Is Professional Book Cover Design a Dying Art?

by Cathi Stevenson Book cover designers are always on the lookout for new trends. While I spend hours in bookstores and online searching through the best sellers’ lists, I find the UK and Italian markets are a great source of inspiration. For example, Penguin in the UK in known for simple, unique designs that are quickly embraced. With the advent of e-books, front covers became not just the main element of book cover design, they became the only element. Spines, back covers, and flaps are no longer necessary. Even self-publishers who go to print are usually using digital presses, so the books themselves are very basic in structure. Gone are the textures, specialized coatings and high quality paper stock. Things are getting very plain. I really treasure my beautiful and unique print books. Varnish, raised letters, French flaps, deckled edges . . . these things just make my heart beat a wee bit faster. I discovered a book on a flea market giveaway table a few months ago that had a 3D cover. I’ll never read the book . . . well, actually, I might now that I look at it again, but I’ll definitely never give it away. I’m convinced that in 20 years the craft of book printing will go the way of the illuminated transcript when Gutenberg arrived on the scene. And designers are no longer being taught how to make such books. Many are self-taught now that software and training is available to everyone with an Internet connection, but even recent graduates of art schools seem perplexed when asked about plate separations or colour trapping. I guess they’re too busy learning about animation and video game production. It’s a plus for the trees, but it’s just one more art that is being lost in a digital age.
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2 Replies to “Is Professional Book Cover Design a Dying Art?”

  1. I totally agree with you there Cathi, there’s hardly anymore people who can do an ACTUAL book cover, from front to back. And as you, I cherish the books that I do still have (that aren’t falling apart from repeated readings).

  2. I find this to be such a difficult topic, this idea of the digitization of everything. In one sense, I am happy to move forward with technology and save the environment and whatnot, but there is nothing compared to the beautifully designed and carefully crafted print covers. I think that professional book cover design is becoming less prominent, but I do think there will always be a niche for it. You are right to keep those books and not throw them away! One day they will be pieces of history and collectibles solely because they are print.

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