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What makes a great book cover design?

How do you design a book cover?

Book cover designs by David Pearson and Teresa Monachino

Book cover designs by David Pearson and Teresa Monachino

Setting out to answer this how-long’s-a-piece-of-string style dilemma is a talk next month organised by West of England Design Forum, which has enlisted the help of renowned book cover designers David Pearson and Teresa Monachino.

Extraordinary Gardens of the World cover by Teresa Monachino

Extraordinary Gardens of the World cover by Teresa Monachino

The D&AD award-winning designers will be discussing what they feel makes a great cover design, and how you go about creating one. Pearson will be drawing on his experience of working for Penguin Books as typographer and later, cover designer, before leaving to set up his own studio in 2007. 

Short and Sweet cover by David Pearson

Short and Sweet cover by David Pearson

Monachino, meanwhile, is no stranger to discussing the art of cover design, having spoken at Bath Literary Book Fair and the British Museum, as well as being a regular TED Talks speaker.  She also wrote and designed typographic book Words Fail Me.

‘I’m going to be talking through mostly non-fiction books because I don’t think they’re often covered –pardon the pun,’ she says. ‘It’s interesting to hear about books like Monty Don On Gardening – how do you do something original for things like that? Or with The Making of Harry Potter  - how do you go over ground that’s been so well covered?’

Words Fail Me cover by Teresa Monachino

Words Fail Me cover by Teresa Monachino

So what’s her advice for making sure you do create something original?

She says, ‘It’s taking what’s already there and not ignoring the obvious clichés, because they’re the most important and direct communication tools as designers. It’s looking at how you treat something very familiar in a new way, but not getting rid of all the familiar elements.

‘You can’t afford to be subtle. That’s what sorts good designers from not so good – it’s important you find something new.’

Garnier, Les Insulaires et autres romans (noirs) cover by David Pearson

Garnier, Les Insulaires et autres romans (noirs) cover by David Pearson

Pearson will spend one half of his talk giving a ‘potted history of Penguin books’ and the other discussing his own work.

He says, ‘I used to call the talk “money for old rope” - most of what I do is repackage classic literature, so it does feel like you’re constantly trying to trick people into reading these old books.’

Freud Wolf Man cover by David Pearson

Freud Wolf Man cover by David Pearson

Pearson’s stunning typographic Penguin Classics book cover designs played no small part in reinvigorating the brand, showing that for the classics, simplicity is often best.

‘I think they had a certain spartan quality which suits more authoritative writing’, he says. ‘People almost want these older books to have a more austere, authoritative look so it’s appropriate to use type as you give so little away - people can project onto the covers themselves.’

 

The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction cover by David Pearson

The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction cover by David Pearson

Cover to Cover: An Evening of Book Design with David Pearson and Teresa Monachino, takes place on 16 October at Anolfini, 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol, Avon BS1 . To book tickets visit http://www.arnolfini.org.uk

Penguin Books logo

Penguin Books logo

 

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