Judging a book by its cover: student redesign

When bibliophiles pick up a book, we embark on an adventure that may last only seconds or much longer. In that adventure, we are essentially judging that book by its cover – by the way it feels in our hand, the weight of the pages, and the satisfying scents of ink and paper it leaves behind as we close it. We eventually dive in for the words, but our first impression is the feel of the book’s cover.


For a school project, I was recently tasked with reimagining a design for a series of novels. I chose to design the covers for Barbara Kingsolver’s best sellers: The Poisonwood Bible, The Lacuna, and Flight Behaviors. In my opinion, Kingsolver’s novels offer a depth of plot and characters rarely found in modern literature. My job was to interpret her writing style into a cohesive series of cover designs.

I wanted the reader to feel the depth that Kingsolver achieves in her writing, so I created a shadow-box effect illustration to relay depth. The process included hundreds of layers of sketches and finding the layers that best demonstrated the space I wanted. Once the compositions were designed, it was time to choose a paper.


I utilized Mohawk’s Paper Basics to find the stock that would best achieve the depth of the novels.  Particularly helpful was the Specification Checklist which provides items to consider when you decide to leap off the screen with design. The checklist helps with design considerations, including  budget, whether your project needs envelopes, the type of printing process being used, and other things that may be overlooked when specifying paper.


The compositions themselves were created by laser cutting various layers individually. I knew I needed uncoated, cockle finish for the most affected texturized look for my feature photography and I would need a thicker stock of paper for the layering affect I wanted to achieve. Paper Basics (pages 16 and 17) was helpful in this area, providing information about standard ways of measuring paper and paper weights that would work best for various  applications.

After reviewing paper weight options, I realized a  cover stock would create shadows and space when the illustrations were built up. With the right lighting and photography equipment, I was able to capture the texture and space desired. The illustrations were photographed using Via Felt Pure White, 80 Cover/216gsm.



For the final covers, I needed a matte finish paper, so I again turned to Paper Basics (pages 6-9) to chose the ideal paper – a smooth and soft-to-the-touch stock that contradicted the visual texture. The goal was to make readers want to reach into the illustration, but be greeted by the smooth touch of a cover instead. The final covers were printed on Via Smooth Satin Pure White, 100 Text/148gsm.

Mohawk Via has a wide portfolio that offers a variety of choices for virtually any design project. I chose the collection for the line’s print performance, distinctive textures, and it’s versatile weights.

Autumn_PaperBasics_02 Autumn_PaperBasics_01


Creating these covers was quite an adventure, and I could not have done it without the help of Mohawk’s Paper Basics. While it was not my first time working with paper, it was certainly the most paper-reliant project I have worked on thus far. I found that most students choose papers that feel nice and are unaware of how the texture might affect the ink or how the weight might affect the printing process.

Paper Basics was an integral part of this project’s success. I learned how to accurately read paper sample charts, compare paper weights and their uses, as well as decide which type of finish would benefit the production and printing process. I hope that if you do judge a book by its cover that I do Barbara Kingsolver’s novels justice with my designs.

Want a copy of the New Paper Basics? Download the PDF or order your own printed version here.

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