Ebooks are always made of pixels. Variety is provided by their ability to be interactive, to move and change and react. But there isn’t much variety in the actual material of ebooks. Physical books, on the other hand, have the freedom to experiment a little bit more. And as more focus turns to the physical book as an objet d’art, designers are having more fun with their materials.
Here’s some fun, inspiring examples of book designers thinking outside the box:
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Designed by Elizabeth Perez (see her portfolio), who describes her simple design: “The book’s spine is screen-printed with a matchbook striking paper surface, so the book itself can be burned.” I especially like this because it almost challenges the reader to burn the book, which is a disturbing idea, and in doing so really uses material to make the book’s ideas come to life.
On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee
Designed by Helen Yentus and MakerBot. Award-winning author Chang-rae Lee’s new novel “On Such a Full Sea” debuts with a striking, 3D-printed slipcase. Only 200 of these custom 3D slipcases will be sold, with the signed limited edition hardcover books.
The author Chang-rae Lee commented on the covers: “Content is what’s most important, but this [3D edition] is a book with a physical presence, too. Of course I hope what’s inside is kinetic, but the physical thing isn’t normally meant to be. This edition feels as if it’s kinetic, that it has some real movement to it. It’s quite elegant as well.” Lee noted, “It’s all about changing the familiar. That’s ultimately what all art is about. That’s what we all do as writers.”
Good Ideas Glow in the Dark
Report designed by Bruketa & Zinic for Adris Group. Like the Fahrenheit 451 matchstick design, the materials of this book cover are a direct embodiment of what it’s trying to say. And I’m sure this unusual design choice helps the book stand out on the shelf!
Shopping in Marrakech by Susan Simon
Designed by Jessica Hische (one of my favorite designers, see her portfolio). Says Hische: This fun guidebook was especially fun to design. I developed the lettering first in illustrator and spent three days embroidering the cover for this book (the original now hangs on my wall). The interior is also decorated with bead and embroidery ornamentation where possible to make for a very rich design reflective of the wares you might purchase in Marrakech.”
I’ve also seen the delightful tactility of embroidery used in the Penguin Threads series I wrote about in Awesome Children’s Book Cover Design 2.
“Analogue/Digital” artwork by Evelin Kasikov
Embroidery artist Evelin Kasakov (see her portfolio) describes her work: “A tactile interpretation of different modes of representation. Four paper objects mix print and screen formats. Pixels and dots, single elements of digital and printed image, become physical using hand embroidery. The project visualizes analogue versus digital theme, an on-going obsession in the creative industry today.”
Traveling Clock Book
This last example comes from when books were so expensive to make that they really were objets d’art, although this one is particularly unusual.. This traveling clock in the form of a book was made in Europe, ca. 1576.