Most products I design today will have an electronic component or will be used both electronically and in print. In this case, the customer and I actually began with the cover for the electronic edition of the book. She then suggested bookmarks even though the book was originally intended only for electronic publication because they are simply excellent promotional items. Now the book will be published in print as well, so I’ll soon be working on the print cover for this project.
E-book covers are different from print book covers because the first introduction to them is often as a thumbnail on the internet, in the midst of other thumbnails. At that size, it needs to be simple with the most important details large enough to be seen and to be engaging so that a potential reader will click on the thumbnail including the title, the author’s name, and an image, and just as important as those three elements, colors. At a larger size, where the viewer can see more detail, it also needs to be attractive, so if you’ve made the title really big to be seen as a thumbnail, it screams at the viewer when it’s full screen size, which, unless you’ve got a screaming story, can be a real turn-off. Choice and use of an image is the same, engaging at a thumbnail, but still interesting when it’s at full screen size. And color—at a glance and outside of context, reds, pinks and yellows are the most immediately eye-catching, and because most websites, especially for e-commerce, have white backgrounds dark colors also make a 50 x 75 pixel cover stand out.
I know the author and am familiar with the content she’ll be using in the book. As soon as she told me the book’s title, Purrs of Wisdom, I had an immediate visual that would work well as a thumbnail image and as a full-size image and told her I’d need a few photos of her cats, who were actually part of the book. She’s also the author of another book, Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher, and while I had another idea for Purrs of Wisdom as well it was too similar to Buckley, and we agreed we wanted to distinguish the two books from each other.
I may have one strong idea but I always work up a number of ideas and ask my customer to pick and choose elements they like from among them, then continue combining what we like with several series of drafts until we get down to one or two. In this case we moved completely away from my first idea, migrating to something entirely different, which is somewhat like her first book cover for Buckley but can still be distinguished as a thumbnail; I’m glad we started far away from that idea knowing we’d end up with something similar to her first book only because it was appropriate.
Grateful again for Facebook photo galleries, thinking of the days when I’d have to sort through customer photos or be asked to find a photo, I searched for exactly the photo I wanted. Good, clear eyes were the most important element and a reclining, relaxed posture. The photo of Ruby has shades of blue in it, and the customer likes blue as well as purple so that would work well; one drawback was that it was cropped very closely and I had to bring the colors right up next to her regardless how I tried to expand the image.
And while this cover is actually very much like Buckley’s Story with the feathered photo of a reclining cat in the middle, the photo of Ruby with feathered edges in the center and a colored area on the top, it’s not a bad thing that the author’s two books be identified with each other.
So then to move on to the bookmarks, where of course we’d use the image of the cover. I would use elements of the cover, fonts and colors, but I would not repeat Ruby’s image and needed to make the cover itself stand out—and again, there was a bookmark for Buckley’s Story and this might be similar but should bear its own identity. I also wanted to have more cats on the bookmark than only Ruby on the cover, so we included the photos of all five of the cats who shared her life on the front, and I introduced a navy blue background on the front. This makes it distinctive in its own right, and also quite different from Buckley’s bookmark.
On the back, since we weren’t repeating the cover image, there was no cat! I envisioned a relaxing kitty, especially one sleeping stretched out to reinforce the ideas explained in the reviews. Again I found another photo of the author’s other current cat, Allegra, outlined her to eliminate the patterned background above but also reintroduced the solid area below to include her shadow, giving her image a more dimensional look. When, overall, it looked a little stark, I added 5% blue to the background, fading to white behind Allegra.
And because there isn’t a whole lot of space on a bookmark you really can’t leave clear space between blocks of text to give them emphasis, and generally need to use some sort of a divider. A pawprint just did not work and other items were equally distracting. A bullet worked fine, but I also created the little pi character (dingbat) I used in three areas, which is actually two characters in mirror image that I overlapped and which reminded me of a nose with whiskers without screaming “cute”.
When this printed, the solid deep blue ended up more on the purple end, which is not unusual in printing; colors shift and you really never know if they will or how much, though I knew it would have a little more red than the PDF showed. The customer loves purple so it was fine. I had used a different blue for the screen on the front, more of a turquoise containing more yellow so that the dark blue type wouldn’t simply blend in but have a slightly complementary effect, and that light blue is more of a sky blue than a lavender shade. I mix my colors beginning with a Pantone chart and check them on the process color chart so I know what elements go into them and how they might shift.
Soon we will begin the design for the print cover, and we’ll see how the front cover will possibly change. The back will be decidedly influenced by the back of the bookmark.
And at right is the front and back of the bookmarks for Buckley’s Story.