Case Study 96

Title: Bound to Love

Author: Skye Blaine

Designer: Berkana Publications

Genre: Memoir

Graphics: This book tells a forty-year-old story of a young woman whose only child was born with serious health problems and the troubles they both had as he fought to live and grew to adulthood.

The cover photo is of the author’s son as a young child—a perfectly appropriate picture for this sort of memoir. Clearly this photo wasn’t taken in a studio. It’s cropped from a larger photo, and it’s slightly out of focus. No harm in that. Authenticity makes allowances.

I presume there was more to the photo above the boy’s head. It’s too bad that portion wasn’t retained, because it would provide a place for the title and genre tagline. Those now appear in a box, part of which flows down the left side.

It would have been better for the photo to occupy the whole of the cover. It’s easy enough to imagine how the image could be enlarged to take over the vertical strip of red. Cropping it differently could have taken care of that plus the large red area at the top.

At the lower left is a medallion issued by a group called IndieBRAG. You pay a fee, submit your book, and, if your book is reasonably well written, you end up with a medallion for the cover. (The author has a second book that has the same medallion.)

Such medallions aren’t true literary awards, and most book buyers are savvy enough to know that. Besides, which reader, looking for a new purchase, ever has heard of the issuing group? Probably not a single one.

Medallions such as this one accomplish little in terms of sales, but they do accomplish something else: they detract from the integrity of the covers they appear on. They don’t mesh with any of the artwork or text, and they appear to be slapped-on stickers.

It’s best to omit all such things, unless the award isn’t pay-for-hire and is nationally known, such as the Caldecott Medal or the Pulitzer Prize. Anything else looks like puffery.

Typography: A single font is used throughout. As a rule, it’s good to use two or, rarely, three fonts, each signaling a different purpose. This font is serviceable but doesn’t have much character.

Given that this book is written by the boy’s mother, it would be appropriate for the font to be of the sort that might appeal to women—perhaps something that has initial letters that sport flourishes.

The tagline should be, like the author name, in a different font, particularly if the new font used for the title includes such things as flourishes on some of the letters. If the title font has strong serifs, the tagline could get by with a font with mild serifs or without any serifs. The tagline should be set in all caps, while the author name could be either in all caps (but larger than the tagline) or in upper- and lowercase.

If the medallion is removed, the author name can be placed where it ought to be: in the center. It should be larger than the present author name, and the new font should have sufficiently thick strokes that the letters will stand out well against the red of the boy’s jacket. White would be the preferred color, both for the author name and the tagline.

The title ought to have a distinctive color, perhaps matching the yellowish bead near the boy’s chin. That color likely would stand out well against whatever the original photo showed above his head.

If that area was cropped out because it seemed too busy to lay text over, well, there are ways around that. An experienced designer can blur whatever might appear behind the text, though that may not be necessary for the title, if its letters are sufficiently large and thick. As for the tagline, it would be legitimate to place it beneath the title in a banner, one not dissimilar from the color of the background on which it is overlaid.

Overall: Family memoirs often have a paucity of visual materials to draw from. Fortunately, the author had a long-ago photo that serves the cover well. The problems don’t relate to the photo so much as to its placement and to the uninspired textual treatment.