I’ve been thinking about my own questions – What makes a book cover look like a book cover? etc. – and thought I’d do an analysis of a design here. So here’s a mock book cover design from mock design master Cris Shapan:
Two things jump out at me immediately. One is the shape. Books commonly have a rectangular shape, usually something close to the Golden Rectangle that I believe Vignelli referenced. The other is the details we typically see on a book. Title and author are expected, but we also have some publisher details that would indicate “book” even if it didn’t literally spell it out. If we whited out the artwork, it would still look like a book.
The artwork does something as well. My guess is the image comes from another book. (which I found through google image search) There’s a style to it that fits cheap paperbacks of a certain era. It looks like something my mom would have read. The iconography and typography are retro, harking back to the 50s & 60s.
Note how the yellow color contrasts nicely with the blue and black background. They are almost complementary colors, meaning that if you looked them up on a color wheel, they would be on opposite sides. The yellow color is also picked up from the woman’s hair, which brings a unity to the design. The black type at the bottom similarly ties to the black in the background, yet contrasts with the lighter color behind it. Subtle and effective.