Must book cover font and body text font match?

RahimSnow's picture

Must the fonts used in the body of a book (sans for headings, serif for the text) also be the exact same ones used on the cover for the title, subtitle, and author information?

For example, if I was doing the book text in Feijoa (FF Milo for the headings), would using Arno Pro Display Italic for the title and FF Milo for the author info work on the cover?

Thanks in advance for your book design advice.


cuttlefish's picture

Very often book covers are designed by a different person than who designed the interior. The cover title font definitely doesn't have to relate to anything besides the content of the book. It's almost a logo in that regard.

But it all comes down to whatever standards the publisher or art director has set.

charles ellertson's picture

To expand a little on what Jason said, some designers feel the jacket is an extension of the interior. I once had an interior design (almost) rejected because the art director, who was doing the jacket, didn't have the fonts I was proposing for the text. She felt strongly about maintaining the look of the interior. Others feel the function of a jacket is like a poster.

Not an argument you can win, whichever side you pick.

If it is your choice, the jacket (cover for a paperback) design may well be affected by how the book is to be sold. From a catalog with little thumbnail images, surrounded by lots of whitespace & a good written description of the text? On a rack in a bookstore, where it has to compete with all the other covers for attention? Etc.

RahimSnow's picture

So what you're saying is that it can really go either way?

Maybe the serif on the cover shouldn't be too similar to the serif on the interior? Maybe if you're going to use a different one on the cover and in the body, there should be some contrast between them as well?



kentlew's picture

I think that it partly depends upon the nature of the book and its niche or category. Fine books tend to want to be more traditionally harmonious from outside to inside. General trade and mass-market, not so much.

As a designer, I started out idealistic about covers and interiors. When I became creative director at a publisher, I had to learn to adopt a more pragmatic approach. As has been mentioned, very often the interior and the cover end up being handled by different designers.

I think that going into it with a requirement that cover and interior typography be the same is an unnecessary (and perhaps ill-advised) constraint. The two situations frequently have different needs and demands. Today’s book cover is mostly advertising/poster. The cover must entice; the interior must communicate.

Sometimes the same type palette can serve both needs. Often not.

Emerson’s oft-quoted quip from Self-Reliance comes to mind: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. . .”

Since the two aspects were handled by different teams, I always took it as my job as creative director to make sure that the elements would come together and harmonize in the end — from directing the initial concepts to working with transition elements (like title page or back cover) to make sure that the overall object felt like it made perfect sense in the end.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I prefer for them to match. But if I'm only doing the cover I can only express this to the client. Luckily I'm usually doing both. :^>

GrahamD's picture

Tschichold's thoughts as outlined in "The Form of the Book" don't have many contemporary adherents (particularly the dust jacket as cigarette package analogy), but I've always admired the tenacity and intelligence of this passage:

"Only the book jacket offers the opportunity to let formal fantasy reign for a time. But it is no mistake to strive for an approximation between the typography of the jacket and that of the book. The jacket is first and foremost a small poster, an eye-catcher, where much is allowed that would be unseemly within the pages of the book itself. It is a pity that the cover, the true garb of a book, is so frequently neglected in favor of today’s multicolor jacket. Perhaps for this reason many people have fallen into the bad habit of placing books on the shelf while still in their jackets. I could understand this if the cover were poorly designed or even repulsive. But as a rule, book jackets belong in the waste paper basket, like empty cigarette packages."

_Palatine_'s picture


Wonderful post!

So am I correct in assuming that etiquette dictates we display our books without their dust jackets?

I've often wondered about this. Protecting my books is one thing, but there is usually no dust or dirt that ever gets near them.

On the other hand, some dust jackets can be quite beautiful. I suppose it's a matter of personal taste.

Florian Hardwig's picture

Graham, that’s funny. I posted a similar Tschichold quote in an older thread.

GrahamD's picture

I read the book when the bookstore I worked at in the '90s got a copy. True to Tschicold's vision, the book itself was lovely... top quality materials and typesetting (in Sabon, I imagine). The dust jacket was made of the lowest grade of paper I have ever seen for a jacket ("Not too durable," as Florian's quote has it) and was set in white reversed type on black.

Personally, I hang onto dust jackets. Many of them are quite nice, and they have a huge influence on resale value. If I ever track down "Form of the Book," I shall keep its paltry jacket too, as an in-joke.

blank's picture

I think a case can often be made for the cover/jacket not matching the interior as there are not many great text faces that have a matching face suitable for large sizes.

oprion's picture

I remember reading a quote from book designer who confessed to purposely designing book jackets so ugly, that people would be forced to throw them away.

