Got It Covered
by Tatyana Sinioukov
Saying that a book is judged by its cover is not an overstatement. In fact, all stages of cover design, from concept to execution, come into play as equally important. Here, industry professionals share tips on cover design for efficient production, from choosing the right materials to shedding light on finishing options to outlining trends related to book cover production.
To select the right materials for the project, says Brice Draper, vice president of sales and marketing, Permalin Products, New York City, consider the project's direction, its cost and aesthetics, and the durability of materials used. Start with the budget, he says, and select materials that would fit into your budget. Next, consider the trim size. "The larger the size, obviously, the more durable you have to think," says Draper. Depending on the expected amount of use and the book's shelf life, different finishes could be considered (a Bible, Draper points out, is an example of a book that must have a durable cover, since it's expected to be used on a daily basis). Make sure that intensiveness of treatment of interior text and the cover are balanced, especially if you decide to invest a considerable sum into the book's text. Also, Draper advises, ask yourself the following questions: What is the thickness of the spine? What is the retail cost to a consumer? What kind of edition will it be, deluxe or standard? Does the book have a jacket? Is your audience a one-shot retail buyer or a repeat mail-order buyer?
Draper advises designers to seek the printer's recommendations and consult with the vendors as to how and whether non-standard materials could be incorporated and, as a result, some cost reduced. Sometimes, he says, switching from hard- to softcover also makes sense.
"There are now softcover materials available in a variety of different embossing patterns, which impart a rich look to the book itself and yet save considerably on the binding," he adds.
"Lamination has been considered the Cadillac of coating because of its aesthetics, durability and ease of processing," explains Jennifer Cantwell, marketing manager, D&K, Elk Grove Village, IL, a supplier of film and equipment with subsidiaries in the U.K. and North Carolina. "Its cost is easily justified because of these three factors." Lamination as a choice of finishing, she says, preserves the cover and enhances its look. Compared to aqueous and UV coating, film lamination provides better abrasion resistance, less yellowing, less fingerprinting and less cracking of the spine of the book, Cantwell notes.
As with any finishing technique, she says, certain colors may shift when film or coating is applied to the substrate.
Lamination, says Lynn Rice, marketing manager, GBC Film Products, Addison, IL, comes in three basic finishes: clear/gloss, satin and matte. Clear/gloss is a brilliant finish which creates an illusion of a "sharper" image by reflecting light; satin finish is semi-gloss and reduces glare and color shift. Matte finish is non-reflective; it also reduces glare.
One cover design effect involving lamination, says Rice, is to laminate the cover with a matte finish and then spot-coat the area that is designed to stand out, such as the title or the author's name.
Three types of finishing films--polypropylene, polyester and nylon--are used in conjunction with foil-stamping, embossing and spot-coating. The finishes protect the cover from wear and tear, such as fingerprinting, spine cracking and abrasion.
Polypropylene, says Cantwell, being the clearest and brightest of all three, she says, offers a high-gloss "wet look" and is typically used for softcover books and jackets. It's softer than polyester and nylon, and therefore folds well. However, polypropylene doesn't offer as much scratch resistance as polyester, she notes.
Used for hardcover books and jackets, polyester, says Cantwell, also folds well but is durable and doesn't become brittle with age, thus offering very good scuff and scratch resistance. Nylon, used for softcover books and sometimes referred to as "curl-free" or "layflat," offers non-curling properties.
During lamination, she warns, if too much tension and heat are applied, or if the paper stock is dry, film can curl.
When deciding on a matte finish, keep in mind, advises Cantwell, that polyester matte finish tends to be shinier than other matte films. In addition, although nylon matte is a durable product, she says, it has less abrasion resistance than polyester and polypropylene matte.
If you laminate or perform embossing or foil stamping, Mike Cassels, senior sales representative, The Lehigh Press, Pennsauken, NJ, advises, upgrade from an 80# stock to a 100#. Although a 100# stock may be more expensive, it offers reduced stock distortion, reduced registration problems and an opportunity to increase the height and/or depth of embossing. Lamination, Cassels explains, involves application of heat to the substrate, causing distortion, whereas foil stamping and embossing add heat and pressure to both the stock and lamination, also causing distortion.
Among the three commodity softcover stocks--10-, 12- and 15-point--10 and 12-point stocks, says Cassels, have superior embossing qualities; embossing a 15-point stock may cause its cracking. A UV coating, although it doesn't provide the most protection compared to other coatings, he continues, does prevent curling and is an inexpensive option. It also serves as a good choice for screen applications to increase gloss and protection, an application "underused in the industry," according to Cassels.
Looking into the crystal ball
Some of the cover production-related trends in the industry, says Cantwell, are: increased use of spot-coating on matte films, specifically polypropylene matte; increased use of glueable and stampable films; quicker turnaround and shorter runs; and customization for specific applications.
Frank Ervin, vice president of training and technology for Phoenix Color, Hagerstown, MD, offers his observations: "The key trend to look out for over the next year or two, is ... the increasing marriage of digital prepress to the manufacturing (of the foiling and embossing dies), in other words, using more digital processes as opposed to photomechanical etching processes." This trend, as well as the increased use of special materials that accelerate the di-making process and use of combination foil stamping and embossing dies, he says, may permit shorter runs and more flexibility on quick turnaround books, such as bestsellers.
(Information provided by Draper, Cantwell and Ervin was derived from their presentations during BookTech '99's "Book Covers and Jackets: Materials, Methods and Case Studies, Part One" session. Information from Cassels' presentation at "Book Covers and Jackets: Materials, Methods and Case Studies, Part Two," BookTech '99, was also incorporated.)