Type first: The rebirth of big type and lettering in contemporary book cover design
with Helen Yentus
When I first started designing books covers, oh 15 years ago, the words ’make the type bigger’ were the most dreaded feedback you could get from the client. Maybe worse than ‘I hate it’. How dare they try to actually have people be able to see the title?! Don’t they see how subtle my old paper texture is? All these years down the road, with the shift of discovery moving to social media and away from the bookstore, we approach the cover ‘type first’. Initially it was terrifying. All subtlety would be lost! Looking back over the work of the last few years, I realize that we’ve come to a much more graphic, exciting and fun place. Gone are the days of the beautiful photo with tiny type at the bottom. Type avoidance is not longer an option. A cover either makes you stop in your tracks at thumbnail size, or it fails. And a successful cover lives and dies by the type. Not only must you communicate the ‘feeling’ of the story, you must brand the work and its author lest your book disappear in a sea of similar looking images. That communication is driven by the type. Not only does it set the tone but the way it is used can communicate the difference between literary fiction and pop science. This presentation will focus on how typographic integration drives the show in contemporary book covers and achieves great design in the process.
About Helen Yentus
Helen Yentus is the art director of Riverhead Books and has been designing book covers for over a decade. Her work has been featured in Print Magazine, Graphis, Communication Arts, The Creative Review, and by the AIGA, the Society of Illustrators, the Type Directors Club, and The London Design Museum. In 2007 she was named one of Print’s “20 under 30” and in 2014 received an Art Director’s Club silver award of Art + Craft in Advertising and Design.