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Book Cover Design

Tips for designing book covers in the Educational and ELT arena

Below are a few musings from the team here at Wild Apple, of points to consider when designing book covers within the Educational and English Language Teaching environment. These hints, tips and tricks are all points we bear in mind when creating a new cover, or series of covers.

1. Strong Focus Point

Start with a stunning photo or illustration - not only will it add a strong focal point, but will also help the design process, with a basis to build the rest of the cover around. The use of such a component will often dictate the position of other design elements, such as; logos and typeface. Try not to be too clever… you don’t need to have too many tricks, as they will often fight for the reader’s attention. Stick to your key message. Too many logos, awards or stickers will crowd the cover and dilute your message.

2. Suitable Use of Colour & Fonts

Use the contrast between light and dark, colour contrasts help engage the reader and make for an eye-catching design. It can also convey mood and genre with brighter colours, for example, a primary scheme will benefit from a simpler, more basic set of colours, whereas adult learning schemes can work well with a more sophisticated palette. If working on a scheme or part of a series, think about how colour combinations could work across the range and make a unified set, but with colours that both complement and contrast. Too many similar tones will create books that seem to blend with one another.

Ensure any fonts used are age-appropriate and meet any ELT/educational requirements, whilst adding impact to the cover, clarity and legibility are also important considerations. We believe that in terms of font usage, less is often more, limiting fonts helps to keep things cohesive. It’s often a good idea to use fonts similar to those on the inside pages. We suggest a maximum of 3 different fonts on a cover but don’t forget the use of different weights, it can make all the difference!

3. Hierarchy of Information

Cover designs need to have a hierarchy of information and consideration to what goes where, both typographically and in placement. There are certain “hotspots” that the eyes will be drawn to and expectations of what will be there, for example; scheme numbers and author’s name.

For marketing purposes 'Hook-in' information should always be in the top quarter, so if they are stacked on shelves, important information is visible.

Your consideration of font choice is important here too, with hierarchy often decreasing in the size and weight/treatment of type.

4. Set up a consistent master template

For series design, get the initial cover exactly how you want it, before applying it to other components and levels. Getting that first cover signed off may be challenging, with so many stakeholders involved, but once it is agreed it will make the design much easier to roll out, minimising extra costs and time-consuming changes.

Once the fundamentals of your design have been confirmed, make sure to create a ‘bare bones’ master of the design, with locked key objects, that you can refer back to, for measurements and correct locations. A lot of times when working on multiple covers or requested amends, elements can be moved to create an inconsistent scheme. Having that initial master to refer back to is invaluable.

5. Make your designs flexible

A great cover should stand the test of time, focus on the inside pages, the symbols, characters and visual images. The cover design shouldn’t be completely separate from the internal content of the book itself. If part of a series, your cover design should be flexible enough to account for any additional author credits, a longer name, longer title or higher-level number. If these are considered and accommodations made at the beginning, it will help you from designing yourself into a corner with follow up schemes.

Know your audience and think like the reader, play to the genre and the audience of readers that you have. This can be tricky with educational book covers, because often it is the teachers that have the buying power, but the content is aimed at students, so you have to cater for both. Covers are used predominantly for marketing and are often seen as small thumbnails, so an impactful design is essential.

6. Back covers need work too

The front cover is the draw, the back cover is what reinforces the information for the teacher or buyer. A lot of information may need to be conveyed here, and again this is where the hierarchy of information needs attention. Stylistically, elements that wrap the entire cover, can be visually pleasing, as it creates a tie in between the two. Back covers need to be well ordered, not confusing and get the main points of the scheme across.

We really do enjoy designing covers, be it a bespoke individual design, or as part of a scheme. If you would like to discuss cover design, or any of the points raised above, please do get in touch.


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