Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Judging a Book: The cover

Yesterday, I sent an incomplete version of Vectis off to lulu.com for a test printing. Particularly, I am interested in seeing if the bleeds work and all text remains readable at paper sizes. This marks an important point for Vectis; all the structure of the book is now in place, waiting only to be filled with joyous words and images. Much is already filled. All the photography for Summer and Autumn is done, and Autumn is about three quarters finished in every sense. But until this weekend, one task remained completely untackled.

In order to have the book printed, you see, it needs a cover.

Covers are an interesting element of book design. Many producers of artists books treat the cover as a completely integral part of the whole work, continuing themes from the inside to the outside. For me, however, the cover has a slightly different feel. The way I see it is as a frame; the frame is important to a work of art, and the frame should be appropriate (no elaborate gold-leafed rococo on the Kandinsky, please!), but it is not part of the work. It is slightly seperate from it. You can change the cover and still have the same book, in the way I see it anyway. 

Thus, I normally design the covers for my books fairly late in the day, if not as absolutely the last thing I do. For example, the minimalist covers of Exonomnicon and Manifest-O were produced after both books were complete. I treat the design of the cover almost as if a seperate job, as if I am a cover designer being hired to produce a cover for my own work (if that makes any sense). This is not to say that I view cover design as being unimportant. Despite the old adage, a book is always judged by it's cover. So, as with the frame earlier, the cover needs to be appropriate, because it will set the tone for the work within it. With that in mind, I set out over the weekend to design the cover for Vectis. I've tried a lot of different approaches, some radically different from the others, which i think will go to show in and of themselves how much differece cover design can make, and I will discuss some briefly below:

So far I've produced 18 potential covers. I'll present them in the order I made them. These don't chronicle the full process of exploration, of course, but you can see where I've got very in to the refinement of some designs.

First attempt, acting on instinct. Quite nice, but looks too much like an album cover. The colour scheme doesn't interact very well with the internal scheme of the book.

Two variations on the same idea. A more neutral treatment, the second one is one I am still seriously considering.

The text doesn't gel properly with the image.
Very minimalist. Also tried written text on white; neither seemed at all appropriate for Vectis, which is by no means a minimalist book.

Two with the same photograph. I think these look cheap, even slightly naff.

These two clumsily begin the investigation into a strongly typographic cover.

Two more goes at the typographic. These would have been lovely apart from the 'ICALEN' line, which threw out the balance of everything else, without me being able to do a thing about it (apart from by wrecking the 'QUIRY' line). So it goes.

Trying a different colour on the first idea. Fits a little better, still looks like an album cover.

This clearly shows the evolution of one idea through a number of stages. There's still something to this one, definitely, but it's not quite there yet, for whatever reason.

Returning to the typographical idea, trying something a little more interesting.

And this is where I've got to at the moment. This is, so far, the best one I have, and I have made it up into a double cover with spine for my test printing:

That test printing should arrive before Friday. So nervous!

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