Look after your spines, book designers

In design terms, it’s probably the most neglected area of a book’s cover, but new website Fixabook claims to offer a few pointers on how to get your spine in shape, amidst critique dedicated to creating eye-catching jackets

In design terms, it’s probably the most neglected area of a book’s cover, but new website Fixabook claims to offer a few pointers on how to get your spine in shape, amidst critique dedicated to creating eye-catching jackets…

Take the above collection, grabbed from Fixabook: some spines stand out, while others are largely illegible; some have clearly had some time spent on them (the Donna Tartt novel and that interesting-looking Marisha Peshl one); while others might make you want to hurl the book at the floor in a rage and stamp on it (no prizes).

The point is that while book design is largely celebrated in terms of what front covers and jackets look like, the spine can be an oft-neglected dead zone. And this is crazy, because in a bookshop it’s what customers are presented with in their hundreds, aside from those copies fortunate enough to be displayed facing outwards, of course. Perhaps the rise of browsing online has removed the need to treat the spine as a significant part of the design? In any case, it’s the reader who has to put up with any potential design horrors once it’s up on the bookshelf.

Fixabook describe themselves as a consultancy “that analyses book design and gives strategic and creative guidance on jackets, blurbs and spines.” While they offer a range of paid-for services, they also have plenty of analysis that functions as the blog of the website, focusing on covers, spines, and even how to write the best blurb for the back of your book.

For example, here’s ‘Winston’ on the spine of Pushpesh Pant’s India cook book:

Gorgeous. Of course we expect that from Phaidon and this book is another packaging triumph. The overall design concept was to make the book look and feel like a cooking ingredient. Simple and somewhat obvious but it has been carried off with panache – particularly in those versions that arrive in a soft cotton bag. The spine plays its part in the conceit quite beautifully. What makes it so charming is the addition of the weight (“1.5kg”). In itself, not a big thing but it it is amusing and it attracts comment – and for a spine that is quite an achievement.

And here’s ‘Jones’ acknowledging a contemporary classic of spine design, Vintage’s editions of Irvine Welsh:

Reheated Cabbage blew me away last year – Joss McKinley’s still life was really innovative. The subsequent backlist repackage followed suit, but I never noticed how good the spines were until recently. Wow. Some of what we do isn’t rocket science, but so many times we see space unused on a spine. ‘No here, Pal’ as Begbie would say. The typography hits you in the face with the Welsh brand, and the titles fit nicely in there. The logotype is complimentary too; extending the crossbar of the ‘H’ works really well. Check out the spine of an older edition on the right of this shot. What a difference. Nice one, Vintage.

Go to fixabook.com for more book cover analysis.



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