A great book cover should be striking, memorable, profound, and, most of all, eye-catching. It should pull a reader across a bookstore with a flash of color or a slick effect. But today, designers must think beyond the physical bookstore and consider the digital one as well. The parameters of each differ in nearly every respect. So, how have designers adjusted? With the huge growth in online sales, has the digital bookstore begun to drive the design process?
Here are some tips offered by Penguin Random House experts on cover design and selling online.
The Sizing Challenge.
The most noticeable difference between a cover’s presentation online and in person is its size. On the shelf, a cover might be 10″x6″, but online it shrinks to about an inch on a computer screen—and even smaller on a mobile device. Given this discrepancy, you might think that the solution to this conundrum would be creating two different covers—one that works on a larger scale and one that pops at a fraction of that size. But designers warn against this. The cover is the most obvious consumer-facing branding of a book, and designers want to ensure that a reader can recognize that brand across all formats and platforms. Whether a reader sees the cover in a promotional email recommending the book, in the window as she passes her local bookstore, or online when she goes to buy it, she should see the same image every time. The consistency bolsters her relationship with the book and increases the likelihood of purchase.
Luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz demonstrated how its amazing Magic Body Control suspension system offers passengers a smooth ride through the use of placid chickens funky dancing to Diana Ross’s “Upside Down” disco tune. For those of you who have never met a chicken that wasn’t already baked, grilled or fried, you should know that live chickens have the natural ability to keep their heads perfectly still even when their bodies are moving. For German ad agency Jung von Matt/Neckar Stuttgart, this chicken analogy seemed like a much more memorable and fun way to explain how Mercedes’s suspension system offers awesome motion stability. Daniel Warwick directed the dance number. No CGI was used in the making of this video; the chickens did it all with a few helpful hands.
An aesthetically pleasing logo is great, but when it is wrapped around a charming story, the brand becomes all the more memorable. Landor Associates did both in developing the design and branding for the ultra-exclusive Nine Suns Wine of Napa Valley. Playing off the Chinese heritage of the owners, Landor recalled the ancient Yao Dynasty legend that claimed that once 10 suns lit the earth in rotation, until one day the suns grew tired of taking turns and decided to rise all at once. The unrelenting heat from the suns scorched crops and trees and caused much suffering. Emperor Yao summoned Hou Yi, the god of archery, to save the land. The archer quickly shot nine suns out of the sky, but left the tenth sun to keep heaven and earth in perfect balance. The winery’s brand mark represents the nine suns myth with the nine black dots lyrically configured to spell Nine Suns.
Johannesburg-based ad people Jeff Tyser and Kerryn-lee Maggs traveled through seven African countries in 150 days, covering 22,500 kms. They didn’t bore their friends and colleagues with hundreds of snapshots of themselves standing in front of scenic lookouts, etc. Instead they presented the highlights in succinct infographics. Very effective and memorable.
One of the most famous fashion photographers of the 20th century, Berlin-born American Erwin Blumenfeld took more photographs for Vogue Magazine than anyone else before or since. His style was classic yet innovative and experimental. Among his most memorable photographs is the January 1950 cover for Vogue, which captures the essence of model Jean Patchett’s beauty through just her eyes, lips and beauty mark. Blumenfeld’s photograph served as the inspiration for Norwegian fashion photographer Solve Sundsbo’s new video for Chanel’s Rouge Allure lipstick line. Sundsbo removed everything except model Barbara Palvin’s luscious lips, green eyes,eyebrows and fingernails. The effect is flirtatious and alluring. Although the voiceover is hard to hear, it’s advice from Coco Chanel: “If you are sad, if you are heartbroken, make yourself up, dress up, add more lipstick and attack. Men hate women who weep.”
A logo is widely considered the most important visual expression of retail brands, corporations and institutions. The symbol is a graphic “stand-in” for the entity, communicating its personality and values through a unique and memorable combination of colors, shapes and typography. The latest episode of PBS’s Off Book web series explores “The Art of Logo Design,” with designers Stephen Heller, Sagi Haviv of Chermayeff & Geismar, Kelli Anderson, and Gerard Huerta commenting on the role of logos today.
You read about VW’s transparent factory (below); now take a look at Mercedes’s invisible car. Mercedes-Benz’s new zero-emission F-Cell car is being marketed as a vehicle that is virtually invisible to the environment. The reason is because it runs on hydrogen fuel cells that convert compressed hydrogen into electricity to power the motor. The only emission is water vapor. To promote this fact in a memorable way, Mercedes blanketed one side of the car with LEDs and mounted a Canon 5D Mark II camera on the other side. The LEDs displayed whatever the camera filmed, causing passersby to stop and gawk at the “invisible” car.
De Lijn, the public bus company run by the Flemish government in Belgium, has launched a new ad campaign showing that it is smarter to take the bus or tram than travel alone. The concept for these commercials came from Duval Guillaume Modem in Antwerp, and the 3-D production was done by CC (Creative Conspiracy). Don’t know if there is safety in numbers by taking a bus in Belgium, but in the U.S., it’s crowded and a good way to get elbowed by strangers and attacked by psychopaths. Still, the ad is memorable and cute.
More4, a digital television channel in the UK run by British broadcaster Channel 4, has a new brand identity and on-air look. Channel 4’s communications company, 4Creative, teamed with design and motion studio, ManvsMachine, to create a flexible logo that morphs from one triangle of color into another through a series of flips, folds and reveals.
Inspired by the intriguing ever-changing logo, 4Creative saw its possibilities as installation art and collaborated with Jason Bruges Studio and students from Middlesex University to design and build over 400 individual flipper units that would work together as a single mechanical system. The three-dimensional piece was set up in different environmental settings –- an interior staircase, an abandoned fishing boat on Dungeness Beach, a tree trunk in Victoria Park –- and filmed on location. It made for a memorable on-air debut of More4’s new identity. It also is further evidence that logos are not static graphic forms anymore. In the digital age, more and more logos are designed to be interactive, dimensional and animated.
When you consider standard car ads, you can pretty much imagine the scenario – beautiful young couple driving over curvy scenic roads or attracting envious stares from suburban neighbors as the car pulls into the driveway. So it is refreshing to see how Volkswagen Phaeton has elevated its ads to fine art in order to convey the handmade quality of the luxury sedan. In India, DDB Mudra Group in Mumbai suggested the artisan’s pride of craftsmanship and attention to intricate details through the use of a traditional Indian art form. The way the Phaeton is integrated into the art is both surprising and memorable. More importantly, this isn’t a “foreign” ad jarringly adapted to an Indian audience. It speaks directly to India’s rich aesthetic heritage.
When it comes to branding commercial aircraft, the tail comes before the nose. The tailfin is the tallest part of the plane. It’s the last thing people on the ground see as the plane lifts off. And pretty much the only part they see when the plane is parked buy adobe acrobat nose first at the gate. It is a flying billboard, which is why airline branding experts focus most of their attention on designing memorable graphics for the tail. See if you can match the airline with these tails. Answers on next page.