Book Design 101

Book design has been an ongoing art since the Middle Ages, and it continues to grow and evolve even now in the twentieth century. It is ever-important as we are bombarded by more and more imagery every day. How can an author have their book stand out on a shelf with hundreds of other books surrounding it?


It’s the same concept as walking through the grocery store: Companies want their brands to be noticeable and to stand out from all the noise. Apart from simply making a book noticeable and aesthetically pleasing on a shelf, a book designer’s job often also includes managing the book’s interior layout and design. The text must be easy to read and laid out in a manner that is easy on the eyes.


Cover trends come and go, just like trends in any other market or industry. As of late, book cover designers have leaned toward bold, colorful designs. Typography, illustration, and portrait photography are probably three of the most used cover designs from the last year. In the realm of typography, books with large, interesting fonts and typefaces have a tendency to stand out and make an impact. You can see that text easiest, so your eye immediately gravitates toward it.



Illustration and portrait photography have the same effect. A book cover featuring dynamic colors and a bold graphic is much more attention-grabbing. Meanwhile, the simplicity of a portrait contrasts with the big and bold idea behind typography and illustration. A popular trend is to simply show the author’s face on a solid color (or white) background. This simplicity draws people’s eyes to the face in the photograph. Humans naturally gravitate toward friendly faces, and recognizable ones, so this method basically creates impact by recognition.


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*Tip: use only one or two of the three cover design methods in combination. Using all three at once would make your cover look cluttered, busy, or illegible—unless that is the look you’re going for!


As you dive deeper into the book, things become more technical. Many (if not most) people use Adobe InDesign for book layout design. Once you know how to use it, the program makes the whole book-making process infinitely easier and faster. Using its components like master pages, numbering/sections, and character, paragraph, and object styles will greatly improve one’s workflow while creating a book. Depending on the book you are designing, (especially if it is serious nonfiction or if you just want a very clean-styled book) using grids and columns also helps. This makes it easy to lay out large amounts of text and drop text in where you need it.


There’s so much more you can get into when it comes to book design—we’ve only scratched the surface! People have written entire books (and series of books) on the topic. There are a plethora of options for designers in the world of publication, whether you do book covers, book layouts (or both!), magazines, catalogs…the list goes on. Hopefully, this piqued your interest enough to explore the world of book design further. Happy designing!


For More Information, Tips, and Inspiration check out these links:


The 60 Best Book Covers of 2016
Here’s an extensive list of book covers from last year. Most of these covers demonstrate typography and illustration—for your inspiration!


How to Design and Lay Out a Book in InDesign
This article from CreativeBloq is a great, basic tutorial on getting a book file setup in InDesign.


Typesetting Books in Adobe InDesign
I think this article is so helpful! It talks about setting up your InDesign document, choosing fonts and sizes, creating master pages, and using paragraph styles. All are incredibly helpful when it comes to learning how to design a book.