of the poem he's just describing kind of this prosaic thing that happened to him. He was walking around, he saw something really beautiful. It made him happy. So, that's a little bit dull honestly there's nothing really that interesting and it wouldn't be a canonical classic poem if it were just about the fact that he saw a bunch of flowers they stumbled on and they made him happy. What's interesting happens in this last stanza which is that when he's lying on his couch all of a sudden there is the eye that has turned out that sees the flowers in the first place. All of a sudden it's turned in. So, an inward eye like that's fascinating and might be very hard to render graphically but hey I'm going to write it down because that's really an incredible concept inward eye I write with a question mark because how the hell do you make an inward eye. Which is the bliss of solitude. So, the bliss of solitude, the true rewards of loneliness and again solitude really echoes the first line. I wandered lonely so I underlined lonely here and now we have solitude. So, this is really a poem in a way about being in one's own company which is an interesting thing as well and then my heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils. The important part of the poem to me is that he is trying to express the sort of imaginative recreation of an event. The flower is an important metaphor here but it's a metaphor for memory and I think that we have everything we need to start constructing a cover now. This part of the cover design process really is the most important part. It's think then design. Read, think, design. That has to be the order and of course you're going to continue thinking as you're designing but the thinking that you do while you're reading is really the most important thinking that you're going to be doing. The design really comes here. So, you have all of these elements: Clouds, wandering, flowers, lakes, stars, dancing, happiness, inward eyes, memory. That's everything you need. So, if you're a designer and you don't have a lot of experience reading books, let's say you're not a particularly avid reader, are there sort of baseline questions that you can ask yourself about how to proceed? So, the big questions are these. You have to assume that every text is telling a story. Number one you have to understand what that story is and you have to understand what that story is at face value. So, that's the first thing you have to do and that's true of any text whatsoever. The second and I would argue more important thing that you have to be able to do when you're reading any kind of text is to be able to discern an underlying meaning that everything in the text might refer to something else. 4. Turning Narrative into Design: So, when I first get a manuscript, it is a stack of loose leaf, eight-and-a-half by 11, and it is unedited. It comes with something that we call a TI sheet, which is a summary of the book that we are about to read. It comes with some information about the author, and their previous sales history, and it comes with sales and marketing notes, which will have been compiled by those departments in the publishing house, points you might want to hit in terms of genre, target audience, demographic, that kind of thing. What are the elements that make up a narrative that you can use profitably on a book jacket? The component parts are characters. So, the people that populate a particular story, that seems reasonably obvious. An object. There are events. So, particular scenes that happen in books and narratives that you deemed to be important while you're reading. A place or places. So, the milieu, the setting, the [inaudible] of a book is extremely important. Often, when I'm designing a cover, if I'm talking to an editor or author or any other kind of client ahead of time, sometimes they'll say to me, often they'll say to me, "You know, we really need to convey a sense of place with this cover." I hear that all the time. So, places, an extremely important signifier when you're reading and designing a cover. Time, so the temporal kind of setting, as opposed to the physical setting, is also very important. It could be ancient China, or Habsburg, Vienna, or it could be the future on some planet somewhere, it could be contemporary Brooklyn. There are various ways of indicating time period, and part of that feeds into place as well, but also it could be just a choice of a typeface that indicates a time period. So, a text sample is often something that's important in a particular work. That text sample, as I said, the title is very important, so you might want to reiterate the title on the cover, or you might want to include a sample of the text on the cover itself. So, that's another piece of the narrative that you can choose to pull out, excise, and put on the cover. So, the tone of something is extremely important. What is the mood of this particular text overall? Again, if you're reading a thousand page novel, you might go in and out of several different moods, but overall, a book has a vibe to it. What is that vibe? What is the feeling that you took away from this particular book, when you closed the the cover on it, when you finished it? What were you left with? What was the feeling that stayed with you? That should be, if you read well, the overall affect of the book. So, that's hugely important. Then there's this category of material that you can put on a cover, that I refer to as the "Tell-All", which is the sort of if you took all of those components together, object, and time, and place, and character, and mood, and