Graphic Design, Practical Application:
"The Book Cover"
The Assignment: The Book Cover (from “Design for Communication” by Elizabeth Resnick, Massachusetts College of Art)

Before Starting: Create a "BOOK_COVER" folder on your network space. Each of your canvases will be saved into this folder when completed.


  • To create a conceptual idea based on the imagery noted in the book, as you see it.
  • To integrate type and imagery into a cohesive narrative inspired by content.

Overview: Using any design or typography elements necessary, students will create a design for a new paperback edition of a book entitled "Einstein's Dreams" by Alan Lightman.

Background Information:  The following is taken from the cover flap of the Warner Books paperback edition of the book, 1993:

"It is 1905 in Berne, Switzerland. A young patent clerk has been dreaming marvelous dreams about the nature of time. He is Albert Einstein and he has almost finished his Special Theory of Relativity. What were his dreams like, those last pivotal few months? Here, in this extraordinary and highly acclaimed work by physicist Alan Lightman, thirty fables conjure up as many theoretical realms of time, dreamt in as many nights."

Assigned Reading:  Each students will be given a chapter of the book to read. These chapters relate Einstein's dream for one day in this series, about 2 pages total of written work. Students will base the imagery and design of their book cover on the material included in the chapter. When you have completed the reading of your chapter, please answer the questions on the "Einstein's Dream Chapter Questions" Sheet. We will discuss these in class.

Research into Book Cover Design:  It is difficult to know what might make an effective or interesting book cover design without studying the look and layout of some modern book covers.  To do so, students will do a little bit of research into the look of some books from the New York Times Bestseller List.  Please complete the "Book Cover Design Research Questionnaire" before moving on to your design ideas.

Pay close attention to the sections at the end of the Questionnaire that pertain to your ideas for your designs of your book cover.

Preliminary Work:  Using colored pencil and paper, sketch out your preliminary ideas for your book cover.  Accurately reproduce as many of the colors, images and letterforms as possible.  Put your name onto this and turn it in, it is worth points towards your final grade.

Cover Template:  Right Click and Save this file and use it as a TEMPLATE for the creation of your cover. Note that the LEFT SIDE is for the SPINE TITLE and the right side is for your COVER DESIGN. DELETE the SPINE/COVER LABEL when you are done with your work.

Required Elements of the Cover Design:  Make sure to include the following three items VERBATIM in some form on your cover:

  • A Novel
  • Alan Lightman

Other Required Elements of the Cover Design:  Students MUST incorporate imagery from their chapter into the design of their cover. Students must also design their text in a TYPOGRAPHICALLY PLEASING manner that CONTRIBUTES to the look, feel and theme of the cover!

At Your Disposal, Should You Wish:  If necessary, feel free to see Mr. B. about the use of a camera to take photographs that you might need for your cover.  (finding specific photographic subjects, especially people, using our network filtration system can be very difficult.) 

Final Product:  Using Photoshop or Illustrator or a combination of the two, create your final version of your book cover, using the cover template linked above.  The student is expected to apply any of the tools, tips and tricks that they have learned this year in the creation of this product, such as:

  • Filters
  • Blending Options
  • Fills
  • Layer Blends
  • Attach Text to Path
  • Cutting Objects from Backgrounds
  • Shapes
  • Strokes
  • Brushes
  • Patterns
  • Gradients
  • Masking

An Interesting Note:  When Ms. Resnick gives this project to her Graphic Design classes at The Massachusetts School of Art, it is a THREE WEEK project.  I expect the effort given by students in the completion of this version to be roughly equivalent to 3-4 class periods of work.

Submitting Your Work: When you have completed your final Book Cover, do the following:

  1. Save your file as a .JPG File, call it "book_cover.jpg". Save this file to your BOOK_COVER folder on your Q: Drive space.
  2. Make sure that your Preminary Pencil Sketch (included as part of the Chapter Questions Bellringer" is also turned into the basket with your name on it.

Grading: This assignment will be worth 200 points total, with the breakdown of points as follows:

  • Thorough and thoughtful completion of the Book Cover Design Questionnaire= 50 points.
  • Thorough and thoughtful completion of the Chapter Questions Sheet and the Preliminary Pencil Sketches= 50 points.
  • Aesthetic qualities of the final Book Cover Design= 100 points.
  • Failure to save final product as a .JPG file= -50 points.