Use font to create a high-impact book cover

Hadrian Wall Book Cover rev 03 different greenThis is the second post in a series on designing a book cover. The first is Creating a book cover that screams “Pick me up.” The third is Use harmony to create an appealing book cover

After studying about color, typography, and book-cover layout, I put together a first pass at the front cover for a series of travel books (see left). I then asked my friend Robert, a retired graphic designer, to comment. No amount of research and design training can compensate for my artistic lack. I appreciates Robert’s kindness and candor in his analysis.

Robert disagrees with the way I used a triadic color scheme (using colors that are evenly spaced around a color wheel.) Since I did not balance the colors, there was no harmony and no eye-popping contrast. To increase the impact, he suggests using more color juxtaposition between the title and background, such as white letters on purple. He tried to explain the use of tone and hues, but I did not fully grasped what he was saying. I was way out of my league.

I like his suggestion to create a banner comprising of the logo, the name of the series, a subtitle for the series, and a color, and then using this banner to brand the books, even if each book has its own color.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI spent hours creating a logo (see right) from a picture of me walking with the backpack. Robert’s first comment was that the logo has no legs and feet, which he deems important for a woman on her way. Additionally, he believes that the backpack is too “fussy” with attached shoes, umbrella, and hanging straps. He recommends creating a simple logo that is easy to identify when shrunken down to fit the spine of the book. I had not even considered the spine.

Robert suggested that the font I chose (ChunkFive) was not feminine enough. Until that moment, I had never considered using font to appeal to a certain type of reader. I had chosen this one because it was readable as a thumbprint. According to Emily Matthers, “Certain fonts have been shown to appeal more to certain demographics. Men are more drawn to rectilinear fonts, while women prefer a curvier font with a more prominent tail.” That makes sense—even in penmanship, you can see this difference.

The question is, can I find a font that will

  • Appeal to my target reader: males and females struck with a touch of wanderlust
  • Convey the essence of what Women on Her Way is about: a free-spirit gadabout
  • Distinguish this travelogue series from others.

That’s a tall order for a font.

Then I read a post on Typophile by Charles Ellerston who has been typesetting for over 25 years, “Ignore what the book is about. Ignore the audience (who’s going to read it). After all, the biggest design problem is designer boredom. Solve that, and everything else falls into place.”

Confusing? You bet, and the more I read about the psychology of fonts, the more ill-prepared I feel about picking a font that positively impacts the reader’s perception, interest, and engagement. I ‘m more nervous about picking the right font than I was about getting the right dress for my senior prom. Back then, I was only concerned about how I looked. Now, I need to consider not only the eye appeal but all the nuances associated with a font that might impact the reader.

Do logo or book cover designers consciously make these decisions, or is it instinctual? It is time to get a professional designer.

People really do judge a book by its cover. Appearance does matter. 


Have you gone through many iterations of book cover designs? Tell us about them in the comments below. What was the most difficult part for you?

About The Author

Jane V. Blanchard

Adventurer and Author, I was born in Hartford Connecticut and now live in Sarasota, Florida.