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Book Typography Part 1: Cover Design

If you pay attention to book cover designs, you may have noticed a trend toward using type only without pictures. With online sales becoming increasingly important, this sort of design has an advantage in that it shows up well in small sizes on mobile devices. It is important to recognize design trends like this so your book cover looks fresh and current. Overall, the most important aspect of book design is typography. This includes font, color, size, and hierarchy.


With or without imagery on the cover, the font can evoke an emotion or mood, bring to mind a time and place, provoke action, or instill comfort. Think of a romance cover with a swirly, pretty font that makes one think of a medieval princess, or crayon-drawn letters that evoke fun and childhood, or large, bold, capital letters that mean business.


The color used also has a profound effect on the mind. Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow create energy and passion and are often used in adventure or dramatic fiction. Cool colors like blue, green, and purple can be associated with calm, relaxation, and reliability, and you see them most often in spirituality or financial advice books.


In addition to font and color, the size and positioning of the text on the page is important. Centered copy suggests balance and order, whereas flush left is most quickly readable and conservative. Less common is aligning the text to the right to give it an “offbeat” feel. Sometimes positioning each word in relation to the image without any particular alignment is the best way to get the message across.


The most important aspect of cover design, however, is visual hierarchy. The layout should control the order in which the eye looks at the elements of the cover. This is why books by a well-known person have the author’s name larger and more prominent than the title of the book. Color theory also affects what stands out the most. Cool colors recede and warm colors pop, so an orange title with a blue subtitle makes sense. If the eye doesn’t know where to look first because the title, subtitle, author, and endorsement are competing for attention, potential readers may subconsciously just move on to the next book.


You may not realize how all of these things affect how you see a book cover. In fact, if a cover is done right, the effect is subliminal. You should be able to recognize the genre, catch the mood, ascertain the topic, and decide whether you are interested in the book in literally the blink of an eye. In the fast-paced world of online sales, it can mean the difference between a click or a swipe.

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