Exercise: Judging a book by its cover.

Choose a book by an author you are familiar with. You are going to design two different covers for it, one using illustrations or photography and the other using just type.

Design the whole cover including the spine and back page. Include the title of the book, the author’s name, a brief description of the story and any other information you think is necessary.

As you are working remember that your design is intended to help a reader know what the experience of reading the book will be. Is it a serious text book or an off-beat funny novel? Are the readers expected to be young women or older men and does this matter?

Is it an ‘easy read’ or ‘literary’? Does the publisher have a house style you need to be part of?

When you have finished critique your work – which of your two designs do you feel works the most successfully and why? Make notes in your learning log.

I have chosen Zadie Smith’s Swing Time for reasons I explain in my diary.

I like the simple cover. I can understand why the cover designer chose to use only typography as the story is complicated to represent either graphically or in an image.

It is a story of two young girls, of mixed race, growing up in east London. One is a talented dancer but somewhat out of control. The other has less talent but more ambition. She also has a very pushy Jamaican  mother. The less talented girl is the narrator. She finishes school, having passed through a succession of teenage rebellious periods, and lands a job as a PA to an American pop singer. This singer has philanthropic ideals. She wants to help a school in The Gambia. The narrator is shocked by the poverty and cannot understand how someone would not want to leave it. Her struggle is within herself as she tries to find her place in this world. The talented dancer, Tracy, eventually dances in the chorus of a West End show. She is much more content with her background and place in society.

The story deals with friendship, race, ambition, lack of ambition, knowing our boundaries, learning to be happy and satisfied, philantrophy and its consequences.

Problem is how to represent this story on a cover.

I tried out some ideas in my log book.

I wanted to show the race element and the cross pollination of the UK and The Gambia. Swing Time, in the story is about the Narrator’s love of old swing time movies. But I thought, because of the contrasts in the book, black and white, ambition and contentment, poverty and wealth, a swing would best represent these ideas. So I worked on this in InDesign. I am not altogether happy with the result but it was the best I could do.

REFLECTION:

Although I loved this book and felt a very special affinity with it I found creating the cover extremely difficult. Parts of this book could have been my story and I still intend to write to Zadie Smith to ask her if she had personally experienced the Gambia rive crossing. The only difference between the experience recounted in the book and mine was that mine was a great deal more complicated and dangerous…

I like the colour of the headings and I like the two country map idea but I feel that he figures are a bit stylised and maybe if I was being very PC they might not be acceptable. But I will await my tutor input.

 

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