just jam them together, you can make a cover out of that. That's your choice to do that. So, I can now talk to how all of those things apply to this particular poem just so you see that in how it works in action. So, with character, we have one character and sort of posited in this poem, and it's Wordsworth. So, if you really have one choice, and that's this guy, Wordsworth. Now, listen, you can use Wordsworth here as your character, or you can use the poet. I will write poet as well, because you may not know much about English Romantic poetry, in which case you could extrapolate any kind of person as being that person who wanders. In fact, in this poem you are supposed to wander through the poem yourself as you're reading it and you come across the daffodil is yourself. So, it could be you, and you can re-situate these things however you want. You have a tremendous amount of freedom, but really the character is important that it be one person. If you were to put a bunch of people on the cover of this book after reading this poem, you will have misread the poem. Because, as I said, the solitude and the loneliness are very important. So, an object. I've already listed a lot of objects here: flowers, lakes, stars. So, those are the objects that you have to work with. Events. The event, the big event is him coming across the flowers, and the bigger event is him remembering the flowers. So, you have two choices of events there. The time period here, like I said, it's 1802. This is like the heart of English Romantic Bucolic poetry. So, you might want to do a little bit of research, that's up to you. I always try to do my due diligence in that respect, and find out, what did people look like, what were they wearing? More importantly, what did books look like then? Because, you could actually look up the first edition of this particular poem, which was in an anthology, I believe, when it was first published. You could see what that looks like, and you might want to replicate that, and recapitulate some of the elements of that initial volume. You might want to see what the topography looked like. All of these things were set on particular kinds of presses, and they used certain kinds of typefaces and families. Look those up. It might be interesting for you. You may then choose to reject those particular stylistic tropes, but it's good to know what they are. So, that's time. You're going to put the title and the author's name on this thing. That could be your text, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" is the title. But you also, and I have done this before in the past, might want to actually put the whole poem on the cover. A wonderful way to get somebody interested in reading a book, is by leading them directly into it. By including, say, an opening passage or if the poem is short enough just put the whole damn thing on the cover. But you also might want to pull out another [inaudible] of text here. "For oft, when on my couch I lie, in vacant or in pensive mood. They flash upon that inward eye, that is the bliss of solitude." That would be, if you just put that four-line piece on the cover, I would find that a very intriguing cover. So, you might choose to just pull out something in the text and make an all-type jacket that includes that particular piece of text. We went through this when we were parsing the poem in the first place, and happiness was the word that I pulled out initially. You really don't want this to be a somber cover. So, you could choose to just represent the mood of this particular poem on the cover using whatever elements you want. Color alone, even, could probably indicates something about jollity and happiness. But it is important to highlight the mood, extremely important. Now, that I'm looking over the poem again, and I'm starting going through my categories, and I've gotten the affect or tone, I see that I've already pulled out happiness. But, there is another tone, which is a little more reflective in this last paragraph, which is, he says, "pensive and bliss". So, there is a kind of pleasure. Maybe it's not about straight-out, exuberant joy. Maybe, if you're reading the poem closely, were more about a more inward kind of happiness. So, we've kind of nailed the affect there. The tell-all in this case would be, well, can you just somehow jam every single one of those things. Can we have a picture of Wordsworth in the late country, seeing the flowers, smiling because he's happy, maybe there's a couch somewhere. I really dislike doing the tell-all for this reason. It's just awkward, and you're leaving nothing up to the viewer's imagination. Really, the bliss of solitude that Wordsworth describes in his poem, one of the reasons I chose the poem is that, this is the bliss of reading in general. That, whatever you're imagining when you're reading this book is yours to imagine, and it's highly personalized, and it's a co-creation between you and the authors. So, when the cover designer, then shows you something very specific, that specific character doing something specific in a specific place, they're sort of robbing you of that particular joy, which is the joy that Wordsworth describes in the poem. So, there we have all of the categories, and I just think that would be a useful tool for you guys, especially if you don't do a lot of reading and don't have a lot of practice with that, this could just be a useful armature for you, a checklist, that you can go through, and, maybe pull out those things you think are most salient from the narrative. 