Monday, March 29, 2010

10 Book Design Terms Explained!

For beginners, from a beginner, here are ten terms to know about book creation. (Would be most grateful if the better-informed will correct or clarify in the comments! --Carol)
  1. Blind, blind stamped or stamped in the blind: "This refers to stamping or impressions on the cover of a book that have not been filled in with color or gilt." (source) A blind stamp

  2. Cast-Coated Paper: Coated paper with a high-gloss reflective finish. (source) Cast-coated paper

  3. Foil: "A metallic or pigmented coating on plastic sheets or rolls used in foil stamping and foil embossing." (source) Foil

  4. Headbands: "Most commonly, the bands of thread which extend beyond the top and bottom edges of the text block at either end of the spine." (source) A headband

  5. Levant: "Elegant and highly polished morocco goatskin leather with a grain-pattern surface." (source) Levant

  6. Slab Serif: "A certain class of font whose serifs look like slabs (e.g.: flat lines or blocks) and not hooks." Rockwell uses slab serifs. (source)

  7. Sparkle: "A typographic property associated with many classical, readable typefaces that is related to their typographic contrast." The typeface Bodoni is said to sparkle. (source)

  8. Spot varnish: "Varnish used to hilight [sic] a specific part of the printed sheet." (source)

  9. Spot varnishThermography: "Method of printing using colorless resin powder that takes on the color of underlying ink. Also called raised printing." Printers can even make the raised part metallic, pearlescent, or glittery! (source) Thermographic Glitter!Thermography/Raised printing

  10. UV coated paper: "Liquid laminate bonded and cured with ultraviolet light. Environmentally friendly. Comes in gloss or matte finish." (source) This is used to protect the paper. UV coating can apparently provide the glossiest finish of all available coating methods.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

About Face Follow-Up

Carol's post on Sunday had me pulling books off my shelves for hours! I sat down and read through James Elkin's The Object Stares Back (especially the chapter titled What Is a Face?) and at Daniel McNeill's The Face. I looked up one of Oliver Sacks' cases (described in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat) where Sacks describes a man whose visual agnosia allowed him to see a nose, an ear, a chin, an eye, but not see the "face," not understand the face as a whole.The idea of not being able to determine that a set of discrete elements (eyes, nose, mouth, etc.) when put together make a face is really disturbing. Of course, we "see" (we interpret) with our brains, not with our eyes (which is why book design appeals not only to the eyes but to something subliminal. ) I started wondering about book covers that show only one element of a face.

Kevin Hawkes' cover illustration for Nikolai Gogol's story The Nose stopped me dead in my tracks the first time I saw it. I couldn't decide if it was brilliant or disgusting. I've come down on the side of brilliant - how often do you see a nose wearing a hat, and how often do you find an illustrator willing to put something like that on the cover of a book?

The cover of Robert Groebel Intrater's Two Eyes, A Nose and a Mouth, on the other hand, is accidentally eeire - the discrete pieces of the face are fine when looked at individually, but when you pull your vision back and look at the "face" on the right (small eyes, large mouth) it makes you squirm.



Despite what seems like a facial feature ripe for cover art, I didn't find much in the way of weird-and-wonderful images of isolated eyes on kids' fiction. I saw lots of covered eyes - sunglasses seem to be a big deal on covers.  But designers and illustrators must think that if there are eyes, there should be faces. This non-fiction book, however, has a definite weird-and-wonderful ewww factor. Now that is seriously unpleasant.


As for entire faces, here is one of my favorites
(maybe because it reminds me of Saturday Night Live's Mr. Bill - "Oh, no!!") 
Big Mouth by Deborah Halvorsen: 

And I like this one, too, though it's not a kids' book:
Kissing the Mask by William t. Vollmann


And here, for your religious edification, are images of simulacra, as Carol talked about it last Sunday (thanks, Carol, for letting me piggy-back on your post):

(Madonna of the Cheese Sandwich, Jesus in a Banana, Jesus of the Maple Tree)

Monday, March 22, 2010

About Face

Within just minutes after being born, they say, babies can already recognize--and prefer to look at--the human face over any other image or pattern. It's burned into our psyches, I think. There's a phenomenon where even grown-up people think they see human faces in things like grilled cheese sandwiches or turtle bellies, or in the scorch marks on the surface of an electric iron. (Incidentally, if such an image is thought to be of a religious figure, this perception is known as a simulacrum. The more you know . . .) I, myself, once saw the image of [insert Name of Religious Figure here] under a viaduct near my house:
That's the viaduct. Now here's a close-up of the simulacrum:


