Do not think the reader stupid
This is a basic rule of all branches of commercial design. It implies that ‘you should either say Apple or show an apple, never both’ (Chip Kidd, 2012). In other words, the designer should treat the audience as intelligent human beings and therefore design the cover accordingly.
By expressing the same message through both pictorial and written elements the designer not only loses valuable chance to convey more hints to the potential buyer, but also underestimates readers, most likely the brightest and best educated sort of audience. Especially the new generation of young readers, that is – as Yvonne Parks (2012) puts it - ‘very savvy… being inundated with marketing and logos each time they turn on their smart phone. They know good (and bad) design and have very high standards’.
Fig. 3. Nicole Caputo, Cover design for Feathers by Thor Hansen, 2011
As implied above, in most cases, the design is liable to look unprofessionally and most probably fail in its purpose, should this principle be broken. But even this rule can be circumvented successfully, as is shown in figure 3. The cover of Thor Hanson’s book Feathers: the Evolution of a Natural Miracle designed by Nicole Caputo won several awards, for example HOW’s International Design Awards 2011, AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers 2011 or Gold Ink Award 2011 (Caputo, 2011).
Even though the cover says and shows the same, it communicates the essence of the book effectively and looks professionally due to the clever way the rule was bent to cover’s needs though the placement of visual and typographic elements.
The text is taken from my thesis Book Cover Design written in 2012. To view the full manuscript with interviews and reference list please contact me through my email or download it here. Please note that the text is copyrighted.