5. Sketching Ideas: The next step is to start sketching. The reason I'm going to show you that I start sketching on paper rather than on the computer, is that if you start sketching on the computer, there's a kind of completeness to the way things look that tend to make you work less freely. When I first tried to design a cover for a book, I tried to work as broadly and freely as possible. So, my feeling is that if we could start on paper the way I normally do, that you'll be able to work without constraints. Ninety-nine percent of the book covers that one does are rectangles. Those rectangles changed slightly in terms of the aspect, ratio, and size, but they're very rarely any other shape. Sometimes, you have a square book jacket, but almost always, they're going to be rectangles. So, the first thing I do is, I just start making some rectangles. I have a template that I use that has these ready-made and they're better rectangles than the one I'm making now. I am just going to populate these rectangles with ideas, visual ideas. They could even just be the words to indicate, something that would go there that I would render more fully. Let's start with clouds, that's a cloud, that's interesting, what could I do with that? Oftentimes, I'll write out the text by hand, then I'll be employing the title and the author's name or I'll just use lines to indicate. Let's say, "I wandered lonely as a cloud", William Wordsworth. Okay, that's pretty boring. Maybe I want more than one cloud, so I'll just draw couple of clouds. It's looking like the Simpson's opening credits here, but I wander this cloud, so there's that. But maybe the cloud should be wandering a little bit more than that, so let's say the cloud wanders across the page. Well, that's all of a sudden starting to get interesting, there's some dynamicism there, and I might want to do, "I wandered lonely as a cloud." So, let's say the text is starting to wander itself. So that idea of the text wandering all of a sudden is I see from this very loose sketch as a direction. So maybe, I don't need the clouds, maybe the text itself. I wandered lonely as a cloud, William Wordsmith. An important part of designing anything is being able to know what element can be removed. Often, when I design something, the next thing I do is I remove elements until we're down to the bare bones. So, in this case, this concept clouds and words wandering around the page is one concept too many, because it's conveying wandering into two ways which are redundant. There's something I really don't like to do is use a picture of something that's set in the title. So, I wandered lonely as a cloud, and then there's the cloud. So, you might actually now that I'm saying it, it say, you wanted to make a jacket that says, ''I wandered lonely as a,'' and then draw cloud. So, that's a rebus. Here's another rebus, I wandered lonely as a cloud. So, that also might address sort of the inward I component of the poem. So, that's another way of doing it. But let's leave clouds behind for a second, just concentrate on wandering. What are other ways to show wandering? Footprints. So, let's say, we have some footprints. Again, see how roughly I'm doing this. These are not really drawings, these are just crazy little hieroglyphs. So, let's say, we have some footprints. Let's say it's more of a meandering path, like even the path itself, like a dotted line, that could work. So then, I've done this and I think that's interesting, that could speak to the poem, where does the type go? So then, I'll just, I wander lonely as a cloud. Flowers, I haven't really addressed that. So, of course, we could just, I don't know. What does daffodil look like? It has a little thing that comes out of it here, this would be yellow. This would be green. Wandered lonely as a cloud, that would be an extremely cliche cover. You'd have to make a really pretty flower indeed to make that particularly compelling. Well, he likens the flowers to stars so maybe I want to try stars. So, I could make a cover with a lot of stars. That's an idea. It could be a wandering star, what's that? A wandering stars a shooting star, it could do that. That would be an interesting metaphor, the type could go here. Again, we're looking for analogies. It's not just that we want to use these component parts, but we want to use these component parts in a way that is metaphoric and analogous to the way that Wordsworth uses them in the poem. Dance would be a possibility. Although, that's a little complicated visually. Happiness also is an effect, so I might be thinking about colors that are particularly happy. Again, the colors of a daffodil are green and yellow, so how could I use those colors in this particular cover? As you see, I didn't write anything or draw anything in this particular rectangle other than those two colors, just so that I can remind myself that they are Germain. Okay, so there's him, first of all. So, we could have a Wordsworth type character here, but let's say he's remembering the flowers and we want to show that. We can have the silhouette and we could have some sort of stylized flower up here, or his face could just be completely occluded by a flower, and there he is behind it. That actually could be an extremely interesting cover. If I sketch badly enough, sometimes, I'll just annotate the sketch, Flower Will, and like I said, is really like that one of the more important parts of the poem is the memory that he has of seeing these daffodils. So, let's say there's a couch, I don't know, there's a window. Maybe you see the daffodil is out the window, so I'll just write daffs. Maybe it's just the couch, maybe