A little bit about me
I’ve been fascinated with letters from an early age, my dad was a signmaker so I grew up in a house full of them, from little vinyl alphabets on the kitchen table to huge fibreglass letters stacked in the hallway. So it was only natural that I wanted to pursue a career in graphic design, even before I knew what graphic design even was.
Having studied graphic design at college and advertising at university (more on that later) I was lucky enough to land a series of design roles for some well respected creative agencies in London and various in-house roles for large, creatively minded companies.
I’ve been an independent graphic designer since January 2017, as well as running my own design business I also spent a couple of years lecturing in art, design and multimedia. I now work from my own studio on the North Devon coast, usually with Toby the labradoodle for company.
Book cover design
It wasn't long after becoming a freelance graphic designer that I got to design my first book cover (Frenzship by Ray Glickman, published April 2017 by Book Reality). Luckily it didn't end there and I've since design more and more covers, deciding in 2020 to focus my design work primarily on book cover design.
I quickly realised that book cover design combined my two academic areas of study, graphic design and advertising. Graphic design for the technical and creative aspects of typography and layout, image composition and knowledge of print processes. I'm also able to use my degree in creative advertising to understand the emotional aspects of a book cover. I combine these skills to work out the most effective way we can get across all we want the reader to know about the book, not only about the story but also its mood, tone of voice, and, most importantly, what will make people stop and pay attention to your story.
Some do's and don'ts
Although I don't believe in too many rules in creative endeavours my experience in book cover design, graphics and advertising has lead me to to create a simple list of things to keep in mind when designing a book cover.
1. Keep it simple. It's tempting to throw every aspect of your manuscript at the front cover, but this can often lead to a design that is cluttered and confusing. Remember a lot of your potential readers will be looking for books online rather than a traditional bookshop, so the cover needs to standout and look great as a small thumbnail while scrolling at speed.
2. Focus on tone of voice and mood rather than narrative. Your reader has got an entire book to discover the story, they thing to entice them to pick up your book is to focus on the mood and atmosphere. A good exercise is to pick three keywords that describe the book and use those as the starting point for research and design.
3. Don't worry about specifics. This is particularly important if you're relying on stock photography for the cover design. Example; you've found the perfect image but the figure is wearing black shoes but in the story they wear brown boots. Don't worry, your readers won't. Unless of course its a book specifically about brown boots!
4. Avoid or obscure faces. One of the joys of reading is picturing the characters in your head so try avoid using a clear image of the protagonists face and doing the readers work for them. Similarly, this is why I prefer to read the book before watching the film or TV adaptation, I don't want my version of a character to be influenced by outside sources.
5. Be different, but not too different. This is a tricky one, and really comes down to personal choice. You want your book to stand out, imagine a potential reader is scrolling through 'books you may also like' section on a popular website. The last thing you want is for you cover to be lost in the crowd by looking like every other book in that genre. Your cover has to stand out, it has to grab a readers attention. But if it looks too different, if it doesn't look as though it fits in a specific genre then chances are it will also be overlooked, like its a mistake. Ideally your cover should sit in the sweet spot between the two, it should be different enough to the competition that it stands out, but include enough genre conventions so it looks like it belongs.
But other than that, anything goes!
Other design work
Book cover design takes up a large chunk of my creative output, but its not all I do. You can see my other graphic design, typography and illustration work at lukebuxton.com