Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book Cover Design Ideas

There are many ways to bring children to love books and reading.

In my workshops on ‘Book Cover Design’, attendees re-design covers of books to create added impact and interest, and the children are often very creative and come up with stunning ideas which are not limited by traditional expectations. As this is fun and the design has to reflect the text, reading is necessary - often works that they would not otherwise have chosen. If they enjoy reading the book, they may read more. Participants also browse library or bookstore shelves to help them gain a recognition of the importance of the design of the spine to tempt potential purchasers to take a book from a shelf.

Here’s a section of children’s books on a shelf in my studio.

Which ones stand out most to you?

For me, it’s those with stripes of colour, and the bright yellow ones (or having a significant portion of yellow/orange), and yellow script on a black background. 

'Wombat Went A Walking’, illustrated by Lachlan Creagh, is only 24 pages with a wrap around cover, but his clever positioning of the characters that flow from the front to the back cover, with white space between them, produces the eye-catching stripes on the narrow spine. (It’s also superbly illustrated inside and a book that children love - published by Lothian in 2011.)


My pick for the all time 'most effective, most memorable cover design in the history of the book'?

It's the highly contrasting black and yellow stripes of ‘for Dummies’ guides. You may not agree, but I’m sure it's contributed enormously to making the series highly profitable.

(Publishers - you must realise that a high percentage of males are colour-blind and will never see a contrast between red and green.)

Readers also have expectations for cover and spine design, and typography. The spines of fantasy novels are usually ‘of a similar kind’ – so if you are a fantasy author, you want your book to stand out from the pack ...but it should still have the appearance of 'a fantasy book' (and the same for other genres).

Nowadays, when so many books are purchased from internet stores, an impressively designed front cover is also vital to maximise sales – but that’s a subject for another day.

But not all bookshelves are the same. I’ve seen some that are constructed as a series of diagonally arranged boxes so that books are supported on sloped surfaces.

Why are books generally lined up from side to side on a horizontal shelf? Certainly it makes it easy to remove a single volume, but they don’t necessarily take up less space that way round. Here are some book stacks that have been created by artist Mike Stilkey, who paints the spines and covers of already published books with ink and acrylic and also works on them with coloured pencils to create acclaimed artworks.


Perhaps publishers should more often consider incorporating designs that flow from cover to cover across all books in a series so that they can be displayed like this, either on their own shelf or alongside those in a traditional arrangement. It would surely encourage readers to purchase the whole set - and as you see above, it is possible to use as few as three books.

Or why not display books with covers facing outwards, with designs that fit together? 'Book walls' do not have to be this large:

Many thanks, Mike, for giving me permission to share these images – I hope readers of this blog will check out your complete website at http://www.mikestilkey.com/ and your facebook page and images of your work at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mike-Stilkey-official/271560459538235 ...and I look forward to seeing what you show at your forthcoming exhibition in Times Square, Hong Kong in July.

Here are two of Mike’s larger installations:

Time to be creative...
Peter Taylor

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Illustrating for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation

On Friday of last week it was a great pleasure to be part of a team of illustrators given the challenge to each create an artwork in 4 hours (no pressure!) that can be auctioned to raise much needed funds for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. On the day, were were given a word to act as our stimulus. The venue was the foyer of the ABC Radio Station in Brisbane and materials were provided by Micador. The project, part organised by the ASA (the Australian Society of Authors), is called 'One Word, One Day', and similar events, but using different words, are being held in other areas of the country over the coming month.  All the works will be auctioned online in July - I'll give you the details closer to the day in another post!

Our theme word was 'Skidaddle'. What do you first think of when you hear or read that word? You can see all our results on the ABC website - I suggest you click on 'Related Photos' and look at them in expanded view. I can't wait to see what the ABC comes up with next week when they provide a time lapse of our creation processes.

This was mine - a 3D paper-sculpture like a decorated letter on an illuminated manuscript (the background was produced by sprinkling table salt on moist watercolour paint). Well, actually it was partially a team effort. The session was open for the public to wander through and watch us. Brisbane contemporary jewellery designer Megan Rowe stopped for a few moments to see what I was up to and I asked her if she'd like to help. She painted, folded and glued the leaves and cut the template for embossing and raising the design of the skidaddling mouse. Thanks, Megan - it would have been a struggle to finish on time without your assistance!

The other artists involved were Joanne Brooker, Angela Sunde, Greg Rogers, Lucia Masciullo, Stephen Axelsen, Lynn Priestley, Kerry Argent and Rebecca Berrett.

Special thanks to Laurine Croasdale and the ASA, the ABC, Micador art products and Brisbane organisers Lucia Masciullo and Helen Ross. I hope we all get to do it again next year.

Peter Taylor

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Artists Books Encourage Reading, Writing and Creativity

If you have not yet done so, put 'artists books' into a Google Image search. You'll be amazed at the variety of possible structures that you discover. One trend, these days, is reducing books to electronic files for convenient eReaders. Well, artists books are at the other end of the spectrum, and creators build book objects with wonderfully complex, extravagant and sculptural forms. What would you write or draw in a circular book?

For children who are excited by the possibilities of freedom to design an artists book, the activity can encourage them to read widely to discover a suitable text, or be a stimulus for them to write something imaginative and appropriate themselves to add to the pages.

Alternatively, the words may be chosen first and move the artist to develop a suitable and related structure to house them.

I'll be teaching some construction techniques from 10am -1pm at a workshop next Friday - 11th May, 2012 at Strathpine Library, just outside Brisbane, Australia, if anyone would like to join me. The library is covering my fee, so tuition will be free, but there will be a small charge for materials. Bookings can be made by phoning the library on 07 3480 6522.

On Saturday 18th August, I will be kicking off 'Book Week' with a workshop for children and adults at the Brisbane Square Library from 10.30am. I'll give you more details later - but the plan is for attendees to write a book in calligraphy and bind it in one and a half hours.

Have fun!

Peter Taylor