Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Problematic Covers

Let's start with America's favorite pasttime. Having removed the title, we can guess that the book might be about  Jews in baseball. Or about Jewish sporting events like the Maccabiah games.

Here's the actual cover :

There's nothing "wrong" with the cover, per se. But if I were looking for a book about Jewish-American politics, I'd probably walk right past it, thinking that it was a sports book. If I were a Jewish sports fanatic, I'd probably pick the book up, read the title, and then put it back down again.

What could the missing words be here? "Flowers?" "Arts & Crafts?" "Psychedelic Drugs"?

The problem with series book design is that once a publisher has established a cover design for all of the books in a series, your book is stuck with that look if it's published as part of that series.

Does this design remind anyone of the opening sequence of Doctor Who? Maybe The Doctor is Jewish?

This would be a decent cover for a book about Jewish comedy or the Marx Brothers.

Is the publisher suggesting that living in an interfaith household is just one big joke?

There are 2 things I don't like about this cover. The artwork along the side is abstract enough that the book could be about anything. But that artwork also takes up such a small part of the cover, it might as well be a totally black cover.

Here's another example of an almost-black cover, as well as a series style. Also, it's a book about libraries.

There's no rule that says that the illustration has to exactly match the title. Here's a cover that could have had a title like The Jewish Wife.

I'm not an art critic, but something about the way the colors run along this cover just bugs me.

To look at this book, you might think the title is "The Jewish Bathroom Companion" or "Tales of a Jewish Plumber".

What's great about this example is that we now know that neo-Nazis don't have such great marketing and maybe people will notice their books a little less.

This cover could be for a book of Jewish sci-fi or Jewish astronauts.

There's nothing much wrong with this cover. For me, though, the colors are too bright, distributed all over the place, and the buildings look like they've been drawn by a first-grader.

That's a lot of Vs. But what's the book about?

When I look at this cover, I don't know what to think. Lots of yellow bubbles of different shapes and sizes.

In case you can't see all of the text, this is a book of poetry.

Some of you might recognize this cover. For those who don't, let's examine what's happening on this rather sparse cover. There's a boy. Next to him is a girl clutching a book. There are trees all around. And in the distance, there's someone approaching with his hands in the air. It looks like he's waving his arms. What I don't see on the cover is anyone praying.

There's no drawings here and the strength of the cover is the title and the list of contributors. I don't understand why the use of splotches of blue and white. If the Israeli flag is meant to be evoked, just put the flag on the cover ; it's not copyrighted.

Also, the word "With" written in white blends in with the white background so you almost miss it.

I like the concept of this cover, i.e. the scattered Hebrew letters. The dark, smudged purple against a purple backdrop just doesn't look nice, though.

This book is described as "a saga embracing five generations on Mother's side and five on the side of Father". Does anyone get that from a cover with 2 pencil-thin people standing by a big tree?

What better way to express that this book is about copyright than by placing an oversized copyright logo smack in the middle of the cover? I do like that. However, there's nothing "Jewish" about the cover except the word "Jewish" which doesn't draw the eye as much as the logo does.

This is a rather messy looking cover. Combined with the book's title, it's suggesting that mixed marriages are a gamble ... which is a bit better than saying that it's a big joke.

I can appreciate the cubist art style, but I don't know if it's really appropriate or a book about women and dybbuks.

A rather minimalist cover. The word in brown is "true" which isn't easy to read because the shade is so close to the background color.

I know that Hebrew numerology is powerful stuff, but I've never seen the word "chai" grow in size and leap off the page like this. I can understand Einstein being on the cover ; he's Jewish. What I don't get are the other science images beside him, as well as the atomic logo behind the title. Are all of Don's Jewish friends scientists?

Here's another minimalist cover. What makes it stand out a bit is the row of green squares with the third square from the right being blue. Is that supposed to represent the Jew surrounded by Gentiles who are so different from him?

On the other hand, if a green square fades in from nothingness to a green box, then it's a symbol of leadership or not-for-profit management. Or else it's a TARDIS. Or are TARDIS-es blue?

If the subtitle doesn't look easy to read, that would be on account of using white typeface against a multi-colored collage of color. I'm not sure why the splashes of color are supposed to represent genes, memes, memory, or anything Jewish. Myself, I might have chosen something more easily recognizable like a double helix.

If this book were put in the "Internet books" or "Computers" section of a bookstore, it would probably stand out as one of the few books with any Jewish iconography on the cover. Placed in the Judaica section, it would look so generically Jewish that you need to read the title to see what it's about.

Apparently, Jewish healing involves moving to California or Florida.

All I can say about this cover is that I'd describe it as very loud. Sometimes, bigger is not better.

So, when this book designer was told that the title was The Jewish Body, he thought of concrete and hands.

Whereas, this book designer interpreted "100 years of Jewish life" as a giant man jumping over houses.

For a book about the power of conversation, she seems to be walking away from it, rather than towards it.

Here's another Jews-in-space cover.

This cover did succeed in getting my attention. It's not often that two of the title words are intentionally broken up with hyphens and separated by the subtitle and the author's name. For some, this is a cool effect ; for others, not so much.

I understand the requisite use of the Magen Davids, but I'm not sure why overlapping colored squares are supposed to represent the psychoanalytic movement.

I suppose when you can't think of anything interesting for the cover of a biography, you can just use the supersized initial of the subject's name.

I actually like this cover quite a bit - the bold colors, the typeface, the simple layout. I just think it might be offputting for some Judaica libraries to have a book whose cover has the Hebrew name of G-d on it, making it sheimos.

The cover of this Shaft book isn't so different from others in the series or from other cheap paperbacks of the period. I just thought the cover should look a little more Jewish, considering the plot involves "a committee of Hassidim, orthodox Jews whom Shaft at first mistakes for a posse of cowboys.".

The size and font style make the cover not-quite-as-loud as Sfar's book. The white splotches make it worse, though.

I would point out how the abundance of menorahs is a bit much ... except you can't really see the menorahs, since their yellow is almost the same shade as the background color.

There's plenty of color on this cover, but it's not so pleasing to the eye, in my opinion.

There's so much I don't like about this particular cover. The unnecessary sequence of dots, the arrow pointing us to where the title is (as if we didn't know), the purposely-misaligned statement of responsibility, the curve of the subtitle around a disembodied head which is facing away from us and is casting a Magen David shadow. I'm not sure whether to conclude that the designer was trying too hard or not hard enough.

Personally, I don't have a problem with this cover or the next 2 (which have nudity). We must be aware of the sensitivity of our clients, though. Even if a patron doesn't personally complain, his teacher or parent might --- regardless of the merits of the actual book itself. In this case, it's possible that tattoos not being acceptable under Jewish law will be offensive to certain browsers who notice the book in your library.

Likewise these 2 covers with nudes.

I'd like to add that even if the book deals with sexuality, it is possible to indicate that on the book cover without depicting nudes and I'll be showing examples of that shortly.

I'd like to conclude the "negative" portion of this presentation by showing you what I call examples of "Jewish geometry books" - books whose cover designs make me think that the book must be about the importance of shapes and forms to everyday Jewish life.

Now, I'd like to present covers which I personally have found to be interesting and effective.