How to be a scroll-stopper
01.01.70 | Chris Hannah
As a book designer, I’m meant to hate e-books. But I don’t—I think they could be an exciting new dawn.
In a physical bookshop you stand in front of a selection of book jackets, picking up any titles that catch the eye. This action is usually in recognition of a particular author, an attractive cover design or even an enthusiastic endorsement from a celebrated figure. Often it is a mixture of all three. Once the book is in hand, further inspection of the blurb is undertaken—and a final purchasing decision is made.
Today, this process has been streamlined for the online book shopper—the sheer volume of books available is far greater than once sat upon the shelves at your local bookshop, and you can scan the options as fast as your mouse will allow. The cover thumbnails that fill the screen are too small to read any celebrity endorsements and looking for the synopsis is now too much of an obstacle to the fluid browsing process. So you keep scrolling, or clicking, to the next page.
Online you focus only on two things: the author’s name and any cover design that catches the eye.
Of course, you could click on any one of these thumbnails and gain more information, but that would open up another page—so you don’t. There's no time to flip pages. You’re just browsing and you don’t want to be interrupted—and all the while, the exact time bears down on you, ever-present in the corner of your screen.
So when it comes to the marketing of books, we must begin to lean more heavily on the reputation of the author and on the design of the cover. In the digital marketplace these two act as ‘scroll-stoppers’; part of a reinvented book-buying process practiced by a new market, one less patient than the average bookshop dweller.
What can we do?
So, thumbnails have shrunk the book cover. We’ve covered that. But how do we designers address that specific problem? Cover designs should strive to be bolder, more distinctive BUT this does not necessarily mean a bigger title.
Being ‘bold’ means looking to produce something that stands out graphically, instead of applying a genre-specific formula to the design. Look at the Amazon homepage and I’ll wager that your eye doesn’t linger long in front of one of the many generic thriller covers, complete with distressed stock photography and angry red type; all set in condensed UPPERCASE, no less.
Subjectivity aside, a design that breaks the mould will stand out more than one that simply conforms.
Perhaps the new digital age presents an under-appreciated opportunity for jaded book designers to get their creative juices flowing? Whisper it, but this could be the best thing to happen to book design in years.
Chris Hannah is an art director and designer. His website is: http://chrishannah.co.uk/