Everybody knows the proverb «you can`t judge the book by its cover». But Jessica Helfand, the founding editor of Design Observer, doesn`t think this phrase is appropriate. “At the end of the day, a book is a visual object,” she says. “You buy the book before you’ve read the book, and so you have to be able to judge a book by its cover.”
Every year Helfand joins the team of guest judges to select 50 of the year’s most striking book covers for the American Institute of Graphic Arts’ longstanding 50 Books | 50 Covers competition.
This year’s winning covers are praised for their grasp of graphic design details. Helfand says: «It’s the way that typography aligns with the grid along with color choice, scale, and the way the spine interacts with the visuals on the front.»
“Of all design virtues, wit is the one I think designers hold in the highest regard,” says Peter Mendelsund, a longtime designer of book covers and former 50 | 50 judge. Other times, it’s about the glint of the typography, of the feel of the jacket. In the end, though, it all comes down to grabbing a reader’s attention and keeping it. “It has to make you want to look twice,” Helfand says. “And it has to make you want to go further.”