I completed my studies in Typography & Graphic Design in 1989 at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague, The Netherlands. Since then I have been working as a self employed graphic designer and have created book covers and book interior designs for several publishers, e.g. De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam University Press, Uitgeverij Van In and Sdu.
Too many book covers, in particular for novels, are based on one and the same concept: one overall image, mostly a photograph, covering the whole front - from left to right and from top to bottom -, add any font for the author and the title in - if one is lucky - a blank space and you’re done.
As a result many people think that that is what a book cover should look like when they survey the uniform landscape of covers in a book shop or anywhere online. Consequently, quite a few authors design their covers to fit the landscape. And right they are; why pay for a graphic designer if you can make your own cover by simply combining a ubiquitous picture with bland fonts that quite often fail to underline or respect theme and atmosphere of the book?
Personally, I think a book cover can be far more interesting than that. Type, fonts, colours … their variety challenges me to find the perfect combination: even after twenty-five years I am impressed by the effect a new combination can generate. Should one opt for a photograph then it is my job to find that one font which matches the atmosphere of the image. Sometimes it is better to crop or to enlarge - a full picture can be so boring. Next, find the lettering that suits the image. It should do more than just inform the prospective reader of the title and the name of the author: it should also blend in with the image, thus creating a unified composition in which the whole is more than the sum of the elements.
An image is not necessarily the only way to reflect the theme in a book. Typography in itself can also be a powerful medium. Typography should be understood to be more than the default fonts that you will find on any computer. A graphic designer has acquired and access to a wide and exclusive range of fonts designed by today’s font designers. Imagine how a cover composed of fonts in a variation of sizes and colours would stand out among all those ‘overall image covers’.
That is where the graphic designer comes in, designing a book cover is an art, not just an anybody’s DIY job. What you can do yourself is make the essential first step: choose the graphic designer whose style appeals to your idea of beauty and who will turn the ordinary into the exceptional.
Erik Cox has worked with clients ranging from publishers, corporations and government ministries to non-profit organizations. Besides his talents and skills as a graphic designer, Erik’s more than twenty-five years of experience have taught him the importance of effective communication in making very different kinds of projects a success for very different kinds of businesses.
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