it's a couch that, look already I'm drawing a better couch than I did the first time. Maybe it's a couch and there's a flower hovering above it. Maybe the couch is wandering. This is great because it doesn't actually show anything overt other than the couch from the poem. You're not giving the reader a particular daffodil or a particular scene from the Lake District, there's a lot of show, don't tell in this particular cover and I like it for that reason. There's also a bit of whimsy and humor in it, which I love, which comes back to this idea of delight. So, this is the sketching stage which I would consider at this point done. So, when you look back over your sketches, you'll see that if you can draw or if you can't draw, there's a wonderful energy to them. The fact that you're sketching this roughly and this quickly, relieves you of the onus of having to make something that is self-conscious. You don't need to perfect it, and that's wonderful. So, these things have a great, as I said, a great energy about them, and I keep them so that I can refer back to them later, because you'll find as you start working on a cover and fine tuning it and fine tuning it, and obsessing over the details of it, that some of this energy will leach out of the thing. So, when you're done with the cover, look back over the sketches again, and see if the cover retains that energy. If it doesn't, then make those kinds of adjustments. 6. Considering Audience, Medium, and Examples: Some kinds of novels are called or referred to as literary fiction. There's certain kind of audience that reads those books. The narratives might be a little more experimental in terms of their narrative arc, in terms of the kinds of complexity of the language they use, they may be less sort of plot-driven as opposed to say what we call mass market, which is crime and thrillers, and horror, and sci-fi, and fantasy. It's called mass market frankly because these books sell in greater numbers, but also they're plot-driven and they have a overlapping but slightly different kind of audience and there's certain kinds of signals that you're going to use for each. Then, there's certain kinds of tropes that we use for nonfiction, historical nonfiction, historical fiction, YA or young adult fiction, short story collections even have their own detailed language graphically that you can use. So, anyway, the next thing I tried to do is determine what is the target audience? So, this is a Wordsworth poem, it's not a real book, it's just a poem, but let's pretend that this is a Wordsworth poetry collection. For this particular book, I would think the audience, for reading this, is reasonably sophisticated. I could probably get away with doing something pretty interesting graphically, but it also should have a certain kind of elegance to it, I would think this is a 19th-century poet. Now, all of these rules can be broken and probably should be broken. The only reason that I bring up that there are these different categories of genre is that when you're working for a publisher in the marketing meetings, these are the things that people will be talking about. So, it's good to know what these categories are but feel free to reject them, but it's something to think about. The next thing I determine is given what I assume the target audience will be and what I've determined the book is about and what the affect of that particular narrative is is what the medium is. So, in other words, I made these sketches but how am I going to render them. Am I going to make this with vectors on the computer? Is there going to be a photograph? If it's a photograph, is it a photograph that I'm going to take? Am I going to hire somebody to do a photo shoot? Am I going to find a stock image on a stock site that I'm going to use? Is it going to be an illustration? If it's an illustration, isn't one that I'm making? Am I hiring somebody else to make it? If I'm making the illustration, is it wash, is it acrylic, is it water color, is it ink, is it pencil, is it a collage? They're all different kinds of media that you can employ to make something. But the important thing to bear in mind is that all of these various media come with certain kinds of affects of their own. To some extent, it seems weird to me to use a photograph for Wordsworth poem, although modernizing the poem could be a really interesting thing also. So, here are some examples of some book covers that I've worked on recently in different media. Here as a comp for Julio Cortázar's Hopscotch. I wanted to give a sense here of the rebellious spirit of 1968 in Paris, so I used spray paint as if it were a graffiti. Here is a collage that I've made for this jacket, and I just cut various components out of magazines and photographs, and then I layered the things and then I just shredded them and photograph the results. Here's another collage that I made, another comp for Cortázar. This collage was made on the computer. I introduced elements electronically and move them around. I've already showed you the paper cuts. Here is an example I already showed you of a photograph. This is actually a stock photograph from Getty Images. You can go on any of these stock sites and type in a keyword. In this case, I typed in bed spring and a bunch of springs came up and I chose this one, and then you credit the stock agency. On the back, you'll see it says Getty Images. Also in this case, this is Plato's Republic. You can see here this was another stock image, this is a cave. I think it's actually in Masada in Israel, but I just typed in the keyword cave and a bunch of images