Ha, ha, ha, ha, haaaaaa. I jest. But there's no question that we humans have an ability to group any set of random visual elements that vaguely resemble two eyes and a mouth together and perceive the grouping as a human face, a gestalt, if you like. So perhaps that's why full-frontal, face compositions crop up on book jackets from time to time. They quickly catch our eye. Here are a few I spotted recently:


Beyond the Mask
by David Ward (Scholastic Canada, 2006), a YA fantasy. It takes less than a second to see the "face."


This one jumped out at me the other day. It's Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith (Little, Brown, 2007), a fantasy YA. An irresistible image with an attention-grabbing chartreuse cover.

And third, have you seen this next one yet?


This is Happyface, by Stephen Emond (Little, Brown, 2010) a novel told (mostly) in illustrations and journal entries. Impossible not to notice this if it's facing out on the shelf. I don't have it here in front of me, but if I remember correctly, the jacket covers only the bottom 2/3 of the book, which is off topic, but kinda cool.

What about you? Seen any fresh faces lately?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tapjacketing #8 Spring Has Sprung

Tulips are blooming in the Skagit Valley, which means it's spring. No matter what the calendar says, the tulips know. 
 Skagit Valley Tulip Farm North of Seattle
Hana in the Time of Tulips by Deborah Noyes


Here are some cover-related stories for you.
Just click on the word "Link."  

1. Link: Interesting article I missed last fall in School Library Journal - librarian Leigh Ann Jones talks about the tug-of-war over books in her school library that have updated covers. Kids would rather be on a waiting list for the updated version than take a copy sitting right on the shelves (same book, different cover!) with the old "uncool" cover.  Here is the visual she posts:


2. Sorry, no link, but along the same lines (updating covers): Try to get a copy of the March/April 2010 issue of Horn Book. Betsy Bird has an interesting article about updating books by authors like Beverley Cleary and Judy Blume. Bird takes a special look at the idea of updating the text, but she mentions covers as well, and interestingly says that Judy Blume's lasting power might have something to do with the fact that the covers of her books are constantly updated.
Uncool and Cool Judy Blume

3. Link: Over at print: design for curious minds, Peter Terzian has eight designers talk about favorite cover designs that got shot down for one reason or another. Ouch. No kids books in the bunch, but it's a fascinating read all the same. One editor at Knopf maintains a whole gallery of killed covers.  (thanks for the heads-up on this one, Carol.)

4. Link: Want to know how to design a book cover in two minutes? Watch this video.

5. Link: Chasing Ray had some interesting things to say recently about covers (and I completely agree that it would be nice to get away from the ubiquitous black, black, black, black....)  

6. Link: If you've been looking for the interview I promised of namelos art director Helen Robinson, it will be up on April 13th (special Tuesday edition) as part of the blog tour for WARRIORS IN THE CROSSFIRE by Nancy Bo Flood.

7. Link: Four pages (four pages!) of "Classic Cars" covers for kids. Really delightful stuff. Thanks to Sarah Johnson over in Germany for this one! Sneak Peek:


Monday, March 15, 2010

More is More, More or Less

The Victorians loved ornamentation. That's an understatement. They reveled in pattern and color and delved into design that was "simply too utterly utter, i.e. beautiful beyond the ponderous weight of description."

I happen to think Victorian design is gorgeous. But I realize that others think it's just gawdawful cluttered.

Jacket Whys
posted two covers recently that contrasted a cluttered design with a simple one--with the conclusion that simplicity is best. Studying the examples she used, I agree completely. (Be sure to have a look; that YA cover is really poorly executed). However, in general, I happen to like both spare and busy design, and I think kids do, too. That got me wondering: When does a busy cover design work, and when is it just a muddled mess?

Leon and the Place Between by Angela McAllister, illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith, designed by Mike Jolley (Templar/Candlewick, 2008), has a busy cover that I think works wonderfully (although I would not consider it necessarily Victorian in style). It's carefully composed, balanced and pleasing. While it is true that this cover is full of "utterly utter" patterns and images and curlicues and arabesques and such, much of which is highlighted in shiny gold foil, the motifs repeat in a pleasing way. They don't crowd or overwhelm the title or the creators' names. They make room. They make room for Leon's shadow, which is, I suspect, meant to represent the "place between" or the place where real magic actually happens. The art is planned around the necessary elements of text. (And the title typefaces, carried out throughout the interior text, are just delightful.)

