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Book Cover Re-Design 


Washington State University 



Course level 

2D Foundations, Intro to Graphic Design


Conversation points for instructors

Students need more awareness about the aesthetic and readability challenges faced when text and image combine in design.  Striking the right balance of visual information is difficult and requires more critical awareness and problem-solving than they expect early on. This project is also a confidence builder; some who might not yet feel strong with their use of digital tools can begin mixing in their trusted analog methods with basic digital tools, in turn understanding more of the potential of the tools they have at their fingertips.  As a bonus, you can catch student who want to rely on Photoshop for type setting. Even if they struggle at first using text in other programs, they can learn to avoid pixelated typographic situations (one of my biggest pet-peeves) and build better habits early on.


How can they convey an idea of a story that intrigues but doesn't tell too much…? Whether they read books (printed/physical) or on tablets/screens, I find that book cover design is crucial for their development as designers.


This is largely inspired by my graphic design mentors, Delphin Keim and Dave Gottwald, who I worked  with in graduate school at the University of Idaho.



Project Prompt / Challenge

You have heard the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Although sweet in its sentiment, as consumers of media, we do exactly that when deciding purchases and we often make assumptions about the quality of things based on their aesthetics of design. 


For this project, you have been asked to create and design 2 full book covers including spine and back covers of 2 books of your choice. These will serve as special edition hard/soft cover designs. Many artists/design work with book publishers/writers to revamp beloved and celebrated stories. Let’s continue to dive into research, process, and further learn the tools that will help you finish these unique and bold covers.



Step 1: Choose two books for the project. 

Each book must be vastly different from the other in terms of author / theme / genre, but please pick books you have read entirely at least once. The book does not have to be in the language of English! 


Step 2: Create at least 20 thumbnail sketches that may lead to your final works.

(Any other lists, images, collages, etc. can also be turned in support of your process.)

As you start the process of researching / sketching / ideation, please consider the following:.   

  • Is the book important to you somehow? If so, in what way? 

  • What were some iconic moments or themes in this book? How might you represent them?

  • What have others already created? Research well  to avoid overly clichéd design choices and copyright infringement.


Step 3.  Create the cover design for each chosen book.

The covers must include the following elements: 

  • Author

  • Title 

  • Artwork: illustration, photo, typographic, digital collage, etc.  

  • subtitle or tagline (optional)

  • Logo of the publisher/printer (find these publishers online) 

  • Spine with title + author name (publisher logo)  

  • Book Summary (on back cover)

  • Endorsement(s) or reviews (could be on back or front, depends your vision)

  • MSRP Barcode/ISBN (typically small on back cover)

You will be assessed on the following: 

  • Use of grid structures for organizing creating hierarchy of information 

  • includes all the elements of the cover 

  • all visual elements are consistent in concept and craft 

  • all visual elements relate with the original content of the book

  • the word content (information) displays clearly

  • all colors are consistent and thoughtful 

  • all typefaces/font choices support image and overall visual hierarchy  

  • class participation 

  • critique (ability to speak on design and artistic choices)

  • submit work on time


Adobe InDesign (for putting it all together, setting text / type) 

Adobe Illustrator (for creating images, graphics, icons, logos, creating unique headings...)

Adobe Photoshop (for creating images, graphics, icons, logos, creating unique headings...) Please do not try to set type / text in photoshop. It may be tempting for those of you more experienced in this program, but ignoring this expert tip will leave you with problematic pixelated text situations in the future. Let’s build good habits together now!)


Collages, Photographs, Drawing, Painting can work too!!!  



3 weeks from start to finish. 

Week 1: process/research 

Weeks 2 & 3: working mostly digitally


Student Examples:

Support File:

Screen Shot 2020-07-13 at 3.32.51 PM.png




Online / Video Resources:



Various are found in the "Book Design Presentation" support file above.

Additional Tips:

I suggest having a midpoint crit on last class day of the 2nd week. If F2F, get students to print black & white copies of their work and give out pens and markers to write on top of print outs. 

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