Case Study 53

Title: Book of Failures

Author: Amy Binegar-Kimmes-Lyle

Designer: Andrea Ferenchik

Genre: Memoir

Graphics: The cover features a photo of the author. We know that because her name appears in small white letters on the base of the red chair. And that’s it, image-wise. There is no background image and no background texture. That poses a problem.

The white background makes the image float when viewed at thumbnail size. The cover appears to have no borders. Some such covers, when viewed at their sales pages at Amazon, have thin rules or drop shadows around them, but this cover doesn’t. It just floats.

This is a widely seen problem, and I don’t understand why designers don’t compensate for it. You’d think they’d look at how their covers look at Amazon and other sales venues, but perhaps they don’t bother.

This book is characterized as “a funny memoir,” so it’s appropriate that the author looks, if not pensive, maybe puzzled. She’s eyeing something off to her left. Her lips are pursed slightly, but that’s noticeable only when the cover is enlarged. It might have been good if she had exaggerated the pursing, to make it more obvious.

If there is anything bothersome about the image it’s that her feet have been cut off. That wouldn’t have happened if the image had been reduced slightly. As it is, the feet leave the impression that the cover was designed with insufficient care.

Typography: The title is curved, perhaps to follow the lines of the chair, but the curves don’t match. Better to leave the text straight.

The title font is cartoonish. That may be appropriate given this memoir’s emphasis on humor, but the font doesn’t make for legibility. I wouldn’t recommend Comic Sans here (or anywhere else, for that matter), but there are many lighthearted yet legible cartoonish fonts to choose from.

Another choice of font should have been made—and another choice of color. I would have put the title in the same red as the chair, leaving all the rest of the text black.

In everyday life the author seems to go by “Amy Lyle,” the name that appears on the chair, but the book partly is about her two marriages, so her name is given as “Amy Binegar-Kimmes-Lyle,” a mouthful that includes her maiden name. Unfortunately, the hyphenated name is so long that it’s difficult to give it the prominence it should have. (Adding “The” before it doesn’t help.)

The author’s name thus appears two ways, short and long, with the long way used for a reason a reader won’t “get” until the book is read. It would have been better simply to use “Amy Lyle” at the top, in larger letters, and to omit her name from the chair, where the name could be mistaken for a manufacturer’s logo.

The subtitle is “A Funny Memoir of Missteps, Inadequacies, and Faux Pas.” That clearly explains what the book is, but the subtitle is crammed into a small space and itself becomes too small. It would be better to put it, in two lines, at the bottom of the cover (after the author’s feet have been salvaged, of course) in considerably larger type.

Overall: The image is simple but has strength to it. Aside from the problem with the cut-off feet, it has no real fault. The same can’t be said for the typography. All the text needs adjustment.

It would not take much work to earn this cover a higher grade. As it stands, I would give it no more than a C.