Book Design: Spine Hierarchy - article

Good designers understand that the spine should attract a reader and entice him or her to want the book sitting on the shelf. A well designed book spine is one way to capture the reader’s attention. But which elements on the spine should get the most attention and how do you use fonts and item placement to reflect the order of importance for each included item? Everything can’t be equally important or it has the effect of making non e of it important. How do we make those spine elements stand out?

Designers generally agree that book spine includes at a maximum the author/editor/compiler, title, publisher, and publisher's logo. Most publishers just use their logo, to save space. If, however, your logo clashes with the shape or color scheme of your spine design, you would do well to leave it out or convert it into text.

Author or Title: Generally, the title and author vie for first place in the spine hierarchy. If readers will immediately recognize the author's name, it should then attract the most attention. If not, the title should entice the reader to open the book, and so should be given the prime real estate.

Size clearly matters. Anyone can guess that you can emphasize a particular element with a large size. In addition, according to Berry, we can emphasize words by altering the contrast between the text and the background. For example, if you have the spine of a book, on which you wish to emphasize the title, you should make the title stand out more from the background than the author's name does. So, against a dark red background you would make the title white, while you might choose a light pink for the author's name. Simple color schemes and capital letters draw the reader's attention most effectively.

Placement also affects emphasis. In the United States, the spine reads from the top down, while in many other countries, it reads from the bottom up. You can put the most important element at the top, but make sure the reader does not miss the most important element by having graphics draw her eye to the center or lower. Simple graphics should emphasize the most important element.

In the end, no matter what you do, you need to think about what will catch the reader’s eye and make him desperate at least to find out what the cover of the book looks like. If you have a small pattern that visually leads towards the cover, like the tail of the dragon lurking on the front, more power to you. Once you have gotten the reader to examine the cover, your cover copy, in turn, should be interesting enough to get your reader to open the book. The spine is your first step to a good relationship between yourself and a reader, so look around for ideas on good spine imagery.

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