Monday, March 5, 2012

Peter Mendelsund on cover design

Peter Mendelsund [associate art director at Knopf] wrote a great, concise essay about book cover design that concerns itself mainly with the formal approaches to solving a cover: Do you illustrate a character? a feeling? an idea? a location? Etc. Mendelsund frames the whole dialogue by showing examples of different covers for the novel Lolita.

When setting out to design a book jacket for a work of fiction, whether we are aware of it or not, we designers are picking our subject matter from a limited set of bins. Though the choices we can make as designers are unlimited, the categories that define most of the choices we make when we pluck these ideas from their native fictions, are, on the face of it, quite easy to list. 
To wit, some broad categories for fiction jacketing subject matter:  
1. “Character”Put a person on the cover. Frequently a winning design tactic, though also tricky— as we designers don’t want to rob readers of their satisfying acts of imagination. One should always show a portion of a character rather than the whole magilla. Body parts: hands, feet, hair, ears, etc are, and should be, more common than full frontal facial disclosure. Much of our work is spent hiding, occluding, interrupting faces.)
Read the rest of the essay at his site, Jacket Mechanical

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