Sye's picture

I agree with most if the others, you can do what you want. Personally, I usually keep them the same where possible.

RahimSnow's picture

Thank you everyone for your insightful comments and personal interpretations/positions on the topic.

Kent Lew's statement, "The cover must entice; the interior must communicate," is a very helpful guideline as I move forward with my own decisions about my book design.

Regarding dust jackets: for paperbacks, the dust jacket doesn't exist. The cover is part of the "form of the book." So do your views about the relationship between cover and interior remain the same for paperbacks?


kentlew's picture

Ideally, there is always a good and deliberate relationship between cover/jacket and interior. But that relationship need not be one of absolute conformity.

pattyfab's picture

I like them to match, or at least work together. But most of the books I do are art books, cookbooks, where the cover is of a piece with the design of the interior. Not a "poster". God I hate the idea that the cover is a sales tool.

It's different in trade publishing where, as was pointed out, they are often done not by the same designer, not even the same department. I used to work on trade covers and it was like a little death each time I opened my book and the interior was completely off. OTOH, the cover can change a zillion times and if the interior is on a deadline sometimes it can't wait for the marketing geniuses to make up their minds.

I once did an interior for a cookbook. They sent me the cover for reference but said it didn't have to match. The cover was HIDEOUS. Then (because I had suggested it) they decided I should match the cover fonts, which by that time had changed, still awful. So I incorporated their fonts, reluctantly, and then when I got the book the cover had gone back to the ugly original, I had done an equally ugly interior, and they didn't work at all together.

Oh and yes, the relationship is the same if it's a paperback. On a HC, the cover, or case, should match the jacket.

pattyfab's picture

OK, I know everyone here thinks Tshichold is god but "as a rule, book jackets belong in the waste paper basket, like empty cigarette packages."???? That's offensive on more levels than I care to enumerate.

In fact I'd argue that it's much more common that the jacket is a work of design art and the interior is designed by some hack being paid by the word to typeset.

That kind of BS reminds me why I don't hang out here so much anymore.

pattyfab's picture

And James, you're right about text vs display fonts, but the way to work them together, ideally, is to use the cover font as a display font, for chapter openers and such. Besides there are plenty of fonts that blur the line between text and display. Rules are made to be broken, or at least bent.

Sorry I'm crabby today I have a headache!

Florian Hardwig's picture

That kind of BS reminds me why I don't hang out here so much anymore.

Patty, I didn’t quote Tschichold because I’d think he’s god. Rather, because I found it interesting to see how much the times have changed, and how odd and funny his authoritative words sound today. I had assumed others would feel the same, without explicitly elaborating on the ridiculousness. I, for my part, hardly ever take off the dust jackets of my books. In fact, I only did that a very few times: the jacket designs were as ugly as sin, and hid a beautiful cover.

kentlew's picture

Patty — I, for one, have missed seeing you around here lately. Sorry to hear about the headache.

> God I hate the idea that the cover is a sales tool.

Hate it. Love it. Either way, you have to admit that for most categories this is true these days. You’re lucky to work in art books and cookbooks, two categories that tend to favor more interior-exterior continuity.

Whoever said “Never judge a book by its cover” did not work in Sales & Marketing, for that is all they do.

riccard0's picture

As Chip Kidd said: "I cannot make you buy a book, but I can try to help make you pick it up".*


pattyfab's picture

Florian I know you weren't quoting Tschichold out of blind reverence but he does get a lot of hero worship around here. I tend to be distrustful of anyone who makes proclamations like that.

Kent, yes, I do feel lucky to do the kinds of books I do. But I also do covers and interiors separately at times, as well as black plate translations, anything to pay the bills. And attempt a certain continuity btw covers & interiors, whenever possible.

When I worked at Simon & Schuster they called the art department 'creative services' which made us sound like all we did was make photostats or design ads. Used to drive me nuts.

kentlew's picture

> whenever possible.

There’s the key.

And it is usually more practical for a cover designer to make efforts toward reflecting an interior than the other way around. As you aptly point out above, the fool’s errand of an interior scheme chasing a cover design-in-progress is fraught with pitfalls.

pattyfab's picture

Well, I will argue tho, that the bulk of an interior can be done without the display font for the CTs and the frontmatter. I just had to do that, throwing up a Hail Mary that the cover fonts wouldn't clash horribly with the font I chose for the text (in this case Arno, which plays well with others). I got lucky this time and it's all meshing well.

