Everybody's heard that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. But is that really true?
Phil Pascuzzo should know. He's the drummer for local band Scientific Maps. He's also a book cover designer -- he's created more than 300 of them. (Phil's also designed artwork for local musicians such as Brent Gordon, Brian Patneaude, and Sgt Dunbar.)
We all see the covers, but most of us don't think much about who designs them. How did you end up doing this?
As far back as high school I knew that I wanted to be a graphic designer. I didn't think twice about book covers, or the person who designs them. It didn't seem like a career choice. My junior year of college at St. Rose I interned at St. Martin's Press in NYC. That summer I met some amazing designers that turned me on to the whole book design culture, so after graduation in 2000 I moved down to work for them full time.
What is your process? Do you read the book first?
I always try and read the manuscript before starting the design process. Sometimes the book isn't complete so I can only read a partial manuscript or just a synopsis page. Reading the book really helps me to respond emotionally to the design problem. This in turn makes the connection between the potential reader and cover stronger.
What is your favorite cover?
I am a used book junky, so I love to find old editions of books designed by Milton Glaser, Alvin Lustig, or Paul Rand. It is near impossible for me to have a single favorite book cover, just as I don't have a favorite song or movie.
How often do you get asked if you can judge a book by its cover?
Not as often as one would think. More often people ask me if I read the books that I design. I have talked to designers who like to read little of the books they are working on. This they feel puts them more in the position of the potential buyer who also knows little about the book. In a way I feel this is rubbish, but that's just me.
But seriously, can we judge a book by its cover?
I think if the job was executed successfully then yes. For this the editor, art director, publisher, and designer need to all work together on a unified concept or vision. If everyone is on the same page then the cover should reflect its content and tone in a bold way.
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