I’ll admit it. I sometimes choose to read a book based on its cover. I know. I know. I’m breaking a cardinal rule of…well…of life, one that we’ve al been taught, at least as a metaphor, since pre-school.
Whether the rest of us admit it or not, covers draw our attentions and create the initial impressions we have with books. Which is why I’ve long bemoaned the state of book covers in the Orthodox publishing world. There had always been exceptions, but in general the covers were boring and cookie-cutter.
In the last five to 10 years, though, Jewish book covers have gained some vitality and personality. On this page are a few of the new titles whose covers have won my attention and my praise.
The Generation to Generation Haggadah by Rabbi Nosson Muller (ArtScroll)
Designer Eli Kroen says:
“The process included a painstaking search for photos of hands, kids cups, wine stream, fonts, colors and effects.
“I went to Grand Sterling and photographed many kiddush cups. They were very gracious in accommodating my project, helping me out with any cup I wanted to shoot, gave me space in the store to work.
“Photos were then extensively edited – photos of hands were made to bring out features such as age (wrinkles). Also to get the correct angle/perspective for holding the kids cups.
“The ‘adult’ hand was given an adult-size cup. It and the cup were made grayscale to symbolize past generations. The wine stream was intended to symbolize the passing of the tradition to the next, younger generation, symbolized by the child’s hand holding a child-size cup. To dramatize that effect the wine stream changed from grayscale to color midstream.
“I then picked the correct color combinations for the background to best bring out these scenes.
“And of course, we went through 12-13 concepts/versions till we got it the way we liked it.”
John Lennon and the Jews by Ze’ev Maghen (Toby Press)
Gila Fine, editor in chief of Toby Press, says:
“In general, we design our covers in a three-way brainstorming session between editorial, graphics, and marketing. In this case, our talented designer Tani Bayer produced several preliminary sketches, but nothing we came up with quite captured the book’s unique combination of outrageously funny form and deeply serious content.
“Then we thought of Warhol, whose work has also come to symbolize the bringing together of the profound and the preposterous – precisely what Ze’ev Maghen does in his book. Thus, the Warholian design, bold colors, and lowercase script were chosen to convey the text’s hilarious and irreverent tone; while the melding of the peace sign with the Star of David suggests that (as with Warhol) behind the mile-a-minute jokes and psychedelic prose lies something very serious indeed.”
Of Mirrors and Apples Trees by Rabbi Ephraim Meth (Kodesh Press)
Designer Sara Gold says:
When I design a book cover, or any other piece, my first step is always to learn as much as I can about what I am working on. I knew it was about the mitzvah of peru u’revu, but I like to feel a little closer to the piece. I requested a copy of the manuscript and thumbed through it. This process often helps spark inspiration.
“The next step was to choose artwork. Sometimes I create my own, but in this case I found a wonderful illustration that clicked into place. After that, it’s all about design fundamentals. Respect the typography first and foremost, and layout everything in a balance.