Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘book design’

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"The blowtorch is the secret weapon in design"

Think book designers are namby-pamby design nerds hunched over their Macs? Think again. The Guardian reveals the secret, extreme lengths designers will go to in order to get that perfect cover: Deputy art director Glenn O’Neill tells me that the original jacket concept for Robert Harris’s Cicero novel, Lustrum, was to feature an image of a raging fire. Not content with plucking any old flame image from a picture library, however, the team set a field in Gloucestershire on fire. (No, it wasn’t arson – they had the farm owner’s permission). “We created a big bonfire from old crates and […]


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On Choosing A Font

My sister, a engineering professor, is writing a book about how to encourage women to pursue engineering. She plans to self-publish the book through Lulu, since the print on demand strategy makes perfect sense for the specialized audience for such a book. And because I’ve worked in publishing, she asks me a lot of questions about layout and format and marketing—topics that are, sadly, way out of my field of expertise. In self-publishing, everything is up to the author: the size of the book, binding type, even the font. That can make for a bewildering self-publishing experience, and the best […]


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U.K. vs. U.S. covers

When British books are published in the United States, and vice versa, publishers don’t generally change the text to cater to their audiences across the pond. Okay, they often adjust the spelling of a few words, like “realise”/”realize” and “practise”/”practice.” And some small punctuation changes occur—British writers tend to put their periods and commas outside quotation marks, Americans within. But these changes are quite minor. There’s one major thing that changes when a book crosses the Atlantic, though: the cover. The Millions has an interesting analysis of the UK and US covers of the books involved in the 2011 Tournament […]


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The Challenges of Digital Typesetting

Abu Dhabi’s The National offers this fascinating piece by Peter Robins about typesetting ebooks: “Designing a printed book is remarkably different from designing an ebook,” says Charles Nix, a partner in the New York publishing firm Scott & Nix and the president of the Type Directors’ Club. “Printed-book design is about fixed-size pages and spreads. Those are gone in ebooks. Book designers choose typefaces and point sizes to maximize legibility and comprehension. Those are gone in ebooks too. Some formats, he notes, do allow you to embed a font, but you can’t rely on reading devices picking it up. Book […]


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Book Design Nerdery, Part I: Designing a Cover

Have you ever wondered how book covers get designed? This video shows how Orbit Books’ Creative Designer Lauren Panepinto designed the cover for an upcoming novel. The whole process took over 6 hours, but the video condenses that into just under two minutes: On Orbit’s webpage, Panepito explains: Trust me, no one wants to watch it in real-time…and even then I left out the not-as-riveting-onscreen stages of my cover design process, such as reading the manuscript, sifting through Alexia photoshoot outtakes, background photo research, etc. And since this is a series look that has already been established for Soulless and […]


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Love Letter to the Deckle Edge

If all the recent talk about the iPad and the Amazon/Macmillan ebook pricing catfight has you longing for a simpler time, look no further than this ode to the deckle edge on The Millions: Opening a book can already feel like opening a gift. Armed with a knife and freeing the pages and the story hidden beneath the folds, it becomes something more, “a penetration of its secrets” and an act of discovery, shot through with a suggestion of violence and danger or of the painful gestation of the words themselves. This act of cutting open pages to read a […]


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By Its Cover: A Book Cover Contest

Did our last post on book covers convince you that cover design makes a difference? Want to try your hand at it? Design blog Venus febriculosa is running a book cover design contest for Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. The deadline is February 26, 2010, and the winner gets $1000. More information on the contest is here. And for further inspiration, check out the stunning entries and winners for the last book cover contest: Nabokov’s Lolita. My favorite is the one with the scrunchie–how about you?


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By Its Cover

The old adage is right: you can’t judge a book by its cover. On the other hand, the cover still makes a difference. In a recent New York Times essay, satirist/memoirist Joe Queenan has a startling realization: But in the next room, in the cabinet where I keep my unread books, I was stunned to realize how many of these neglected works were eyesores. Some were bland or ugly because they dated from earlier eras or because they came from England. Particularly ghastly was the 1951 Modern Library hardcover edition of Edward Bellamy’s “Looking Backward,” which looks like a trash-bagged […]


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Graphic Classics

Vernerable publisher Penguin has quietly been putting out a series of “Graphic Classics”–classic novels such as Moby Dick and The Three Musketeers with snazzy covers by prominent graphic artists. Over at his blog, illustrator Michael Cho discusses designing the cover for the recent reissue of Don Delillo’s White Noise: The first thing I did, of course, was read the book again. It had been over 10 years since I last read it, so I needed to re-familiarize myself with it. After reading it though this time, I skimmed it again but with an eye toward the major concepts and images. […]




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