2: Form and Function

Book design is the arrangement and shaping of text and image content within the parameters of a front and back cover…it is the shaping of content; it is the bridge between the original manuscript and the end user…A printed book is…the culmination of a group effort, between author, publishes, editor, designer and printer at least; often other specialists are also involved to realise the book.

Book Design: Principles and Process Course Book p16

Books are more than pages, board, glue and thread – they are artefacts of the human spirit and hand.

Jason Thompson, Playing with Books

Book: A portable container consisting of a series of printed and bound pages that preserves, announces, expounds, and transmits knowledge to a literate readership across time and space

Andrew Haslam, Book Design

Part 2 Form and Function looks at the structure or form of a book and at how this may be adapted to reflect the nature of the book or its function.

The Anatomy of a Book

Books may be of many types. It is  possible to have books without writing, using only images and pictures. This includes for example artists books, photo-books and children’s books. With the rise of e-books the portable container can now be of many types including mobile phones. In parallel to this is a continued interest in hand-made books and altered books that are an art object.

Project 2.1 Flatpan

Book Genres

The nature of the design depends on the purpose of the book and its intended audience. A book functions on an intimate scale, encouraging engagement and absorption in its pages. The purpose should affect all elements of the book – whether the pages are large or small, landscape, portrait or square, the choice of typeface and images, the type of binding and other aesthetic qualities such as ‘feel’. For example, is it hand-held – a small paperback that you can tuck into your back pocket, or a larger board book suitable for young readers or to be read aloud as a group.

Many of the design concerns however remain the same – the aim being  to communicate text and/or image-based – the skill remains in organising and arranging content, so that it is presented in a pleasing and coherent way which makes it easy for the reader to assimilate. And choosing the appropriate materials and process for the audience. These may however differ significantly between cultures, and different audiences and age groups will have different associations with different types and arrangement of content, and different materials and forms of book.

 Project 2.2 Form and Genre

Book design is influenced by many art and design sources that are incorporated, consciously or unconsciously, into the visual ideas of contemporary designers.  Influential movements such as Arts and Crafts, Futurism, Dadaism, Constructivism, Modernism and Postmodernism which have developed distinctive approaches to book design as well as art and graphic design. See History of Book Design.

Book cover design can be:

  • ‘conceptual’ or ideas-based where there is an underlying message within the design.
  •  ‘expressive’ employing representational or abstract imagery in a variety of media to communicate the main message/s of the book.
  • be designed mainly around photographic, illustrative and typographic elements.

Project 2.3 Compare and Contrast

Front Cover

Project 2.4 Creating a cover design: The Figure

Approaches to Design

Project 2.5 Ten Book Designers

Project 2.6 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Assignment: Jacket Design: On the Road