Case Study 14

Title: Sacred River

Author: Debu Majumdar

Designer: Evolution Design

Genre: General fiction

Graphics: This novel tells the story of a journey along the Ganges, so it is natural that a photo of the river would be the main graphical element, but this photo fails. If you remove the text from the cover, it’s not clear whether the water is a river, part of the ocean, or perhaps even a lake. In any case, nothing about it says “Ganges.” It would have been better to use no river image than this one.

Typography: Except for “A Novel,” all of the white text has a drop shadow behind it—and with reason. White text against white or light blue is difficult to read, and the drop shadows don’t resolve the problem. Solid black would have been better, assuming this photo was retained.

There seem to be three different fonts: one for the title, one for “A Novel” (why does the least important text get a font of its own?), and one for the subtitle, tagline, and author name. As a rule, a cover should use one or two fonts, and there is no clear need to break that rule with this cover.

The tagline wastes an opportunity. It ought to say something about the hero’s adventure, but it tries to speak to the reader directly: “An adventure through India that will touch your soul.” Then it adds, “Compelling and powerful”—which adds nothing. Such fog words don’t clarify; they obscure, and they ought to be omitted.

The tagline is the place where a book—particularly a novel—should demonstrate intrigue. It should make the prospective buyer wonder what the book is about while inducing him to lay down money for it. It should say something about the protagonist, but this tagline only hints that there is a protagonist.

Overall: The opening paragraphs of the book give the reader a murder, the quick, accidental death of the murderer, and an unbroken numerical code. That’s a promising opening, but you never would suspect this book to have such action at the get-go, at least not from the cover.

The designer seems to be someone whose work chiefly is with designing websites. This would have been a good instance to be strict with oneself and to have used a designer experienced in designing book covers.