Does It Have to Be Blue? The Purpose and Evolution of Book Covers in University Press Publishing
Chair: Rob Ehle, Art Director, Stanford University Press
Panelists: Tom Eykemans, Senior Designer, University of Washington Press; Julie Thomson, Direct Marketing Manager & Sales Associate, Duke University Press; Christie Henry, Editorial Director, Sciences and Social Sciences, University of Chicago Press
The last two decades has seen a dramatic shift in book cover design treatment at many university presses. At one time, covers were treated as tasteful ornament to serious work, often as restrained as the book’s scholarly prose, rarely eliciting spirited discussion. Cover designs are now treated as serious marketing tools, with multiple designs, multiple rounds, and, occasionally, heated debate. While academic writing is no more accessible today than it was twenty years ago, and print runs are likely to be way less than half what they used to be, are we deluded to care so much about book covers? Or are first impressions even more critical for those very reasons? Two designers, a sales manager, and an acquiring editor discuss the phenomenon, doing their best not to come to blows.