f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 3 of Book Covers: Follow the Leader

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Day 3 of Book Covers: Follow the Leader

When a book is successful, not only will the story and/or genre be duplicated but the cover will as well. You see this in the limes and pinks and “girlie” colors that are dominating much of the chick-lit out there. You see this in the “British royalty portraiture” covers hitting the lists from Philippa Gregory. You see it in ABA and you see it in CBA.

The books we looked at yesterday really didn't have a thematic or literary link. A few of you noted that there were stylistic similarities though. And it turns out they do have a design link.

Meet Chip Kidd one of the most influential book cover designers of working today. A Penn Stater—and therefore summarily awesome person—Kidd has designed TONS of the covers you know. Jurassic Park, with the looming TRex skeleton? Elmore Leonard? James Ellroy? David Sedaris? Augusten Burroughs? These are major, major names and Kidd has designed for all of them. It’s an inordinate amount of power placed in one man’s hand because when he designs bestsellers he shapes the face of design in the industry.

The five covers we looked at yesterday all show his use of similar elements. The strong image, often truncated. Negative space. Strong horizontal breaks. Straight-forward fonts. No filters or layers or washes. Just straight-forward. How can the same “design styles” work for such different books? Can you sell a book on the basis of a single, unadorned image?

This is where I stop having answers. I think all the covers work. Lying Awake seems perfect. The Abomination is succinctly warped. All the Pretty Horses promises “stark” very well, if not “literary western.” Donna Tartt had all sorts of issues going into book 2, so it really wouldn’t matter what went on her cover. And The New Testament was just to show that Mel wasn’t the first person to “cash in” on Jesus’ blood.

I don’t really have a huge point here. Just that there are only so many designers out there…and if one hits big you’ll start seeing her work in a lot of places. And she might repeat some things. And then up-and-coming designers may repeat those things. And suddenly you have the design trends that pop up every now and then.

Here’s today’s covers:

The Pact by Jodi Picoult

Man Walks Into a Room by Nicole Krauss

This Life She's Chosen by Kirsten Sunberg Lundstrum

The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg

Good Grief by Lolly Winston