came up, and this is the one that seems the most interesting to me. It's a cave inside looking out and worked well the typography, so I used that. Here's another comp for the same title and a different stock image, which is a television set in an old age home. In this case, it seemed like a great analogy for the allegory of the cave and the flickering lights that Plato describes in the cave. We have something that is entirely done on a computer, but the production technique I had written in my sketch die cut. What that means is that these little holes are cut on the printing press, and the idea here was to simulate the punch cards that were used in the early proto-computers that Alan Turing who this book is about, there's Turing underneath. In other words, do you want something to be embossed, pushed up on the paper? Do you want something to be debossed? What kind of paper do you want the printer to use? Do you want something to be glossy? Do you want something to be matte? These are considerations that are as important as the media that you're using. Sometimes I will alter a photograph. In this case, there was a photograph of a man's face that I found online and I didn't use it as I found it. I took that photograph and I then made an illustration from it. I bumped up the levels on it so there was a lot of contrast, and then I took ink on paper and in fact I have a pen that is a brush, a brush pen. So, I made this using this pen, which then I scanned and scribbled over and scanned and put the two things together and in design. Here is another example of something that's illustrated. This is gouache and ink, both of these are scanned and put together. As you can see, all of these media and production techniques have different kinds of feelings that go along with them. In this case, it looks like rice paper. It is a book that takes place in Japan, all the characters are Japanese. It has a Japanese sumi ink style quality to it. Here, there is a very childlike quality to both the topography and the illustration, and hopefully that media choice informs the way you feel about the cover. 7. Designing the Cover: So, the thing about production techniques is that what you're able to accomplish production-wise in the making of the completed cover will depend entirely on your client's budget. So, it's really great to ask right out of the gate, "What are we spending per jacket?" If you have access to the person who will be doing production, the production manager on a particular job, he or she is the person you should be speaking to about these issues. Different production techniques have different price tags attached to them. A foil stamp, for instance, is fairly expensive and gets more expensive the more inches of the cover you're covering in foil. This also goes for embossing, and debossing, and spot flosses, and there are all kinds of production techniques that you can use. Really, your limits are really just your imagination and the financial boundaries that you've been given, but it's very good to establish what those boundaries are, what the guidelines are in terms of what you're able to spend in terms of production at the beginning. Maybe right after you've sketched the thing is the perfect time to ask. The next step is to take the sketches that you've made and try to zero in on the ones you think are the most interesting and then refine those. Like I said, you're going to be picking a medium in which to work. I think for the sake of this class, I'm going to be working on the computer for this and see if I can't make it on the computer without any other materials. But if you were to choose, say, collage or painting or if you wanted to, say, take a photograph, now would be the natural time to just collect all of those materials. For instance, if I looked at the cloud comp that I made in the first sketch and I wanted to make that cloud out of, say, cotton balls, now would be the time to buy a lot of cotton balls and glue and start playing around with that. You can then subsequently photograph that and use that photograph for your cover. The first thing you have to do is open a new document. There's no fixed book size for this. So, I'm just going to use a default standard size, which is six and three eighths inches by nine, let's say, a quarter inches. I'm going to start with this idea of Wordsworth and a flower. Actually I have a couple of choices in terms of ways to make that, I could draw it. The other thing I could do is take an actual image of Wordsworth. Of course, we're not working on a biography of Wordsworth and if I left everything like this, that's probably how it would look. I'm going to try to superimpose a flower in some way. I have a bit mapped flower that I've already found, this fellow here. I found that online. I can do whatever I want with it. I can colorize it. As I said, the daffodil is yellow. I'm not sure I like the orientation of it. It would be really interesting looking back at my sketch, and I had the daffodils appearing in his mind. So, that would be up like that, which is interesting. It almost looks like a hat. It's a little too decorative. So, I think, actually, what I'm going to do is, I'm going to, say, color up the contextual menu here. I'm going to flip it. The reason I'm going to flip it is that I'm interested in it facing the same direction as his eyes. It's interesting, the stem is almost like a brain stems, it look like a medulla oblongata. So, that's actually pretty interesting. It's almost like he's looking out from the flower. I might try to just, let's see, slightly a little more red may be