Tuesday, May 5, 2009

On cover design

Today I rearranged some of my books on the shelves, and as I did so, I looked over their covers - since I'm working on cover drafts for Fred's book, I want to keep learning what makes a good design. And what makes a bad one, so I can avoid that!

I thought I'd pick a few from my genre collection that I really like, and see if there's anything in common.

The Restorer by Sharon Hinck - I love the textures you can see here in the sky and earth, the realism of the figure, the spooky tower silhouette.

League of Superheroes by Stephen Leon Rice - Nice and dramatic, bold colours on black, a comic-book feel.

Flashpoint by Frank Creed - The print book looks a lot better than this. It's got depth and layers and effects, very atmospheric.

Merlin by Stephen
Lawhead - Going back in time a bit here. Perhaps the most unusual cover concept I've ever seen, used on all the first editions of the Pendragon Cycle. Look at that chiselled face, those misty hills...Mmm.

The Shadow and Night by Chris Walley - Now I'm not convinced about that diagonal cut line, but it does serve to hold the series together. But check out that cityscape, and what's going on in the sky! Very impressive.

Arena by Karen Hancock - An accurate picture of the story inside: a girl going on a journey through a strange world. Clean and bright.

The Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka - Awesome textures all over, and incidentally also throughout the interior.

A Lever Long Enough by Amy Deardon - Yep, you guessed it, this is time travel. The image of the folks in robes with their laser guns is just too cool.

Now let's look at some of my current attempts for Fred's book.

Here's the font and effects we decided on several weeks ago. That was a whole other story!

Here are the spooky eyes I liked a lot at the beginning of this process.

Now here's the complete concept with our wonderful model on board. It looks okay, but I got to thinking we could do better.

I took one of the glowing eyes, enlarged it, and made it into a spiral. Interesting effect. I quite like it, as long as it doesn't come across as being too simplistic. What do you say?

Seeing as I'm so fond of texture in the examples above, I thought I'd include it in one of the design concepts.

And how about a little bit of colour?

So what do you think? Which cover appeals to you the most, and which would you be most likely to pick up if you saw it somewhere? This is only the first round of designs so it will likely end up a bit different again, but it may develop from one of these.


  1. I like how you've visually demonstrated the process of making Fred's cover. It is cool how one goes from one idea to another, incorporating some elements, modifying others, and even omitting some.

    The last cover is my favourite; the textured landscape works well and the colour overlay really draws the eye.

    If I may suggest one thing? cover makers recommend using 2 fonts on a cover: one for the author name and another for the title. I like how you used a different sized font for the title to highlight "Muse" and it has a nice eerie feel to it.

    Great hair on the model! it really gives a contemporary kind of hip feel to the cover.


  2. I can't decide if I like the texture black or texture blue background better. Spiral is definitely better than the eyes, and I wouldn't sneeze at that one either although I like the last two better. Gee, this is tough. Congratulations to you and Fred!