Uncovering the Book Cover Design Process

By: Mary Anna Rodabaugh in Book Writing
on May 17th, 2021

Few things are as satisfying as completing the comprehensive editing for your book. The words are written and you’re enveloped in feelings of fantastic achievement. But the journey is not over. If you’re preparing to publish your brilliant manuscript, you are ready for the next stop on the creativity train. Welcome to the book cover design process.

We sat down with Round Table Companies designer Christy Bui to get a deeper perspective on how the book cover design process unfolds.

The Beginning Stages of Designing Your Book Cover

As you prepare to have your book cover designed, you will be invited to share your cover vision and discuss elements of style you may prefer. These elements include color, images, branding guidelines, existing book covers you find aesthetically pleasing, as well as covers you do not like.

All of these elements will aid the RTC design team in creating the cover brief, a comprehensive collection of ideas and guidelines our designers use to iterate initial cover designs. The cover brief also contains a book synopsis and sample chapters that give the designer a general feel of the book.

Once the book cover brief is completed, our designers get right to work with guidance from director of publishing and visual design Sunny DiMartino. Every designer has a different creative process. Christy likes to review the cover brief with a notebook and pencil in hand. As certain words, colors, shapes, and ideas jump out, she takes notes and develops freehand sketches. Upon completion, Christy goes back to her notes and highlights the elements she feels fit the book the best.

“The words are written and you’re enveloped in feelings of fantastic achievement. But the journey is not over. ”

The First Pass

“Translating the book into this one rectangular image is one challenge,” Christy says. “But it is important to pare down what is important and what should be taken out of the design.”

As words, images, and other ideas jump out from the cover brief and her notes, Christy begins to intuitively put together several book cover design concepts. These iterations will represent a scope of what is possible and will vary from concept to concept. The goal is to create distinct concepts that have a similar theme but do not feel like the same exact cover while closely following the client’s vision and overall feel of the book.

Refining the Design

From there, RTC will share these concepts with you and ask you to consider what you like and don’t like about them. Sometimes a concept will just click with your book, and you will ask for minor adjustments. Other times, you may be drawn to several elements across the different concepts. This is okay too! The goal is to really narrow down what feels right for your book. The book cover itself is meant to tell a story before your readers dive into the story on the pages.

With your likes and dislikes in hand, Christy takes notes and begins to string together the pieces of the cover design puzzle. The entire process has become a lot of fun for Christy, even when she gets stuck staring at a blank computer and a notebook full of sketches. Then, with each cover design edit, the concept comes to life and an “aha” moment is born.

Kari Cover Process 1 1

The Final Touches

Christy recently experienced this creative transformation during her work on Kari Warberg Block’s book Gathering around the Table: A Story of Purpose-Driven Change through Business. The cover concept for this book was centered around a table. But Christy also needed to include natural elements like seeds and herbs. She asked herself, “What would ‘around the table’ look like?” as she played with various sizes, shapes, and placements of a table.

Sometimes the book cover design process involves a lot of trial and error. Other times, the design clicks early in the process. For Kari’s book, there were many details Christy wanted to get right until the cover felt balanced.

“It involved a lot of moving, nudging, scaling, swapping things around, and seeing what feels right. It all began feeling more like Kari, and I’m happy others have felt the same!” Christy says.

There will be a moment in the book cover design process where everything clicks, and the cover is ready for your approval. Once you’ve reviewed and approved your typography, spelling of your name and title, and the overall cover aesthetic, your front cover design milestone is checked off the list.

“Even if you’re not sure of what you want or do not want, we’re here to support you and guide you throughout the process,” Christy says.

The cover design process can be challenging if you’re not a visual person. But that’s quite all right. RTC is here to help you do the heavy lifting. We’ll walk you through the journey every step of the way.

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