21 July 2008


Don't read books by their covers? Yeah right. Studies have shown that an eye-catching cover can increase sales a gazillion percent. Heck, when browsing through a bookstore all I'm doing is walking around picking up books to see if the cover material is matte, my favorite.

A great book cover even alters my reading habits. Reading a book with a great cover makes you be more careful with it, because you're not only reading the art of work inside, but also preserving the work of art outside. No hanging out gushing water while brushing your teeth while reading these gems. No sir. Keep it safe and tidy before reading.

Just like in any art form, there are some serious standouts. Chip Kidd is a name you hear alot. I recently started paying attention to which designers are responsible for the covers that catch my eye in a crowded bookstore and it's like a whole new world. I'm partial to the vintage look and just covers that are beautiful and simple, or visually witty, or able to capture the spirit of the entire book in just one image. It makes a great book even better.

I mean, look at something like the photo inset on this post. That's an alternate cover image (sketch) idea for The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which is set in New York and involves a fictionalized super hero called the Escapist who can break out of chains like Houdini. The Empire State Building in chains is exactly that plus the style of the drawing evokes the 1940s setting of the book. It's super simple, and maybe obvious, but just awesome.

Check out the New York Times' Book Design Review and Covers for reviews on, well, book covers. Through reading this blog, I've been introduced to the work of Henry Sene Yee, the creative director at Picador, which regularly wins awards for their book covers. It's fascinating because Yee talks about the design process, the evolution of a book's cover, and also showcases ideas that never panned out. Here's an article with him talking about book design. David Drummond offers similar access to the book cover design world on his blog.

Seriously, feel free to judge a book by its cover. Cry if you want to, cry if you want to. You would cry too if it happened to you.