These seven things were crammed into my brain so forcefully in school I could now recite them backwards and upside down.
It is not important for you to be able to do that as an author but you might want to take a peek so you will know why your cover is (or isn’t) working.
The 7 Elements of Design
Line and Direction(I combined these two because they are so interconnected) – They can be straight, diagonal, curvy, round, sharp, soft and even implied. Yeah, there is the kicker. Sometimes there is no ACTUAL line but due to shading or positioning it looks like there is a line. Even the edge of your book is a line.
How line relates to your book cover: Lines make eyes move (hence direction). Always keep your reader’s eyes within the limits of your book cover. The lines of your cover should move you through the design without taking your eyes off the page.
What the hell does that mean: NO DIAGONAL LINES running from corner to corner. NO ARROWS with the points close to the borders. Lines have direction and meaning such as vertical for balance, horizontal for calmness, diagonal for movement etc.
Shape – Shapes are part of lines, lines are part of shapes. Everything is a shape. There are positive and negative shapes and they are equally important, there cannot be a shape that doesn’t automatically create a negative space. There are shapes within shapes.
How this relates to your book cover: Like lines, shapes move eyes. Make sure shapes work together and compliment each other whether it is through repetition or contrast (both explained next week in the 7 Principles of Design)
What the hell does that mean: This one takes practice. The next time you pick up a book try to find all the shapes, both positive and negative. Remember that text and typographic art are shapes as well as circles and squares.
Size – size is the relation and comparability of one object to another within the design.
How this relates to your book cover: Size has connotation. A large object looming over another may signify dominance, while a small object inside a large object may mean protection.
What the hell does that mean: On book covers size matters… and it means something. Always be aware of that.
Texture – Every surface has a texture (rough, smooth, slippery, scratchy etc) but within design texture usually has to be simulated using the other elements of design.
How this relates to your book cover: texture implies depth and tactility. You want readers to PICK UP YOUR BOOK.
What the hell does that mean: This isn’t a Prada store where you get kicked out for touching things (yes, that has happened to me). People have a compulsive NEED to touch tactile things, so make your cover look like it feels like something.
Colour – Oh one of the most important, confusing and rewarding parts of design if you get it right. There is so much to know about colour I don’t know how to break it down. Refer back to my post on colour.
How this relates to your book cover: The most important thing to know is that colour MEANS something. Every colour has a feel or a meaning AND this feel or meaning is different from culture to culture (EX: Red in North American culture means warning, danger, stop, passion. Red in Chinese culture means luck, prosperity, fortune.)
What the hell does that mean: Make sure you know what message you are sending to your readers through your colour scheme. Oh, and less is more… less is more. Think accent colour.
Value – This is the lightness or darkness of the design, or it is sometimes called the tone.
How this relates to your book cover: Genre’s are dominated by a certain Tone.
What the hell does that mean: Know what speaks to your readers, know the tone of your book and reflect that in your design.
Whew, that was fun!
Next week I’ll give you the rundown of the 7 Principles of Design (designers like the number 7)