A lot goes into the creation of a book cover. First come the broad ideas, both from the author and the publisher. They’re followed by inputs and suggestions from the creatives – the cover designer, editor and the production team to help embellish those ideas. The final cover that holds the book together on shelves and catches the readers’ eyes is, therefore, a serendipitous coming together of the imagination, skill and salesmanship of several people.
There are several ways to bring a cover to life. There’s Photoshop, perhaps the most common tool designers use. But great photographs – be it spot photography, portraits or still life inside a studio – have often lifted a simple visual to a remarkable face for a book.
Today, on the occasion of World Photography Day, we asked HarperCollins India’s Saurabh Garge to pick ten book covers that are extraordinary not just visually, but also perfect for the text they wrap within their pages thanks to some smart photography. These are examples of designers and lensmen showcasing a sharp understanding of the creative brief and executing it brilliantly.
Which book covers, in your opinion, should have made it to this list? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section. Your suggestions will only help this list become richer and inclusive of our understanding and appreciation of the incredible work photographers and artists put in bringing these covers alive.
Girl Land – Reagan Arthur / Back Bay Books
The physical, emotional, and social milestones of every girl’s life: what we’ve lost and gained in the 21st century.
A cleverly shot picture with an interactive placement of typography takes us straight to the scene and we perceive it from the perspective of the young girl. The stark contrast represented by a lively young girl looking up at the lifeless mannequins evokes the sense of general communal understanding about women and the norms that they attach them from the early stages of growing up.
Humiliation / Picador
Humiliation is not just shame hidden inside you but it’s shame that is witnessed by others. Public shame.
The suffocating tight shot of someone’s personal diary – it creates a sense of vulnerability. The use of dark shades of colour sets the tone of the subject. The scratches on the diary allude to someone desperately attempting at invading another’s privacy –– a way of humiliating someone.
Missing Men / Penguin Books
A woman’s memoir chronicles her childhood without her father and her two ill-fated marriages
A rather simple shot with a crease formation on a bed-cover. It immediately establishes the fact of absence of someone/something from the scene. Further, the crease cleverly substitutes the missing alphabet ‘i’ in the title. Some reading between the lines suggests a possible quest to fill that void with memories.
Ghachar Ghochar / HarperCollins India
‘ghachar ghochar’ – a nonsense phrase uttered by one meaning something tangled beyond repair, a knot that can’t be untied.
An overhead shot of a saucer with coffee stains that with the passing of time have begun to appear like an ominous symbol over an otherwise clean surface. There’s also a gathering of ants over the stain, a metaphor for the resulting paranoia due to the stain. There is a sense of revelation/discovery when you come across a narrative in the book about ants and it immediately connects you to the image used on the cover. It goes like this: ‘We had no compunction towards our enemies and took to increasingly desperate and violent means of dealing with them… in time we began to be openly cruel to ants. We saw them as demons come to swallow our home and became a family that took satisfaction in the destruction of ants. We might have changed house since, but habits are harder to change.’
Remnants of a Separation / HarperCollins India
A unique attempt at revisiting the Partition through objects that refugees carried with them across the border.
The image on the cover is an ornament brought from D.I. Khan, North West Frontier Province to Delhi and worn by the author’s grandmother. It’s just the perfect image for the subject. The lady represents a generation that migrated during Partition, and the ornament that stands out on her forehead is symbolic of the memories and stories that she brought with her and preserved over all these years.
The Paradox of Choice / Ecco
The more options you have, the harder it gets to decide, and to decide well.
Quite directly the image of stalked goods of the different brands of the same product creates a question of choice, identical to almost everyone’s situation that we face in a supermarket every time when we visit.
The Season of Second Chances / St. Martin’s Griffin
A world of possibilities opens up for Joy Harkness when she sets out on a journey that’s going to show her the importance of friendship, love, and what makes a house a home
There is a bucket of paint on the ladder and a break time as you see the cup of coffee that is still hot. Clearly, someone’s painting his or her house. It establishes the most important theme of making a house a home. From painting empty walls to having a steaming hot cuppa.
American Nerd / Scribner Publishers
Most people know a nerd when they see one, but yet can’t define just what a nerd is exactly.
Framed on a wall is an interesting minimal composition of different objects that we all generally associate with the term ‘nerd’. Owing to the simplicity of the frame-within-frame structure of the cover photo, one can make an easy guess that the book is about various types of nerds.
Clothes / Routledge
The important issues that clothes provoke – historical, theoretical, social, psychological, material, aesthetic.
A stark and arresting image of a tanned human body sans the area covered by clothes not only throws up but also answers a lot of questions about clothes and how we look at clothing in today’s day and age. The visual leaves an impact by effortlessly giving depth to the title of the book despite it being explicitly stated.
The Lovers and the Leavers / HarperCollins India
In twelve linked stories, the characters in The Lovers and the Leavers intersect and drift apart across several years and continents.
The green and red tones of the cover induce the melancholic feelings of love and loneliness. The bottom-heavy photograph and the extended wall create the sense of emptiness and the visual of a woman in despair at the bottom rightly represents a sense of alienation.