We’d like to share some tips on book cover design. Obviously ours wasn’t designed by a software engineer 😉 99designs.com made it possible – they run ‘contests’ in which artists propose designs, receive feedback and the winner gets a bounty. We’re very happy with the result and want to share some lessons learned. What went well?
- 99designs estimated 30 designers would join a contest for 299 CHF. We decided against an additional blog listing (probably crowded) and instead messaged several veteran designers who had food-related book covers in their portfolio. It also seemed fair to ‘guarantee’ the contest and ensure a participating designer receives the prize. As a result, 33 designers joined in.
- We knew that writing good feedback would take lots of time. Painfully aware that many designers would only gain experience from the contest, we made a strong effort to provide feedback on every single design (over 230). That ended up taking 3+ hours a day before and after work. We also decided against a blind contest, so everyone could see each others’ designs. Some designs were ‘similar’, but enough variety remained.
- The secret to good software, prose and design seems to be iterative refinement. In the initial contest phase, some designers made 7 versions and achieved very strong results. The winning design evolved through 35 rounds of feedback.
There are a few things we’d do differently:
- Our food photos were mediocre and scarce. Good cookbooks are very visual and sub-par images really dampen a cover’s appeal. Initially we only provided a few pictures before realizing that more is better. Resorting to stock photos seemed dishonest, so we cooked up more desserts and took new photos.
- A more detailed brief could have accelerated the process. We didn’t want to impose too many requirements, but sharing our backstory and goals helped. We ended up with about 2 pages of background info. It was particularly important to suggest exact phrasing for some of the cover text/callouts because some designers weren’t native speakers.
- We forgot to mention that e-books only need a front cover, whereas printed books also need a back and spine. A few designs used the extra space and needed to be changed. On the plus side, we did ask for a specific pixel size (the book size at 300 dpi), which avoided resizing/rescaling.
Overall, this was a positive and enjoyable creative experience!