‘If you can’t make it big, make it red’: Book design branding basics

With all romantic flare attached to writing, from the marketing department’s point of view a book is a product that should recoup the publisher’s investment. Where there’s a product, there’s a package. Where there’s a package, there is, naturally, branding.

With book design branding, the cover comes first. The author’s name, of course, might be a brand of its own, but even blockbuster authors such as Stephen King or Joanne Rowling rely on a cover to “pop” on the shelf. Over the last two decades, a whole new style has emerged called “the big book look”. Its chief elements are a large author name, a large title and, often, a smaller iconic image.

People do judge a book by its cover. Customers spare only a split second before making up their minds. It’s not enough to be visually interesting, a cover should be consistent with the genre also. Is it a crime thriller or a horror story? Is it a cookbook or a self-help manual? The consistency is the most important part of the branding.

So first of all, if you want to build your own brand you should be consistent to be recognizable.

Long ago I learned two rules which helped me a lot. I’ve ever since considered them as The Secret Weapon of a Designer.

These Rules are:

  1. If you can’t make it good, make it big.
  2. If you can’t make it big, make it red.
The big book look, as you noticed, is 101% proof that this rules rock.
After a career of creative design and illustration in advertising agencies such as DDB and Ogilvy & Mather, Anton Khodakovsky finally found his favorite field of book design. He has more than 25 years of field experience, and I’ve been designing books for over 10 years, in genres ranging from spiritual guides to thrillers, and from popular science to poetry.