Erinn Batykefer, MLIS

An online professional portfolio

Photoshop | Book Cover Design Contest

Example cover by Carrie Wolfson

There are a few in each collection I work with that are wonderful reads, but they have terrible covers.  It always disappoints me when patrons (particularly teens) pass them up, especially when they seemed excited about it based on a book talk or a reader’s advisory interview– the story sounds great, but the cover is such a turn-off, they choose something else to read, or worse, nothing at all!

If your library has a computer lab and the resources for desktop publishing software like Photoshop (or the much cheaper Photoshop Elements– a basic version that has lots of flexibility for non-professional design projects), holding a Book Cover Mash-up Contest can be a great way to demonstrate the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover,” and to engage teens with new titles that they might not pick up otherwise.

Here’s a brief outline of the program:

  • Choose a variety of books with terrible covers from your collection and re-cover them with plain brown paper (use grocery bags)
  • Publicize the event as an art contest
  • Hold a 2-part Teen event:
  • Part 1: Introduce the project and the titles with book talks, then go over the basics of Photoshop with participants using the library’s computer lab.  Then each teen goes home to read a brown-paper book then choose over the course of 1 week.
  •  Part 2:  Teens come together for a follow-up session in the computer lab, where they design a new cover for the book they read using photoshop.  Introduce some great book covers and talk about what kinds of feelings you get about the story based on the design– what makes youwant to read that book?  What would make youwantto read the story you chose, just based on a cover.  Have some staff to walk around and help with the program or tricky techniques.
  • Print out all covers and use them to re-cover the original titles.  Create a book display and allow patrons to vote on the winning design.
  • Winner gets a fun prize!
  • You can also use the teen-generated designs in the Teen Area to market titles.  Have designers write up a quick blurb about the book and why they would recommend it.

Modifications / Expansions

Incorporate design styles: You can tap into great design blogs and online resources to talk about book design and different styles teens might want to expore while they create new book covers.  Begin with this site for inspiration (tons of vintage / international covers):

Make it low-tech: If your library is not quite so wired, you this contest can easily be modified to be a low-tech/high-touch program that maintains the goals of moving books, getting teens involved with the collection, and talking about art and design.  Simply substitute computer lab time for an open art lab using craft materials (glue, discard magazines for collages, markers, colored pencils, etc.)  Print out pre-sized book cover templates for all participants.


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This entry was posted on April 22, 2012 by in Program Ideas, Tech & Tools and tagged , , , , , , .
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