I think trying to design a cover to conform to an interior is not likely to work most of the time given that the marketing wizards will need to have their voices heard. (One of the pleasures of designing interiors is NOT having to deal with the visionary powerhouses in the sales department).

Quincunx's picture

As I design both the interiors and covers for all the books I do, I try to match the cover to the interior as much as possible in all of them. This can mean I use the same typefaces, but not necessarily so. However, I cannot see the cover of a book separate from its interior, which is why I pretty much never like books that have a cover that wasn't designed by the person who did the interior. They are usually completely disconnected from each other. It often looks like someone grabbed an interior and folded some random cover around it. The design nearly always fails this way. As I mentioned earlier, the cover doesn't necessarily need the same typefaces, but I usually try to apply similar type, color and grid treatments as applied in the interior, so you really pull both of them together.

Luckily I have been working for a publisher that is small to medium in size, so I do not have to deal with marketing departments. They usually give me complete freedom.

ncaleffi's picture

And how about the author designing the cover himself? That's what did Orhan Pamuk with his latest novel, The museum of innocence - he took a couple of pics and joined them with Photoshop, then sent them to the publisher saying "this is what I choose".

Quincunx's picture

> And how about the author designing the cover himself?

In the specific example you gave, I'd say the outcome is quite acceptable. But I suspect that it will end up very ugly in nine out of ten cases, so I say no. :)

hrant's picture

More like 999 out of 1000. Especially when it comes to the
typography (which is way harder than choosing photos).


Nick Shinn's picture

I wonder how much of the finished artwork Pamuk did.
I recall once "designing" a cover for an author who chose her own photo for it.
There are alternate versions of the cover online (not just paperback and hardcover, I presume).
I like the Danubia typeface, although the weight change for "the" and "of" seems odd.

William Berkson's picture

Orhan Pamuk is a very special case. He was devoted to painting throughout his childhood, and then went to architecture school. In his interview with Charlie Rose, he said he views his writing as very painterly, and teaches a course at Columbia about the connections between visual arts and literature. He is a member of Columbia U.'s art department, as well as middle eastern literature.

Patty, I think everyone who writes about Tschichold these days—and there is a lot of recent stuff—acknowledges that he was maddeningly dogmatic. If that were the only thing about him, he would be totally ignorable. But he was also a fantastic typographer, both in his modernist and traditionalist phases. It is just amazing how he was able to change his opinions 180 degrees and be dogmatic and brilliant in both phases!

I always find his views interesting and thought provoking even when he is full of shit, as in the line about throwing away dust jackets.

Maybe a few of us here can match Tschichold for dogmatism, but not many, so I think that's a bit of a bum rap.

If we only could match him in brilliance!

pattyfab's picture

I've had authors "design" their covers for me. I've also gotten full mockups of entire books from them. Believe me, this rarely leads anywhere good. Luckily *most* of them fully acknowledge that they are not designers.

This is why we have editors, to run interference btw the authors and designers. I have an author right now who keeps misusing the word dingbat, making him sound... like a dingbat. He is full of opinions on the design, but I did amuse him by using the font Arno. The book is about Michelangelo's years in Florence.

What is going on with the Pamuk cover on the right? Awful!

Re Tschichold I have actually not read much except where quoted here. All I really know is he advocated the golden ratio for page layout which doesn't make sense to me visually. I'm an autodidact about type, most of what I know comes from doing, and from TYPOPHILE!!!

hrant's picture

> All I really know is he advocated the golden ratio

That stuff is certainly highly over-rated.


William Berkson's picture

I'm no expert on Tschichold, but I don't think he only supported the golden ratio, though he may have viewed that as one good option. Also in different phases I think he had radically different ideas.

I have "Jan Tschichold: A Life in Typography", and I find his stuff always admirable, in radically different styles.

I would like to take back my statement of Typophilers not being dogmatic like Tschichold. You're right, there are too many.

xo's picture

Although sometimes you may want to keep the internal header font the same as your cover font, using the same font for your title (usually) doesn't work. Although, there are exceptions to everything (sometimes a simple adjustment can vastly alter the look/feel of a typeface).

It's the whole "place for everything/everything in it's place" predicament.

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