Class Assignment: Design a Book Cover

Note: Elements of this design are not my own, they were used for the purpose of school work and are not for commercial use, nor meant for reproduction.

In my Book and Magazine Publishing program, we have a class dedicated to the Design aspects of publishing. This assignment asked us to create a book cover for an existing book. My choice was Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card because I feel that the current cover is outdated. I designed everything myself, including the boy, by tracing an existing photograph I found on the web. The only thing I didn’t design was the background, which is a vector image I also found on the web.

Here is the rationale I presented for the assignment:

Design Rationale
Ender’s Game is an amazing book that unfortunately has not changed the cover of its mass market paperback since 1994. The author’s “definitive edition”, this cover has been around for so long it has become extremely outdated. As someone who worked at a bookstore, I always found it difficult to sell Ender’s Game, especially to young adults, who were skeptical of the cover design. Not only does it give off an uninviting, hardcore scifi feel, but its colours are dull, the typeface is old and out of style, and the images remind one too much of the early Star Wars films. With the movie in the works I aimed to design a cover that is versatile but also doesn’t get visually lost in the masses. It’s bold colours and type faces call out to the reader, but the unity of it all isn’t loud enough to be rude nor exclusive. The colours and boy on the cover would attract children, the bold and edgy feel – young adults, and the fresh, inviting colours and design would attract people of an older age. It would also attract those who are fans of the author and who want an updated, fresher version. Not only does this cover cross age gaps but also genre gaps. Too many books in scifi and fantasy stick to covers that are old-fashioned and not modern, attracting only hardcore fans. My cover is more versatile and follows a much more modern feel for any type of reader.
First I found a vector image of space that was very colourful. In Photoshop, I flipped the image vertically and cropped it to fit the cover dimensions. Then, I found a picture of a boy and created block shapes with white to contrast with the busy space background. Once completed, I saved the file as an image and placed it in InDesign. From there, I proceeded to design around the elements in the image. For instance, the boy’s eyes are directed towards the title of the book, drawing the reader’s attention. The title itself is clear, bold, and draws in the eye first to “Ender” then to “Game”, creating a visual staple for the title that can be easily recognizable. The yellow is a swatch I created that I liked because it was less hard, but still stood out amongst the background while creating contrast and harmony with the white in “Ender”. The author’s name is in a type face that looks very scifi but still clean and edgy. The awards at the top are noninvasive but clearly present for the reader’s information.
The spine was modeled after the original, containing the same elements but in a different design style. The title remains bold and clear while the author’s name (who is a well-known writer) holds it’s own weight as a secondary visual cue to the title. The TOR logo was recoloured to white to show up against the background and is large in order to attract the attention of fans who read TOR books. The price and ISBN below are not all-together visible, but are useful bits of information for someone scanning the shelves of a bookstore.
All the quotes on the back are taken from the original and in order to make them visible against the background I created a copy of the text in black, put it behind the white text, and then shifted it over a bit in order to create the illusion of a shadow. It helps with the readability of the text and makes it pop out more. The two columns of quotes lines up with how the title is left-aligned and helps with readability because of the colour changes from right to left. The sarcode is large and visible, as is the US and CAN pricing. Overall, the back maintains comfortable unity with the spine and cover.

– Renae McCann



  1. Good post. It’s nice to see all the thought that goes into cover design. Important also is the realization that over time, covers really do lose their appeal. I suppose it was very costly to update covers on printed books. But POD changes all that, and it would be wise for publishers to do upgrades from time to time.

    • Thank you for your comment! I think that covers definitely go through cycles, and I’m hoping that when the movie for Ender’s Game comes out they may release a “movie edition”, but I have a feeling that maybe Card likes this cover and that’s why it’s never been changed (an interesting thought, anyway). Working at a bookstore, I found that books I remember from my childhood would be re-released with new covers, but I suppose this would be within 10-year intervals.

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