Book Covers From the 1860s

As part of my research, I looked at other books from the 1860s. What was particularly interesting was the use of texture on the sleaves. This made the book attractive and interacted with the audience other than the written words. As you can see from the images below, there are man historical and biblical references on the front covers of the books. This is an indication of what society was like in the 1860s, and the religious aspect should be considered in my final design for my book cover. I also like the patterns on the books. There are clean lines and borders around the edge, but with detail added in the form of illustrative pattern. Also, i noticed a lot of books were coloured red. Perhaps this is an indication of the lack of coloured inks available at the time. There is also clear use of foiling on one of the designs, which I would say would have belonged to a wealthy person. The gold foil also stands out on red background. Although I may not foil for this particular project, I like the colour scheme, and hope to replicate this in my design.


Layout – Book Cover Design

I measured both the height and with of the front cover, back cover and spine in order to get the dimensions to input into the computer. I measured Nineteen Eighty-Four written by George Orwell.

Front cover height 196mm

Font cover width 132mm

Back cover height 196mm

Front cover width 196mm

Spine 20mm

Curvature – 2mm either side = 4

Width (from back cover to front cover inc spine) 286 mm I then input this into indesign where I adjusted the size of the document, the margins, and then moved guides from the vertical axis to highlight the boundaries of the spine. This then gave me the template in which to design from.

I wanted to try using the the rule of thirds in my design. The audiences eye will feel most naturally comfortable. I aligned the authors name to the lower third, drawing the eye to the well know writer. The audience will instantly recognise the name and hopefully be interested in the book.

Visual Communication

I used two signifiers along with the text. The first of these was a red coloured cross on the front cover of the book, which resembles blood. This is a key signifier as the main character murdered two innocent people at the beggining of the book. The cross is also significant as the Sonya, a female character featuring towards the end of  the book, hands Raskolnikov a cross when he goes to confess his crime. He wishes to own up to his mistakes and hopes religion will guide him back onto the road to redemption.

The other signifier I used was a hand drawn image of an iconic building from St Petersberg. This is symbolic of the area, as the signifier has a visual resemblance to the signified. I thought it was important to feature something old and historic, as the city has a lot of heritage and rich in history.

Previous Book Covers

I looked at different editions of Crime and Punishment to see what illustrations and typography is used, and how the ideologies of the book are visually portrayed through these mediums.

The rule of thirds is evident in the first three designs above have a clear rule of thirds running throughout the designs, which gives a clear hierarchy of importance to each element.

I like the imagery used in bot the first and third image, where a key theme, isolation, is shown through the expression of a remorseful, guilty man.


The typography used in the first image is very medieval and old style. This gives a feeling of age and the era at which it was written. The text is also centre aligned, drawing attention to the display face. There is also emphasis on the “C” and “P” as the capitals are significantly larger than the small caps. I think its important to take note of this, as the book is set in the 1860’s.

The second design also uses a similar layout, however the image is framed and aligned center along with the type. The typeface is a serif font, that also connotes age and formality. The image used reminds me of a illustration of a caught case, where the guilty person is shown.

I liked the angle of isolation that shown in all the pieces. The man feels alienated from society after feeling above the law.


Typeface Choices – Selection & Rejection

I looked at a range of different typefaces. I wanted to use something that had connotations of law and formality. This is in keeping with the theme and title of the book, and the audience should be able to clearly understand the subliminal messages the typeface connotes.

The book is set in the 1860’s, and I think it is important for this to be reflected in my typeface choice. With this in mind, I look at a variety of serif fonts that I think will portray the right message.

I first looked at this modern, serif font, giving a old classic a modern twist. I thought this typeface was too modern, and the messages are very mixed and may confuse the reader as they may not expect this from an older book. Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 19.19.17.png


This slab serif typeface, Code bold, increases the readability of the title, and is quite easy for the reader to read along the line of text. However, the connotations of the typeface don’t represent the age of the book very well as I think it makes the the book seem modern. The book is set in an old historic city in the 1860s, with a lot of heritage. This should be reflected in the typeface.

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Kerning and Tracking

An important part of making an effecting book cover is to understand the effectiveness of kerning and tracking. I used both of these in the title. I thought the ampersand looked very untidy in the title on the front cover. To tidy it up, I shrunk the point size of the ampersand and the decreased the tracking between “Crime” to the ampersand.

Tracking was also used in the authors name, where I spaced the characters apart, to distinguish between the two different pieces of information. I chose the typeface, Linowrite, which is based on the american typewriter font. These strong serifs make the reader read along a line, which means its perfect to increase the tracking, making the characters stretch out along the line, and increasing emphasis on the name.

I also decreased the baseline height on the line “PUNISHMENT” to conjoin the two pieces of information together, and separate that block of text from the authors name.Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 19.11.07Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 19.11.43



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What Makes A Good Book Cover

I did some research into what makes a good, effective and eye catching book cover.

Focal points – These are the points at with the eye is naturally drawn to subconsciously.

Size – Objects at or near to the center of a design tend to grab attention more than similar sized objects in other areas of the page do.

Isolation – Surrounding an object with white space draws attention to that object.


Contrast – Bright and dark objects placed near to one another create strong contrast, which gives a more eye catching design and the colours make the objects leap off the page.


Convergence – Lines within the design can point to, or converge on a word or object to increase its point of focus. The eye will naturally run along a strong line, or multiple fine lines. four small lines bring a surprising about of emphasis to the focal points.

Book covers love the rule of thirds. The premise of this rule  is that when key elements such as graphics or type cross the page horizontally at the devision of thirds, as opposed to in half, the image is more appealing.

Preferred Diagonal Scan – Because westeners read from left to right, and top to bottom, our eyes tend to cross the page in a series of sweeps. Our eyes are naturally conditioned to feel comfortable with designs that have an upper-left to lower-right flow.