Designing Covers: Part 2

Yesterday we discussed the different components of covers and how they all have one goal – to attract a reader to buy the book. Hopefully to read it, although we can all admit to letting a book sit too long on our bookshelf. I won’t admit this will be a perfect dissection, but let’s look at an example. I just bought this book, and I really like its cover design.

“Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy” by Jeff VanderMeer

Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer (New York Times, “The Best Book Covers of 2014”)

What drew me initially to this cover?

It was simplistic. It abandoned the normal conventions that defined a book cover – it got rid of the title, the author. Everything but this one image. I had no idea what it meant besides a cross through a feather.

And, this is one thing I admire about covers. If I got to design all of them, I would choose something simple, either metaphorical or definitive – I would still focus on a few simple constructions, nothing as complex as a drawing or a photograph. Because what I would hope is that through cover design, we can ask the reader to think. And, that’s exactly what this cover did.

What did I think?

Well, if I blur my eyes or zoom out, I see an ‘X’. ‘X’ usually is found on a pirate’s map as buried treasure, and it can also be interpreted as a location that is either unknown or off limits. We usually seen these on road signs that say something along the lines of ‘keep out.’

Orange is usually also connotative of hazardous. Brings you back to think of the x in terms of ‘keep out’ instead of buried treasure. (The vibrancy of the orange would have something to do with it. Remember to keep in mind different hues will evoke different memories or feelings, which is why some colors on cars will always be reminiscent of puke.)

Now, where does the feather come in? Is it a feather? Or, does it resemble a fern more? Initially I thought it was a feather, which would make sense since the main character is a biologist. But, if it’s a fern, this would also make sense since Area X is an off limits area that is described as a mish mash of different ecologys, specifically their habitats.

But then why do the feather fall? Why are the leaves falling off a plant? Whenever we see this in nature, it usually means something is dying. But, who’s dying? I know nothing of the characters yet. All I did was pick of the book!

(If you could look at me now, I’d be smiling. I’m already a few pages in, and I can tell you who died. Spoiler alert: me.)


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