They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. That’s pretty sound advice when it comes to most things. But like we recently told a class of local New Hampshire fifth graders, when you’re talking about actual books… sometimes appearances are all you have to go on. Here’s how it all went down.
This particular fifth grade class was tasked with writing stories, binding them, and creating illustrated book covers for them. They were all super excited about the assignment, but needed some guidance about how to design them, what to write on them, and what they should try to accomplish with them. So our creative team piled into a room and started video chatting with some pretty excited students.
We started by letting them know that when it comes to actual books, appearances are important. Especially from a marketing standpoint. People are looking fast—in a bookstore, a library, a Hudson News about to board a plane. And generally, they pick something with an intriguing visual look and the promise of a story line that will appeal to them.
Then the real questions came. What makes people want to pick it up? What words should you use? What pictures should you use? Is the font important? Does it have to be in color? Everyone on the team—from copywriters to designers to art directors—weighed in, responding to some really thoughtful questions.
“Spacing is really important. Both the spacing between letters and the spacing between your elements. Everything should look and feel balanced. Unless you don’t want it to. Then it’s good to make things a little off… if it serves to convey your overall visual concept.”
“Explore textures—tactile book covers are really interesting.”
“Try not to write too many words on the cover, especially in the title. Titles are more compelling when they’re short and sweet. Plus, when they’re short they can be bigger and more eye-catching.”
“Never be done after your first try. Sketch, sketch, and then sketch some more.”
“The use of certain devices in your writing will add lots of interest. For example, using parallel phrases, opposites and repetition can pull readers in.”
Needless to say, it was a ton of fun.
After all of their questions had been answered and their curiosity satisfied, we waved goodbye thinking we’d done our good deed for the day—educating and inspiring the next generation of creatives. But that was only half the story.
Once the class had finished, the book covers found their way into our Manchester office.
They were amazing!
From Don’t Press Play to Treasure on Snails Beach to The Shipwreck on the Unspoken Isle, we poured through them and marveled at their writing and artistry. (And that many of them had actually followed our advice!)
Honestly, you never know what to expect from a bunch of fifth graders. That’s why their incredible commitment, effort, and care for detail infused into each and every book cover was so exciting. And we found, quite unexpectedly, that we too were the ones that were inspired.
So what did we do? Naturally, we got to work.
We decided to surprise the class by creating real book covers out of their designs, complete with beautiful visuals, teaser copy and back-cover reviews:
“A supercharged journey into the unknown reaches of the Alaskan wilderness, outer space, and ultimately… ourselves.”
Here’s a sneak peek at some of our works in progress:
We can’t wait to complete and present them to this awesome group of kids. All in all, they did an amazing job and we’re thrilled to be able to help them learn more about their talents and give them occasion to think differently about things.
Hopefully they’ll be equally thrilled to know that they did the same for us.
Micah Petillo is a copywriter for GYK Antler. Prior to joining the GYK Antler team, he spent his time at Brookstone learning the ins and outs of SEO and writing digital, catalog and packaging copy for brands like Fitbit, Beats by Dr. Dre, AR. Drone, and those massage chairs you love. In his free time he teaches Philosophy courses, plays chess, and moonlights as a wild game butcher, where he aims to promote ethically responsible, more sustainable hunting and animal harvesting.