If you are able to, spend some time in a bookshop. Stand at the ‘Bestsellers’ section and spend time visually absorbing the covers, before choosing several books to look at in more detail. Draw thumbnail sketches and make notes in your learning log of the books that capture your attention.
If you have time, apply the same approach in different sections of the store. List the sections you cover – travel, fiction, biography, etc. Focus on covers you are drawn to and document these. Try to work out why you are drawn to them. What it is about the design that captures you? What sort of imagery, if any, is used on the cover? How does the text relate to the image? What atmosphere or style does the cover evoke?
Do you notice any common features between books of a particular genre in terms of cover design? For example, is there a ‘formula’ for historical crime novel covers?
Get used to making small drawings in public places. You may feel self-conscious at first, but you should feel more relaxed with practice. You may want to do this exercise in several short sessions over a period of time rather than attempting it all in one go.
Choose three books to compare, from three different genres – for example, chick-lit, DIY, crime thriller. Ensure the cover designs are quite different – this will give you greater scope to compare and contrast the designs effectively.
As you study these covers and document the designs, reflect on the audience for these books. Is there a target audience in terms of gender, culture or age? How does this make itself apparent in the cover designs? Define what is different about the three approaches, with regard to typeface, imagery and colour. Is there anything formulaic about the way any of your chosen covers are designed? Try to analyse this.
Document your findings in your learning log.
For this project I chose the different departments in Waterstone’s in Cambridge, visiting and photographing on a couple of weekends around some reflections over coffee in their comfortable cafe.
Below are photos of logbook pages now in Sketchlog 1: Books.