nice. Now it's very pretty. It's a little less bright though. Maybe I'll stay with the original. I'm sure I don't want to use black, right? That gives a little somberness to it. Is this a finished cover? No. Because, what if we've forgotten the title and the author's name? So, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, so, that is the title. William Wordsworth. The first thing I would do is, I think I'm going to center the typography. But of course, you can put the type anywhere, and there are a lot of natural places for type to go on this particular example, I've left a frame. So, you could simply put the type inside the frame. That works well, top end, bottom. You could put all the type on the same line. The interesting thing is, when you're working with a cover, you're working, as I said, with two big components type and imagery. I like to think that one of them is the star of the show and the other is the straight man. It changes which is which depending on the composition that you've made. In this case, it's a pretty strong image. So, I would say, the topography here should be pretty recessive for the sake of argument, if I were to make it not recessive. Let's say, I were to make it extremely large. For one thing, it just becomes incredibly hard to understand everything that's going on but, let's say, I didn't have it large, but had it a medium size. It's a little more legible that way, but it's still interfering. You can also italicize to make the title and the author name distinct. It's actually pretty nice, isn't it? Maybe I'll put it at the bottom because there's all this nice white space. So, generally speaking, when I make a big change to a particular composition, I copy the page first. So, that way, over here in the pages, I have history of all the transformations that I've done. I would try a number of different typefaces to see if they work. I want something that's literary and that is a little bit lyrical in this case, so, I don't say want to employ a big sense seraph, I can show you what that would look like if I were to use something like, this looks ridiculous. It's just ugly as hell. So, let's not do that. Let's see, maybe a script. So, that's interesting. I actually might try the same thing in his name actually. I would think actually, this is a contender for a keeper. The only question I would ask myself at this point is a question you should always ask yourself when you're setting type, is what's the hierarchy? In other words, what are you reading first? What reads has more important? There are cases, let's say, you're designing a cover for a John Grisham, where the really salient information is the name John Grisham. In which case, let's pretend for a second that William Wordsworth was a mega-best-selling procedurals writer. I would certainly make his name a really large, et cetera, et cetera. Famous thing in this case is the name of the poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud. Then you have his name directly underneath and everything has about the same size. So, the hierarchy has a bit of equivalence to it. Now, you might be asked at some point, you certainly will be asked if you were designing a novel, in this case, it's a poem, to add that ancillary information. So, I'll just write a poem. Oops! A poem. So, that has to go somewhere too. In this case, it is an extremely unimportant piece of information. I'm going to just put it up there and maybe even make it a little bit smaller. Hey, here we have a cover. This works. I don't know if it's my favorite thing in the world yet, but it's a cover. So, let's look back at our sketches for a second, and I'm going to see if there was something else that I was interested in working with. Let's do wandering. So, actually, yesterday, I prepared some footprints. As you see in this sketch, very loosely, they're a wandering set of footprints. It would be very interesting to have these footprints actually pressed into the paper. So, this might be the stage in which I would talk to a production manager and say, "Would it be possible to debar something on that?" In this case, if I were to use the wandering footprints, maybe there would be no ink at all. Maybe you would only be able to feel the footprints. That would be a much more subtle way to do this. This would be a great place to put the type here because you get the sense that whoever is doing this wandering stopped for a minute and contemplated the typography before moving on. So, that would be the footprint sketch. During my sketches, I made one that was just, if you'll recall, a dotted line. So, let's make one of those and see if it works. So, I'll just get rid of the footprints and pull up the pen tool. It's the pencil tool actually. I will make a meandering path. Let's say it looks like that. Let's get rid of the color. Let's smooth out, use a dashed line, I suppose. Okay. This is pretty abstract. So, I'm looking back at my comps, and I see that I had liked the idea of the couch. So, you have a couple of choices there. You could find a couch. You go to a stock house. In this case, I would type in the couch and of course, you get all kinds of couches here. I would try probably first off to type in couch single object. But in this case, I think it would probably be nicer and more in keeping with the style of the poetry to, say, do an illustration. So, here we have a couch and here we have the typography. I might determine that I want to change the colors. Maybe the couch is yellow, that would be a very interesting idea. Maybe the legs are green and the rest of the couch is yellow, which