Nine Birds in a Trench Coat

Yes, this photo only has six, we're working on getting all of them together in one calm photo

I Do Judge Books by their Covers

You know that phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover”? And how it’s a metaphor for not judging a person based on their looks. I definitely agree with the message and intent of not judging people. However, I do absolutely judge actual books by their covers. I’m a designer – we’re talking design here.

I am an avid reader. Or well… I used to be. I still consider myself an avid reader, even though I’m not reading 6 books in a week like I used to in high school. Does not having enough time to read anymore stop me from leaving with an armful of books any time I go to a book store? It absolutely does not. I can’t even remember the last time I bought books and left with fewer than 5 books.

Back to design…

The cover is the first thing I see – actually, the spine of the cover is usually the first thing I see. But the spine or the cover needs to be visually interesting enough for me to pick it up. Sometimes, the cover is so interesting and well designed that I honestly don’t even read the synopsis. For me to just buy a book without knowing anything about it, it needs:

  • a really well designed and visually compelling cover
  • be a huge book – no fewer than 800 pages
  • to be written by an author I’ve read and enjoyed before OR who has been recommended to me multiple times by multiple people (see: Sarah J. Maas)
  • the word “dragon” or “assassin” in the title

If it doesn’t have “dragon” in the title, but there are dragons on the cover, that helps, too. Also, having a map inside the cover. I’m a sucker for well-fleshed fantasy worlds.

Design Style

My own design style tends toward a more clean, minimalistic vibe that airs just slightly on the side of feminine. I can definitely design in other styles – I’m working on a bright and colorful whimsical identity now. But I am not drawn at all to book covers in a minimalistic style. The covers I’m drawn to are generally more… whimsical but dark, hint at powerful characters, magic, and evil, and if they feature swords or daggers, I’m in. Looking at my bookshelves now, I see a lot of black and dark colors.

I even have one that is completely black. I definitely bought that one without knowing anything about the stories inside. It’s called *The Night Angel Trilogy* by Brent Weeks and… I have yet to finish that book and will need to start it over when I do get back to it. BUT I was on vacation with my partner and his family and we were killing time before going to the airport to head home. We stopped in a strip mall and there was a Barnes & Noble, so I ran in there before anyone could stop me. I gravitate toward the sci-fi/fantasy and romance sections and when I stopped in there, I started perusing the shelves. There was a massive black spot on the shelf that was a book.

The title, cover graphic, and author’s name are all only visible on the cover because they’re a different texture from the dust jacket stock. The light has to hit it just right. And my inner middle school goth kid squealed in delight. I didn’t even look at the back of the book until we were standing in line at checkout. I had just been carrying that massive brick of black around as we continued shopping.

Why cover design matters

Aside from being the first thing that people normally see for a book, a cover should be unique. It needs to be really attention-grabbing and stand out on the tables and shelves filled with other attention-grabbing covers. The visual is the first impression or touchpoint. It gives someone the high-level hint of what the story could be. It’s what piques someone’s interest enough to pick up the book and read the back cover and/or synopsis within the inside of the dust jacket.

Then it’s that hint of the story in the synopsis that either convinces them to buy or borrow the book, or open it up to read a few pages. And then those few pages turn into a few chapters. And that few chapters turns into the whole book, then the whole series, then maybe even the author’s entire collection of works. And it all started with one cover.

The same goes for brand design

Now, this is not a stretch of analogy by any means. I’m talking about the visuals of a book and getting peoples’ attention. But the same thing happens with branding. When you have thoughtful and compelling brand design, and it’s truly unique to you and your business, it’ll get attention. It will at least get enough attention for potential clients or customers to take that first step to learn more about you. And once they learn more about you, they might put your book down, so to speak, and walk away. And if they do, they’re not the people that are meant to work with you.

But if they don’t put your book down, they’re going to either already be sold on you at that point, or they’re going to want to learn more about you and dig into those first few pages.

Your branding is your story and the visuals are your chapters. Do you have a powerful story behind your business, but you don’t know how to tell it? I specialize in visual storytelling and would love to bring your brand to life. If you’re ready to tell your story, reach out and we’ll make everyone listen.

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