1. Choose a book by an author you are familiar with.
  2. You are going to design two different covers for it, one using illustrations or photography and the other using just type.
  3. Design the whole cover including the spine and back page. Include the title of the book, the author’s name, a brief description of the story and any other information you think is necessary.
  4. As you are working remember that your design is intended to help a reader know what the experience of reading the book will be. Is it a serious textbook or an off-beat funny novel? Are the readers expected to be young women or older men and does this matter? Is it an ‘easy read’ or ‘literary’? Does the publisher have a house style you need to be part of?
  5. When you have finished critiquing your work – which of your two designs do you feel works the most successful and why? Make notes in your learning log.



The Book: The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann


About the Book

The Magic Mountain (German: Der Zauberberg) is a novel by Thomas Mann, first published in November 1924. It is widely considered to be one of the most influential works of 20th-century German literature. (From Wikipedia)


The work reflected his experiences and impressions during a period when his wife, who was suffering from a lung complaint, was confined to Dr Friedrich Jessen’s Waldsanatorium in Davos, Switzerland for several months. In May and June, 1912 Mann visited her and became acquainted with the team of doctors who were treating her in this cosmopolitan institution. A novel that convincingly portrays illness as a state of mind as well as of body – mystifying the aura around sanatoriums and Rehabs. Sometimes being dark and mysterious, other times boring as hospitals.


What I can use for the Design
Words I could connect with coming from the story “Magic Mountain” itself:
  • Challenging –
  • Ambiguous –
  • Rich/poor –
  • Illness –
  • classic –
  • Mountains –
  • Waiting –
  • Boredom –
  • War


Book Cover: Research


Researching my audience group helped me in finding the first way forward. If I want this book to be picked up, it needs to stand out from the rest, having something mysterious about it while still maintaining a classic feel to it. It should be liked by avid readers (who else reads Thomas Mann otherwise?) and fans of classic literature alike.  The tonality can be mysterious (not too much though), speak to all genders in an age between 30 and 60. Words I could connect with coming from the story “magic mountain” itself:  Ambiguous – Challenging – Rich/poor – Illness – classic – Mountains – Waiting – Boredom 


My Audience profile:


Secondary Design Research


It is disappointing to see that the majority of Designs focus on showing a mountain, covered in snow, and the Sanatorium (Rehab). Some covers focus on the traditional aesthetics of the time the book was written, adding ornaments and a “heavy, leathery” look to it.


The Book was published in 1924. I want to use a typography that connects loosely to that era. Here’re the most used Fonts of that time. Both Serif and Sans Serif are used. Most have a “humanist” touch to them. I like the idea of combining both bold and thin fonts in the same design.



Book Cover: Design Process




After some research and trial and error, i decided to use 2 Fonts and limit myself on them.
  1. Bodoni FLF – The serif typefaces first designed by Giambattista Bodoni in the late eighteenth century and frequently revived since. They came to be called ‘modern’ serif fonts and then, until the mid-20th century, they were known as Didone designs.
  2. Cooper Hewitt Bold – a contemporary font, created in 2014 and designed by Chester Jenkins.
Both work great together or standalone, have humanist touches to it and repreent fonts of the time around 1920.


The Photographic Book Cover

Experiments and iterations


Final Version

Hardcover Book MockUp



The Typographic Book Cover


Typography 2 Book MockUp


Typography Book MockUp


My Critique

I like all of them. But i see some potential issues with the white typographical cover. It looks too modern and detached from the actual content of the book. This might put of some avid classic literature readers.

The photographic one is the safe bet. It strikes some familiar elements like the ornament and Author shot on the back. The upside down image of the mountain adds something more challenging and mysterious.

The pink typographic Book is my favourite. It is very minimal, but one can clearly see the title, arranged like a mountain. The pink colour adds warmth and a vintage feel to it. The understated look gives more importance to the author, Thomas Mann, basically saying “he doesn’t need more to stand out”.  Being vintage and contemporary at the same time.





One thought on “Exercise: Judging a book by its cover

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