would be even more flower-like but I really want the focus to be the couch here. But actually, what I'm going to do is I'm going to go back to my sketch, and I saw the couch wandering. So, actually, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to start out with a couch, just size it a little smaller, and I'm just going to move it. Well, this is quite nice because it actually includes some of the elements from an earlier comp where we discussed. So, then I would sit back, and I would think, first of all, is everything legible? Truthfully, an editor or even me myself might want the type to be just a little bit bigger. So, I'm going to start removing elements and see where that gets us. Do we need this? Maybe kind of anchored the thing. Do we need this? Well, maybe not. I mean, what's interesting now is I'll move the element and the couch becomes the afterthought. What follows is an endless set of tiny little tweaks. Do I want this to be that size? Maybe I do. Do I want the poet to be on the couch? If I just put a poem somewhere, it's that important piece of information. But I think if I continue this line and I even have it bleeding off the page a little bit, you get the sense of the story continues. I'll see, well, what happens if I warm up the background, for instance. Maybe there's a color the would make for a cheerier background. There we have a yellow. It's all right. It's very strong. So, I'm going to just make almost like a parchment color background here. Yeah. That seems slightly warmer for a romantic British poet. I would probably go back and through the document, I would delete the ones that I think aren't promising, that is. That one is interesting, that one was interesting, this one, I didn't like, so, I'm going to delete it. So, here are the three comps as I have them. I would continue futzing with them and working on the details until they were exactly the way I wanted them. At which point, I would print each one of them out. I would take that print out, and I would wrap it around the appropriate size book. 8. Troubleshooting: Ideas and Alternatives: Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you're having trouble coming up with ideas. You have all of the components that you pulled out of the text; your objects, your characters, your settings. You've read the text carefully both for overt narrative and for hidden agenda the way we discussed. Let's say you're still having trouble and you don't have a good idea. A really great thing to do, that I do all the time, is just start to think of synonyms, I make lists of words and those words can be synonyms for one another. They also can be just other ways of saying something. So, let's say that we're talking about flowers. Let's say for the sake of argument that we're going to use the flower as central symbol. So, I would write flower, and then I would write any kind of synonym I could think of, in the case of flower. It's not like there's good synonyms, but any sort of words that could form a constellation around that word, that refer to that word, other ways of idiomatically saying something like that. So flower, I would probably say delicacy color, and these are all things that are not explicit in the poem itself. I am just making sort of an associative cloud around the particular concept. Some of them will be absurd and not germane at all, wandering, hobos, walking stick, lost, just the concept of being lost. Already, these little associative clouds that I'm making around these words are giving me new ideas. So, I said lost and no directions. Let's say I wanted wandering to be the subject of this particular book jacket, it occurs to me I could use a map. So, each one of these ideas calls up a series of other ideas. So, often just to break your brain's deadlock, it's really good to just write words that associate with other words that you've already pulled out of the text. When I'm doing a cover, I often will do something by hand, a sketch, a painting, a collage, as I mentioned. I have some printouts and I printed out the typography and a bunch of different typefaces. I'm feeling this one now. It's pretty standard. You have a couple of choices. One is, if you're going to make a collage, you could just cut them out like so, and use those components that way. You might choose to cut the entire thing out, let's say in a cloud shape, that would be perfectly acceptable way of doing things, if not a little cutesy. I have a feeling by the time I'm done I'm going to just throw this straight in the paper basket, but for the sake of argument, I wandered lonely as a cloud. It's actually really interesting to see them out of order like those refrigerator magnets that you can make poems out of. Stupid people might get confused so we can have these things wander around. Let's say this is your rectangle, this is your cover, it looks a little like a ransom note honestly, and I'm not sure I would choose collage as my own natural inclination. But I have some pictures of doves here, and I might just say we cut out some doves, then strew them around artfully and of course they're the wonderful accidental things that happen, for instance that. Could there be some way that- possibly. You might want to add a cloud, I don't know. Then if I were in the office, I would probably take these things down or glue them down and then put this on a scanner bed and scan it and manipulate it as I needed on the computer, but you could also just take a photograph of it. That is also a way to make a jacket. 