Case Study 81

Title: Saving Her Reputation

Author: Annie Boone

Designer: Vero Martinez

Genre: Romance

Graphics: This book is one in a series of at least ten that appear under the rubric of “A Kansas Mail Order Bride Story.” The covers are nearly identical in color palette, background scenery, and tone.

The only substantial change from one book to the next is the image of the young woman, yet even then there is commonality: a pensive look, a face in three-quarters profile, and make-up that would not have been seen on the nineteenth-century Kansas prairie.

The details of the background can be made out if one looks closely. There is enough to suggest a placid rural setting but not so much as to take attention away from the woman. The eye goes to the exquisite portraiture which itself has muted tones, though, on most of these covers, there is a dash of color—in this case, purple in the flowers in her hair, the same purple used for the title.

It is difficult to find much to fault on this cover or its companions. If anything, I would say that the heads of the women are too close to the top of the cover. The space above them should be half again as tall, for two reasons: the present spacing makes them looked cramped, and it makes the series tagline look cramped.

On some of the other books in the series, the women’s heads are so close to the top that the tagline is placed over their hair, quite unnecessarily.

Typography: Just as the illustrations are near clones from one book to the next, so the layout of the text is replicated.

At the bottom is the author name in a clear, legible font that is appropriate for the era. The letters are widely kerned—a common practice with author names, no matter what the genre—and the wide kerning helps distinguish the author name from the title. If the two were close to one another, with similar characters spacing, the eye might run the text of the title into the author name. That could happen despite an ornamental spacer, such as used here.

The series tagline is, appropriately, in the same font as the author name. Like it, it is in all caps. The letters are not as widely kerned, but one pair, the K-A, needs adjustment; the letters nearly touch.

On this cover the tagline and author name are in a brown tone. On some of the other covers they are in black. The black stands out more, but it also competes with the purple that is used throughout the series for the books’ titles. I think the brown works best.

The title is in a consistent font throughout the series, and it always is in purple, a color that stands out well against the tan backgrounds. The title words are set in two or three sizes—on this cover, three. Why is “her” so small, and why is it in italics?

Italics imply emphasis, so are we to understand that the protagonist is saving her own reputation in contradistinction to saving someone else’s? Likely not. I suspect the designer used italics just to make the word look “fancy,” but there hardly is a need for that.

And what about the small size? Like the italics, it draws undue emphasis to the least important word in the title. This miniaturization is used on other books in the series. On one cover, the article “a” is made so small that you’re likely to miss it entirely when first reading the title. It doesn’t help that the “a” is attached to the ornament, thus making it even harder to find. At least that problem isn’t on this cover, but the way “her” has been modified, in two ways, seems pointless.

Each cover includes the same large swirl between the title and author name. The ornament isn’t needed to separate the two textual elements. If the ornament weren’t there, no one would confuse the two: they are widely spaced, in different fonts, and in different colors.

The ornament is used to give the cover a further “feminine” sense. It does that, but maybe it overdoes it. The swirl is so large that it almost is intrusive. It draws too much attention to itself. A more modest swirl would have worked better.

Overall: My criticisms are few and minor because there isn’t much not to like about this cover. The design works for the individual book and for the series. Once a reader has seen any one of the books, she instantly will recognize others that belong to the series.