Just the other day I wished someone would hand me a simple set of rules for designing great looking book covers.
I am in awe of some of the gorgeous covers on Amanda Hocking's books. There is no way in a million years I'd be able to do something like that. That said, I do believe there's no reason the average person (and I am exceedingly average when it comes to graphic design) can't do a decent book cover. We just need guidance.
Enter J.M. Ney-Grimm and her Cover Design Primer. If you're doing your own book covers--or even just thinking of it--this post is a must read. I'm making it sound like a book, but it's not. It's a medium-length post that gives more practical information on how to design a book cover than I've come across anywhere else, books included!
Here's an example of what I mean.
Let's talk fonts. J.M. tells us there are 6 main categories: Old Style, Modern, Slab Serif, Sans Serif, Script and Decorative. Each category contains certain representative fonts.
Old Style: Goudy, Baskerville, Garamond, and Palatino.
Modern: Braggadocio and Engravers MT.
Slab Serif: Blackoak, Cooper Black, Rockwell Extra Bold, and Wide Latin.
Sans Serif: Helvetica, Charcoal, Skia, and Impact.
Script: Apple Chancery, Brush Script, Gabriola, and Lucida Handwriting.
Decorative: Zapfino, Desdemona, Herculanum, and Lucida Blackletter.
Here's the tip:
Three rules for choosing fonts for a book cover: (I didn't include J.M.'s images, you can see them here.)
1) Never use more than one font from each categoryJ.M's discussion of fonts is just the beginning. She goes on to talk about the overall composition of a cover. As I say, great article. Again, here's the link: Cover Design Primer.
That is, Braggadocio (modern) and Helvetica (sans serif) might work well together, but Skia and Charcoal (both sans serif) will not.
Because the human eye likes patterns to be either exactly alike or clearly different. Similar, but not the same, makes the human eye struggle.
2) Do use two different fonts
One font – say all Palatino – is overly calm, sedate, even boring.
Two fonts is interesting, but doesn’t overwhelm the eye.
Three fonts (each from a different category, of course) starts to be cluttered and busy.
3) Use contrast to draw the eye
Contrasting sizes, contrasting colors, contrasting fonts. You do want to catch the attention of potential readers, right? Compare the examples below [see J.M.'s article].
Can you break these rules? Certainly. The instant I learned them I thought of exceptions that work beautifully. But the vast majority of covers that appeal to readers follow them.
Is there more to typography? Of course. But these foundation concepts are enough to produce surprisingly good design results when choosing fonts.
Thanks to Passive Guy for mentioning J.M.'s article.
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Photo credit: Unknown