Contrast that with this cover I found online. Circus by Roxie Munro (Chronicle, 2006) is not as busy, but seems more cluttered. This one is less successful to me for a number of reasons: There is no clear focal point or difference in scale between the various elements. They all seem to demand the viewer's attention equally (granted that is the nature of a circus, but what works for a three-ring extravaganza is less effective for a book cover). There is little attempt at repetition of shapes to lead the eye around the composition. Figures overlap needlessly. And what about contrast? The spotlighted area isn't any brighter than the rest. Also, the trapeze artists clutter and obscure the title. There's a sense of disorganization in the composition, of the elements not making room for each other.

It's not Victorian in the least, but that's what I call gawdawful cluttered.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Don't Slouch!! Strong Spines and Cover Designs

Wow! Elizabeth Bluemle, who writes Shelf Talker: A Children's Bookseller's Blog for Publishers Weekly, has really outdone herself with the 03/04/10 post about "Strong Spines."  The many photos posted on that page show book after book (many ARC's) on her "To-Be-Read" shelves at home, and they speak clearly to the importance of colors and typography choices in the under-discussed area of book spines.

As Bluemle points out, not every book is going to be placed face out on a bookstore shelf (hopefully, we're still thinking of bookstores when we think about a book's presentation, not just online cyber-presentation.) There's just not enough room for all the books to get that kind of shelf space.

Though Jacket Knack's usual focus is the front cover of a book, the full spread (including flaps, backs, fronts and spines) is important. One example that got talked about this last year was the cover for Jerry Pinkney's Lion and the Mouse, which features the Lion on the front, and wraps around to the back to show the little mouse. But picture books don't have enough room to do much on the spine.

Not so with longer fiction. Spines present all kinds of opportunities IF the length of the book is sufficient to give a book designer space to be playful and/or just plain smart about catching a reader's attention. I have a book of poetry on my shelf which has such a striking spine that it actually gives me the creeps, because it is so wide it allows for half of the photo of the poet (James Merrill) to wrap across the spine from the front of the book. I can't find a photo of the spine online, but here is the front cover. The book is a hefty 885 pages, which makes the spine about three inches across   You can imagine what the rest of Merrill's face looks like, staring at me from the bookshelf. I honestly can't have it standing upright on the shelf - his eye follows me around the room - I have to lay the book down on its side.  


The books Bluemle talks about at PW are not quite this thick nor quite this innovative (nor, I think, are they as unnerving.) She offers about half a dozen easy pointers about what catches a customer's eye (some of them very basic, such as high contrast and LARGE FONT!) A title written in cursive is extremely difficult to read when running vertically down a spine - I'd never thought of that before. Small images turn muddy and indecipherable from the two-foot distance most customer's stand at when browsing a bookstore shelf. Metallic inks (such as the kind used on BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl) are often hard to see unless light shines directly on them. Here are two photos from Bluemle's post (the first taken with a flash, the second without) which clearly show how hard it is to see the title of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES without direct light shining on it (the second photo has a slightly different center point, and BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is farther to the right) 


Definitely check out the post over at PW. It's so clear, from the photos, how important an easily readable spine is. The trick for the book designer is how to make something both readable AND intriguing.

Monday, March 8, 2010

52 Pick-Up

A very close friend of mine has been playing way too much computer Solitaire. This . . . friend . . . can't help herself. It's sad, poor thing. She is hooked through the gills like a large mouth bass and cannot stop shuffling and shuffling and shuffling.

No wonder, then, that I, her very close friend, noticed this cover of the paperback version of Straits by Jeremy Craig (Flux, 2009) at the bookstore recently . . .

. . . and began thinking about playing card art. The art of design in the making of playing cards is really quite beautiful, and the range of styles is more extensive than one might think. Here's a site full of playing card images.

It's no wonder designers have sometimes used a playing card image on covers. Not only is it appealing, but with its ability to be instantly recognized --whether it's the joker or the ace, a club or a diamond -- it's a great shorthand symbol for good fortune or risk or a number of other things. Its many connotations flash across our minds easily.