9. Conclusion: What I would do next is I would print these out and wrap them around a book and I would look at them as an object. A design changes a lot once it is what it is rather than just a picture on a screen. Here's another interesting aspect of the creative process is that when you make something, you might feel one way about it and the subsequent day might feel totally different. So, at that point, I would put it up on your bookshelf and just go about your business, work on something else, live your life, you'll stumble across them every now and then, your eye will catch them obliquely, you'll be able to see them not exactly for the first time, but you'll have a fresher perspective on what they are if you forget about them for a little while. Normally, at that point it becomes pretty clear to me which is that comforts the strongest. I show a cover. I don't give a client a number of different options. You don't want to be put into a position where you have to graft one design onto another. It's a very hard feat to pull off when you're asked to do that and it's just good to avoid it altogether. Also, you open the door then to that particular client to request even more. There's no reason why you shouldn't show five things or 10 things. I don't show things in meetings which is very important because there's a sort of a pylon phenomenon that happens when a lot of people are in a room. I will think very carefully about why it is that I chose the one that I chose, that I made it the way that I made it, I will refer back to my notes from the careful reading that I did and that we did together, and I will use that to bolster the case for this particular design that I'm showing. It's often better to not have to explain what you've done truly, any design should be able to speak for itself, but you'd be surprised at how thick people can be sometimes. Often, in these meetings where I'm showing things to clients, I'll be asked my reasoning and this is the point at which it's very good for a designer to be literate and well-spoken and you are your own best advocate. Traditionally on books, there's copy all around. You have the front, you have the copy on the spine which includes the colophon of the publisher, the title of the author. Normally, the back contains what we call the back add. Really, you don't need any of that material. All you really need is enough paper on either side of your cover, so that you can wrap whatever size book it is that you want. I like to design interesting spines because a lot of books in bookstores are displayed spine out. So, it's something that does deserve some of your attention, but at this stage, when you're just showing a comp to a client, it's really not entirely necessary. If I were looking over my three final comps that I have here, I would probably make a determination about which is the strongest and think this is interesting, but like I said, it sort of implies snow, the color didn't really help it that much. I would say probably nix this one. I'd look at this one and it's interesting, but maybe it has a little too much whimsy in it, I mean, the couch is nice, but, and maybe if I rendered it in ink and did the script by hand, it would work better and be a little more approachable, but I'm going to say, I probably find that this would be a better cover for a kind of a whimsical piece of literary fiction perhaps, but it doesn't have the gravitas, I would say, that this poem has, so that leaves me here. I think it does a very good job of capturing what's important about the poem, which is the extreme moment at which Wordsworth encounters the flower, but also the moment at which the flower becomes incorporated into his consciousness that when often on my couch I lie in distant or in vacant mood, they flash upon that inward I, that is the bliss of solitude. So, here the 'inward I' in a way is being represented almost anatomically by the flower itself. So, really, we're left with one comp that I think is strong enough to be a real contender. Here, you have the rapt comp. It looks different already from what's on your computer screen. The inks that you have available in your particular printer that you're using. What it surrounds it is no longer all the palettes in InDesign. There's a three dimensionality to it and a realness and a duskness to it, it is a book now. When you show it to the client, it will help sell the client because it'll already be that many steps closer to the finished product. There's one more step that I would recommend doing before you show the editor or the author, and that is, I would show it to some other people who are not stakeholders. That means often other designers, it could just be readers who've read that author before, it could be anybody. It could be your mom, it's a good sort of proofreading moment as well because people often notice if you misspelled something, if a word comes out, if the trim size happens to be wrong, and you're asking someone in your department who knows, a production person perhaps, it's just a valuable step, which I don't always do, but I always find worthwhile. I do hundreds and hundreds of books' jackets in the last 12 years, I suppose, that I've been doing this, and some of those include Stieg Larsson's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is probably the most famous example of a book jacket that I've done. I have two books of my own. I have a monograph of my own covers with essays about design that's called Cover fittingly, and another book that's out simultaneously, which is a book about the reading experience and the feeling of reading, which is called What We See When We Read from Vintage Books and that is me.