For this blog post I want to discuss the process for designing the covers for the book. From a previous blog post where I conducted the third test print of this project, it is possible to see here how I got to this stage, and where I progressed it from there.
The first design I came up with was based on the concept of a wraparound image. It needed to be of something spectacular, and instead of going for something very unrealistic like a nebula that can only be seen through a very powerful telescope, I decided to go for an image of the Milky Way, something that can be viewed, albeit in the right place, such as the Atacama Desert. This should pull the audience in from afar.
As for the front cover, I wanted to keep it deliberately simple, to place attention onto the image. The book’s title is there, as well as a sell that briefly encapsulates what the book is about. The name of Stargazing comes from the fact it would be produced in association with BBC Stargazing LIVE.
As for the back cover, the blurb talks about what the book contains, being placed in a translucent black box to ensure it is readable on the starry background. The four images are brief examples of some of the visuals you can see in the book. I have chosen strong images that should hopefully excite the audience as to what else is inside.
Development – Round 1
I asked for some feedback from fellow students and it was felt that there should be less text in the blurb and to look into rearranging the images to give more of a structure to the page. This I did, and I took a couple of images out to gain more space.
The differences between the two layouts can be seen below.
I was not happy with that last stage though, and thought in many ways it looked more unbalanced than before, so moved on to another approach. Here I added in a third image, but spread them and the blurb across the full width of the page. This is how I left it for that evening and is how I test printed it.
Development – Round 2
However, after I did the test print, I just was not happy with the layout. It looked worst than it did on screen and when folded, it just lacked structure and was plainly not good enough. The problems got worse when I realised the wraparound image was not of a high enough quality to print well. Therefore I decided to start over again, as I knew whatever the final result was, it would be similar to something I had already done. There’s only so many ways you can package something to achieve a certain aim.
I managed to find a new image that would display at 300 dpi. It was slightly more subtle, but much better balanced, and importantly was darker, which fitted the tone of the night sky better.
I then re-wrote the blurb to make it a bit shorter and more relevant to the audience. I was very lucky that the text fitted very well into the space I created, that I was able to justify the text without any issues whatsoever, allowing for text that lined up with the images. To make sure the text was justified correctly, I opened up the Justification dialog box and entered the values I learnt about in the St. Luke’s project, that refines the positioning and spacing of characters.
As for the images, I decided to change back to my original idea of having four placed in a 2×2 grid. The top two images of the Sun and the Moon, I chose to keep the same, but the bottom two images I decided to change.
The night sky image did not look that clear on the cover, so I decided to replace it with an simulated image of Saturn’s rings. Being such a crisp, detail rich image, I am confident it will attract a lot of attention and stand out amongst the other images, which all have a very powerful pull in their own right. As for the Scorpius illustration, I replaced this with Cancer, as while I liked the idea of having an illustration visible to the audience, I felt Scorpius was a bit fussy and not vibrant enough to hold someone’s interest on the cover, whereas Cancer was perfect for achieving this.
There was also the benefit of the colours being balanced diagonally with orange-red tones top-left to bottom-right, and monochromatic tones top-right to bottom-left.
Using the BBC logo
From a discussion I had with a couple of people, we agreed that the BBC logo needed to be present in some way to draw a solid connection with who would be producing the book. On previous BBC Stargazing LIVE branding you can see that the BBC 2 logo is used, but I think this is extremely limiting and is not suited to a book as it is the organisation that should be advertised, not the channel.
So I found a BBC logo in the PNG file format. However, it was obvious that placing this onto a black background would result in only the letters really being visible.
So I opened the image in Photoshop and went to Image > Adjustments > Invert (Cmd + I keyboard shortcut) to leave white boxes and black text.
I then had the idea to remove the black letters, which when the logo was placed on the cover, would allow for stars to come through depending on its position on the page. For this then, I wanted to select the black letters so I went to Select > Color Range, and using the Sampled Colors option, clicked on the letters to select them.
I then pressed the backspace key to delete them, but unusually this left a small black border. To remove this, I undid this step to bring back the selection, and went to Select > Modify > Expand. I chose to expand the selection by 2 pixels to remove the border, but importantly leave the logo’s proportions the same.
I was then able to place it into the InDesign file I was working on, placing it in the bottom-right corner of the front cover to mimic other BBC publications, and then tried it on the spine. I was pleased with how it looked, so I decided I would ask for some feedback.
Getting feedback… or not!
I now asked for some feedback on the Facebook group we have about positioning the image and whether to include the BBC logo on the spine, but aside from one person, no one else could be bothered to give any feedback, so that wasn’t particularly helpful.
The evolution of the back cover means it now looks like a refined version of the first attempt, a sign that I very nearly had got it right, and how refining a design can take it in the wrong direction at first.
The Final Covers
The only design difference to the image below is its position now slightly right of centre. While when viewed on the screen it looks slightly unbalanced, in reality when printed, its nudges the image’s brightest, most dominant part onto the front cover.
For the front cover, the text was realigned to the guides I’d added, and I also made the decision to move the BBC logo to the centre as it seemed odd to have the text aligned in the centre widthwise, but then place the logo in the bottom-right corner.
As for the spine, I placed the book’s name Stargazing at the top, and the BBC logo at the bottom.
I am very pleased with how the final covers have turned out. It is very important to get the feeling right with the cover, as that is what you have to entice the audience into reading the book. If they don’t find the book of interest, either with the images shown, or the blurb, then they won’t bother to read it. I believe this cover gives meaning and purpose to each element.