Design Your “Book Cover”

By: Nickie Harber-Frankart

One recent morning, I sat down to eat my breakfast with my iPad propped up in front and my Twitter feed up on the screen, when TED Talks, The Hilarious, Profound Design Philosophy of Chip Kidd, caught my eye.

One tap and there I was watching Chip Kidd take the stage and launch into a silly dance move. He did this to get the audience’s attention. He also did it because he was wearing a wireless headset and said he felt like Lady Gaga wearing, as he called it, a ‘skanky mic.’ I laughed. The audience laughed. Immediately he had my full attention.

Kidd went on to talk about his experience designing book jackets, using humor to make an important point about the nature of his work as an interpreter and translator of stories. My favorite of his analogies—book covers as haiku poems, containing few words and images to create interest and impressions that provide insight into bigger discoveries.

In business, many organizations succeed in telling their stories, but others fail because the message on the surface or “cover” is not clear. Often they try to put everything on the cover, use too few words, or confuse the message on the cover to the contents of the story.

So, what’s your story and how do you create the right “cover” message?

In my experience, data and information gathering is much like reading a book. It tells the full story about the product, service or organization for which you are trying to formulate a message. As Kidd describes in his Talk, you cannot design a cover before reading the text. Conduct a thorough analysis of your target audience, key features or benefits, and other information before you start designing the “cover.”

Next, interpret the story by translating the results of the analysis into meaningful knowledge. This requires discerning what’s important and relevant to your target customers. By “reading the story,” you can uncover patterns and key themes to put on the cover.

Finally, choose images and/or words that portray the essence of the story and speak to your target audience. You wouldn’t use a funny drawing to illustrate the cover of an economics textbook, nor would you use a complex chart on the cover of a children’s book.  Consider your audience and essence of the story, and design the message to match both.

Designing the right “cover” pertains to every touch point and communication with your customers. Treat every impression as an opportunity to tell your story, and always look for ways to be a better interpreter and translator.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

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