The Book Cover Archive

  • Fonts in Use
Book Faces, Fonts in Use | Yves Peters | January 13, 2009

I’ve been discussing movie posters and album covers for the past two and a half and two years respectively – first on Unzipped and now here on the FontFeed. Yet book covers only have been covered (lame pun, I know – it’s past midnight here!) sporadically, mostly when reporting awards and online galleries. Stephen on his part recently did a very popular entry on the Book, Jacket & Journal Show.

There have been moments I’ve considered starting with a regular book cover section, but I don’t think that’s realistic. These type of reviews take a hell of a lot of time to write – posters/covers have to be assembled, inserted in the post, links to the respective movie/artist websites added, then I have to study them, and write something that makes a modicum of sense. I already have to occasionally skip a month for Screenfonts and My Type of Music, so it’s safe to say a Book Faces column would only make matters worse.

Excellence in book cover design

Fortunately there are a number of places on the internet that showcase book covers and offer insightful information about this (commercial) art. Last Thursday a new and valuable resource was added – The Book Cover Archive was launched, “for the appreciation and categorization of excellence in book cover design”. The website is edited and maintained by Ben Pieratt and Eric Jacobsen, formerly of Covers. Ben Pieratt, previously a partner at Fwis, currently works at full service design studio General Projects. Eric Jacobsen, also formerly of Fwis, is both the developer of the site and a valued contributor to the archive and blog.

Ben Pieratt explains that the website was created out of personal interest.

Since apprenticeships are out of fashion, a resource like this is necessary for observing the work of, and learning from, the best designers in the field; and while there are a number of great book cover blogs already in existence, they’re limited by the amount of time they’re willing to spend editorializing. Whereas the only editorial decision necessary for posting to the Archive is the binary “it’s in, or it’s not”, which allows us to post more covers more frequently.

Plus, y’know, “Those who can’t, blog.”, which is definitely true of us for the time being.

Paperback Books © Julia Freeman-Woolpert
Although it has only been online for a couple of days it looks like Ben and Eric have hit the ground running. The Book Cover Archive already holds 800+ covers and 180+ designers. Up untill now all covers have been added by Ben Pieratt and Eric Jacobsen themselves, but they do accept submissions (to that effect a submission form is amongst the planned future enhancements). I asked Ben Pieratt on what basis covers are selected to be included.

While we consider the archive to be a public resource, its purpose is selfish in nature, so the decision to add a cover is ultimately a personal one. If it’s not something we enjoy or feel we can learn from, then it’s not going in. That said, the criteria we work within are fairly unoriginal: strong concept, sensitive typography, interesting imagery, and ideally a combination of all three. Though I have to say we tend to be a bit more lax in our judging of anything Sci-Fi related. If it’s not hideous, it’s probably going in.

So how does it work? The home page displays the covers sorted by date added. A drop down menu allows for browsing by meta data. Furthermore there is a fully browsable master list of all content, searchable with smart keyword searches. Clicking a cover opens a dedicated page which holds all the meta data for the cover and a larger image. Visitors can interact on those pages using a custom comments system. The editors of The Book Cover Archive have made a significant effort to make the credits as comprehensive as possible, yet they realise it is possible they have missed the odd contributor. An e-mail link is included on each cover’s page to allow visitors of the archive to suggest edits.

The real strength of the site lays in the cross-indexed meta data. Clicking on an author’s name will take you to an overview page with all the books they have in the archive. Clicking on a designer’s name reveals all the covers by that designer. A single person can have multiple instances of meta data associated with their name. For instance, Chip Kidd (unsurprisingly) has the unique honour of being the only person in the archive with every possible attribution filled: Author, Designer, Art Director, Photographer, and Illustrator.

This is bound to become a brilliant resource. Ben Pieratt and Eric Jacobsen claim they’re invested in this thing for the long haul, so check back often for a steady stream of improvements and additions. And The Book Cover Archive doesn’t just list book covers, it also sports an accompanying blog. Furthermore the website includes links for portfolio sites of book cover designers, as well as other websites on book cover design. The website is under constant development – its creators call it a “Steady Beta”. Most of the features already have been implemented, but there are still some very interesting future enhancements to the archive coming up:

  • Book Descriptions
  • Tags
  • Multiple Images per Book
  • Typeface Identification (!) :)
  • Submission form
  • Expanded Designer Profiles
  • Sitemap

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  1. Tremendous article/interview. I am always on the prowl for distinguished resources for cover ideas and, at first glance, The Book Cover Archive will be a “go to” resource to jump start the creative process.

    Look forward to seeing the site grow and more articles about book, report and magazine design.

    Posted by Joann Sondy on Jan. 14, 2009
  2. Thanks Joann. :)

    Your wish is my command — I just requested to be added to the press release databases of both the Society of Publication Designers and the Magazine Publishers of America. They have some competitions coming up so that would make for interesting topics.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jan. 15, 2009
  3. Nice find, I found a very similar site a little while back. I used to have it in my bookmarks, until firefox decided to clear them.

    Posted by Youssef Sarhan on Jan. 17, 2009
  4. great post, congratulations

    Posted by el norberto on Jan. 20, 2009
  5. I am designing a business card for myself today, and this was a great bit of inspiration to find this morning. Thank you!

    Posted by Ryan James Ragsdale on Mar. 30, 2009
  6. Great post, I’ll check out the book cover archive for some inspiration! Had never heard of them previously…

    Posted by Kalon on Mar. 1, 2014

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