Saturday, March 25, 2017


This... Plus This... Equals...???

Cover-design by committee? My cover design on the left, and on the right, the publisher's designer's effort using my specs of white background and formal layout. Neither made the cut.

This was the final cover choice. 

Publisher Firefly Books agreed with my choice of a white background and the illustration I chose, but accepted the designer's second effort for I Love You Too, I Love You Three. This time, the design is informal in layout, and breaks several fundamental rules of typesetting, design, and reproduction. Does it work? You be the judge... 
Your comments are most welcome.

I admit I have procrastinated on posting this blog, because first and foremost I Love You Two, I Love You Three by Wendy Tugwood, is a great book and I am loathe to criticize it, (or those who contributed, since they may get their knickers in a wad and send me nasty emails, or assassins). In any case, I'm sure most viewers will say there's nothing wrong with the final cover. 
But here's the thing -- nothing wrong is a pretty low standard. With only a few seconds to entice a customer to pick up the book or to read more, every element better be right, inspired, and well thought out!  

Is this sour grapes? Hell no! Okay, maybe a bit... LOL. After all, why wouldn't it bother me that I've spent the better part of a year working with the author and fighting with the publisher to get the pacing, order, continuity, design and layout just right, only to be ignored on the single most publicly-visible element of the entire book? So here goes... the broken rules and why they shouldn't be broken.

**grits teeth**

(Please note that the title on my book cover design was a working title and the punctuation changed. No problem there.)
Broken Rule One: In typesetting, having a single word on a line has a sense of the word being abandoned, poor thing; or worse, of poor planning. These lonely singles are called orphans, or widows. And while there is a mindset that our computers will take care of the proper kerning, leading, and prevent or clean-up other pesky problems like pig-bristles, rivers, and rags (for more on typesetting no-no's click HERE), in the end it's the designer's job to make it work visually. On this book cover, out of only eight words, we not only have line-breaks in the middle of phrases, but also TWO(!) orphans.

**knocks back blood-pressure meds**

Broken Rule Two: Enlarging the art... design 101. When reproducing art in a printed form, it should be printed no larger than its original size. This is because textures of art materials, when enlarged, become coarse. The drawing used for the cover was small, one of many vignettes for the text pages, which is one of many reasons I kept the art small on my cover design. Now however, it has been (unnecessarily) enlarged.

**where's my martini?!**

Broken Rule Three: Filled-up space. Does the title need to be in 96 point type so people notice it? No. Does the art have to be big so readers can see it? Hardly. In design, especially book design, as opposed to ads for used-car lots, restraint is a virtue.
Negative-space, also called white-space (which can be any color but in this case it's a shiny clean white), isn't wasted space. From the book The Elements of Graphic Design... "The functional difference between a shovel and a pitchfork is the metal that's missing."
That missing metal has a function, as does the missing stuff that can fill up white-space. White-space directs the viewer's eye, and emphasizes the image or type you want them to see. The sheer volume of white-space in my book-cover design means the image and type can't be missed, and in a sea of children's-books covers that are a riot of eye-tiring and headache-inducing colors, it is restful and unusual, which makes it stand out from the rest. For more on white-space, I love this website.

**another martini please**

Broken Rule Four: Ignoring basic color principles. There are many ways, aside from white-space, to direct a viewer's eye. Color gives a viewer cues to search for and distinguish elements. This is why my title and the author-credit repeats the predominant colors -- purple and orange -- of the illustration. Why oh why is the final title blue? Click HERE for another good design blog.

**maybe just one more...**

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