Here are just a few covers using playing card images:

Marcus Zuzak's I Am the Messenger:


(Hardcover, Knopf, 2005)


(Paperback, Knopf, 2006)



While this paperback version (above) of Pete Hautman's Stone Cold has definite poker/playing card touches to the design, I can't help but wish the artist had used more. Ditto these:


Eric Luper's Big Slick (FSG, 2007)

And this one:


The Poker Diaries by Liza Conrad (Penguin paperback, 2007)

I want more card art! Maybe that's just because of my -- I mean, my friend's -- Solitaire addiction. Poor thing. Now to make room for that red king I'm going to need to find a spot for the three of clubs.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tapjacketing #7

Following on Carol's Declaration of a Little Nonsense, these items are pure fun. Click on the word link to take you there.

1. LINK: Adam Rex's post last month revealed a rejected cover for Jon Sciezka's BOYS READ (thank you, Carol, for this link.)

2. LINK: Author Ellen Potter talks "about Book Jackets and the Closet Sprite" over at mackids (and thanks again, Carol.) 

3. LINK: We'll soon have an interview up of Helen Robinson,  the art director for namelos, Stephen Roxburgh's interesting new consortium of independent publishing professionals engaging in "the opening move in a new age of publishing." Helen was the designer of our friend Nancy Bo Flood's wonderful first novel, WARRIORS IN THE CROSSFIRE, published by Front Street, so we'll be able to get Nancy's reaction to the cover design decisions, too.

4. LINK:  Well, not exactly relevant to kids books (unless you think of Surrealists as unrepentant adolescents  - which I do, occasionally) but relevant to covers in general, here's a look at the special preservation difficulties presented by a book cover designed by Marcel Duchamp and Andre Breton. Sneak Preview: "The trouble with the book is its cover, featuring a foam rubber breast..." I can think of a few YA readers who might be interested in that one. Thanks to  GRAPHIC ARTS (the blog of the Graphic Arts Division of Princeton University) for the story.

5. LINK: It's a little weird to link to an older post from Jacket Knack, but my question about pink covers continues to get quite a few responses. Philip Falco, the designer for the cover of HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by Nancy Standiford (all pink cover except for a black retro telephone receiver) takes me to task a couple of times for what he feels are inconsistencies in my argument that the cover needlessly exludes YA male readers who might have read the story and liked it if the cover hadn't looked so chick-lit.  I thought readers of Jacket Knack might like to follow up with the ongoing Comments,  a record for a JK post: 28 and counting. Pipe up and add a comment if you feel like it. As for me, I'm done - it's been interesting, and not exactly pleasant, but I do think the conversation deserves attention.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Little Nonsense Now and Then . . .

I am beginning to see how Julie's and my personalities come through in the different ways we blog and in our choices of subject matter. After Julie's very thoughtful and themed Thursday post about covers on books about civil rights, I (C.) bring you this post, in which I've chosen to highlight an olio (crossword puzzle word) of some very silly book covers and other curious design-related things I've come across recently. Truly, we move from the sublime (Julie) to the ridiculous (moi).

For example, how about that capital "I" at the beginning of this post, huh? The big illuminated letter at the beginning of a manuscript is known as a "versal" (which I just learned and now you did, too). You can get free ones to use on your own blog at the Daily Drop Cap.

Here's a(n undoubtedly very important and instructive) book about nostrils, which comes from Curious Pages, a most awesome blog:


The Curious Pages masthead image is the cover of Struwwelpeter, the ever-charming, ever-frightening children's book of cautionary tales, which alone illustrates what the blog's focus is. Subversive. Here's another cover they dug up for us on that blog, The Man Who Lost His Head by Claire Huchet Bishop and Robert McCloskey, 1942:


Gah!!!! Mommy, why? Don't let Ouack, Nack, and the rest see that.

A little off-topic, but so cool-->This site boasts an archive of every known cover ever made of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds from 1898 through 2009. Here's one I especially liked:


This article from The Spectacle delves into why some covers, The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman (HarperCollins/Greenwillow) for example, undergo several changes over the course of their lives. It's not particularly silly or curious, except that I know some of us are curious about why covers are changed. (Did you see that? Did you see how I changed the meaning of curious? Gosh, I'm awesome sometimes.)


Oh, I love that cover. I would have double-loved it when I was a kid. Colorful and full of life.

In conclusion, there is a question going through my mind about blog post conclusions. Are they expected? Or can we get away with just beginnings and middles?