Visual communication is incredibly powerful. Because the brain processes images faster than words, how something looks is integral to how we understand it. At Flux, we’re always on the lookout for inspiring communication strategies– from liquor labels to infographics to chocolate bars, examples of design that speaks loud and clear are all around us. This month, we’re talking about a particularly interesting object at the intersection of visual and textual communication: book covers.
Book cover design is a fascinating challenge of visual communication. The cover carries a huge responsibility– to catch the reader’s attention on the shelf, give a sense of the book’s tone and atmosphere, draw them into the story, and create a kind of visual emblem for the entire narrative. And it’s not just that book cover designers must translate words in images, which is itself a creative challenge. They must translate imagination into a physical object. We all “see” differently when we read. The beauty of narrative is that, no matter how detailed the descriptions, we build our own pictures of settings and characters in our minds, colored by our own experiences and memories. How can a book cover represent an image of something that we all see differently?
The book is a magical object– both physical and imaginary. The book is here and yet also nowhere. We hold the book in our hands, but the story is intangible. The cover is the threshold between the real book and the imaginary book, straddling both existences. It’s an invitation. Here are a few book cover designers that get us excited to open the first page.
Mendelsund’s redesign of a new edition of some of Franz Kafka’s most famous works is a surprising, and new take on the author’s work. Using bold colors, flat graphics, and a repeated eye motif, Mendelsund gives the books a modern refresh by drawing on Kafka’s sense of humor and absurdity. We’d love to have this stunning series on our bookshelf.
Simple is hard. That’s what makes these incredibly simple covers for a series of reprinted James Joyce novels so impactful. Particularly noteworthy is the cover of Ulysses, one of the 20th century’s most complex masterpieces. Mendelsund strips back the cover to pure color and text, highlighting the novel’s famous last word in the title. The contrast of beautiful simplicity, messy human handwriting and elegant type create a whole atmosphere.
Bickford-Smith is the designer for the Penguin Clothbound Classics series. Her use of pattern, color and delicate designs speak volumes about these works while still feeling fresh and enticing. Reinventing a classic is never easy, especially because you’re working within an entire tradition of covers that have already been created and loved by readers. Bickford-Smith successfully subverts the traditional imagery that has been expected on these classic books to create something beautiful and surprising at the same time.
Gall’s designs for Haruki Murakmai’s Vintage paperbacks are out of this world. They perfectly capture a feeling of nostalgia for a time that doesn’t exist, with an absurdist, retro-meets-future bent. These covers are mysterious and enigmatic, just like the books. Together they create an entire system that works together, each playing off the other as a comprehensive visual statement of Murakami’s oeuvre.
If your brand was a book, what kind of cover might you have? What imagery, colors, or patterns would evoke the feeling that you want to give your customers? Branding, like book covers, uses images to speak complex concepts simply and effectively. Developing a clear visual style is essential to crafting a solid brand. The process is similar to designing a book cover– we take thoughts, feelings, and ideas and turn them into visual and textual assets that communicate immediately and intuitively. If you’re ready to turn ideas into bold communication, let’s talk.