I’m not a graphic designer, or a designer of any sort. I’m not an artist, either, so I don’t know what technically constitutes good design, though I am sure of what I like and what works. I pay attention to the design of everything, whether how something was engineered or how things like fabric and wallpaper and furniture and books present themselves. Mainly, I simply appreciate beautiful things, and for me books are very much among them.
Since I’m a bibliophile as much as a bookworm, most of the time I don’t just buy any edition of a certain book. I buy the one I think looks and feels best. I notice a book’s cover, and I often buy because I’ve been attracted to that first. If it’s a hardbound book, I like to take off the dust jacket and look at what’s underneath and how it is bound at the spine (I notice the endpapers too). I love when books showcase a designer’s creativity and ingenuity.
If it’s trade paperback, which is my preferred form (though clothbound is certainly yummy), I am attracted to matte covers, like Penguin’s Eat, Pray, Love (though the layout design and typesetting and print quality leaves something to be desired), for example, and I pay attention to the spine design and how the book falls open (hopefully the binding is not too tight and the book falls open nicely. Usually these have soft paper, too, or deckle edges).
The cover, finish, binding, paper, and layout design all have to complement the story well to create a fulfilling experience for me. The bonus: if the book smells great. I adore my hardback copy of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. Everything about it is perfect. And the fragrance, divine.
Here is a random sample of book covers I find attractive.
Speaking of Penguin, I could post a million of their covers here. Their clothbound classics (above) would look stunning as a set on my shelves, as would their other sets, particularly their Dickens one and the Bill Amberg set. Gorgeous! Coralie Bickford-Smith is Senior Designer for Penguin Books and man, can she design books! She is quite possibly my favourite (I absolutely love everything on her site and covet all of it—I can’t choose), though I also absolutely love award-winning Canadian book designer (and author! Have you read the End of the Alphabet? It’s a gorgeous book designed by Kelly Hill, and a lovely story) C.S Richardson, and might prefer him. He designed a few books I own (not just the covers) The Bedside Book of Birds, and the now infamous Nikolski.
For more lovely covers, check out The Book Design Review’s posts here.
Lastly, here is one more cover that doesn’t particularly fit in my list above but I have to include it because I think it’s very funny: