Feedback on The Rebus Guide cover sketches

We asked for your feedback and you certainly delivered! Here’s some of what we heard:

  • The winding-road image was popular overall, for the color, the dynamism, and the journeying to-and-fro connotations. But it was also controversial. Some people suggested it is visually discouraging, or “too accurate” about how twisty it is to make OT. More than a few simply found it odd at first glance, like a semi-liquid substance extruded onto a surface!

  • There were many different interpretations of the other two images as well (often ones we ourselves hadn’t picked up on). For the mostly-text cover, there were implications about the order and disorder of making textbooks, and about many words and ideas diverging at the beginning of a project and then coming together at the end. For the geometric one, the openness, the colors, and the interconnections resonated quite strongly. Several people also considered it positively because it was most “generic,” that is, open to whatever interpretation the viewer takes.

  • Overall, bolder type treatments were appreciated: the all caps titles seem to occupy the space better, and are more clearly set off against the main graphic. A few people suggested a drop shadow behind the white panel on the geometric cover, to add depth (given than the image itself is a bit more stark). Most agreed that the author names and Rebus logo/wordmark were better when set off by themselves.

  • A great question was whether we will be creating more “Rebus Guides” in future, and if so, what the considerations should be for creating a series look and feel. This was certainly a discussion we had within the team, and so it will definitely come back into the conversation as we move toward the ‘final’ design. (Happily, we won’t be printing and warehousing thousands of book covers, so if the design changes on future releases, it’s a relatively simple issue to address. Still, we agree that it’s important to address this question up front.)

  • The most evident outcome of this exercise has been that, while there are many elements of good design, what makes a cover good for one person (or one book) is sometimes what makes it bad for another. There’s a dance between the subjective and objective in design (like in most everything), and maybe that’s the winding-est road of them all.

What do you think? Should cover design for OER differ significantly from that of other publications? Or is it always supposed to do the same thing: attract eyeballs, represent (and differentiate) content, engage the imagination, and trigger action?

More generally, what is the ideal role of an open textbook cover? What does the cover need to do for the project, for the team, for adoption, and for use? What should OT covers look like, and why?