A Colourful Career in Book Cover Designing
Images speak a thousand words that the mouth fails to utter. We have grown up saying, “Do not judge a book by its cover”; but book covers speak all those secrets that are hidden in the book. If you are passionate about books, colors, and multiple layers of meaning, here is an out-of-the-box career option for you!
Let us go then, you and I
No, we will not go to the land of T. S. Eliot’s Prufrock, rather we will take a trip in the colorful world of minimalist elegance- the world of book covers.
Just a drop on the red background speaks for the title.
With the background color of an emoji and the curve of the title, this is one of the best minimalist covers of all time.
Look at the point of ‘i’ in ‘loneliness’, and you will understand why this book cover is a classic!
One fine morning, a man discovered that he had become an insect. The eyes symbolize this metamorphosis, as well as multiple interpretations of the novel.
Skills and Thrills
To be a good designer of book covers, you have to be a profound reader and a patient observer. Watch the greatest covers of all time, learn from them, understand the meaning of the book and illustrate the cover intelligently- this is the formula in a nutshell. Exploring the content of a book and creating its face is a journey of thrill, and you require some skills to accomplish it. You need the skill of graphic designing, as well as have to maintain a thorough knowledge of computer and designing software. Working knowledge in the field of book publishing will help you in this field. For that, you can enroll in book publishing courses in any recognized university, or famous publication house, like- Seagull books. A low-ego, team spirit is very important as you have to collaborate with the publishing company’s creative director and other professional designers or illustrators assigned to the same project. Functional knowledge of different fonts and typography is also needed. Above all, a good and in-depth knowledge of books is what stands between an ordinary book cover and a classic one.
Listen to the Maestro
“How to be a good book cover designer in India- your message for the young aspirants” –This was Yoof’s question for Bhavi Mehta, one of the best book cover designers of this time. She has worked for many leading publication houses including Harper Collins, Pan Macmillan, Bloomsbury UK, Penguin Books India, Amazon UK, etc. The subtlety of her designs can be experienced in book covers like- Pico Iyer’s ‘The Man Within My Head’, Vivek Shanbhag’s ‘Ghachar Ghochar’, Kalpana Swaminathan’s ‘Monochrome Madonna’ or Vikram Seth’s ‘All You Who Sleep Tonight’. Here is her answer:
Book cover designer: Bhavi Mehta
Book cover designer: Bhavi Mehta.
“A truly great jacket is one that captures the book inside it in a fundamental and surprising way. As a book cover designer, it’s your job to find this unique detail that can carry the weight of the book and ring true to the story it is trying to represent. This can only be achieved by reading the manuscript closely enough and by finding a handful of relevant details inside it that could translate into powerful visuals. It can be an image, a texture, an object, a character, a particular trait of a character from the book. Once you understand the key elements from the plot, then comes the job of actually making the cover. For example, when I was working on the cover for Monochrome Madonna, which is a murder mystery, the obvious choice was to give the reader what they would expect – blood, shadowy silhouettes, and distressed lettering however I decided to take a different route and use a comb and a scrunchy on the cover instead (the killer liked to collect tokens from all his victims, a comb and scrunchy being some of them). With the right colors and typography, the end result leaves you feeling uneasy and disturbed, which was the whole point.
There are no shortcuts to being a good book cover designer. It’s a very intuitive form of design. At some point, you have to trust your gut feeling and the team that’s getting behind the book and hope it will be well received. Being a keen reader is definitely one of the key aspects of this profession. I try and never get pressured into following a book cover trend, consciously at least. I always prefer to go with what works best for the book, not what’s trending in the market. It’s also a great idea to look at works of other book cover designers to develop your understanding of different styles, techniques, approaches to a storyline but at the end of the day go with your instinct.”
Another reputed book cover designer Bonita Vaz-Shimray also shared her views on the same. Bonita is a visual communicator, art director, educator, design strategist and publisher. She has designed iconic book covers like- Aanchal Malhotra’s ‘Remnants of a Separation’, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s ‘The Forest of Enchantments’, and won The Oxford Bookstore book cover prize.
Book cover designer: Bonita Vaz Shimray
“A foundation in visual communication is useful for both design thinking and skill-based learning. However, if you feel you have an innate sense of composition and a love for the printed word, experiment with fan versions of books you like and build a portfolio that can launch a career as designer. It could be a specific area of expertise like digital or watercolour, botanical drawings or hand-lettering. Publishing houses are always looking for talent and freelancing on book covers is a good start.”