Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Graphic Design 101

I'm happy to host another excellent graphic artist/author today, Lynnette Bonner. I've asked her to talk about the one thing that drives me the most crazy - floating heads - because she excels at them. Thank you, Lynnette, for taking the time to share your knowledge.


As a designer who creates a lot of inspirational romance covers I see a lot of floating heads and they make me cringe each time. So when Suzanne asked me to guest blog for her, I decided that might be a good topic to broach. Why do some covers with heads that seem to be floating work, while others simply…don’t?

I’m going to keep this post short and sweet with just two samples, but hopefully the principle will be clear and you’ll be able to avoid this pitfall yourself.

A head that draws attention to the fact that it is out of place and detached from a body is what grates on many people when they see it. But obviously not every cover incorporates the whole body of a character. In fact I’d venture to guess there are very few covers where we see the entire character from head to toe.

So how to go about getting just part of a body on the cover (here we are talking about heads) without making it look out of place? There really are two key elements to making this happen.

  • First, the head needs to be incorporated seamlessly into the cover. This sometimes means that it is slightly faded into the background and a bit transparent, but not always. And generally there needs to be an element from another part of the cover that ties in with the heads and makes them look like they belong, which brings us to my second point.

  • You don’t want your head to just hang there without something to “ground” it. When I design covers I almost always cover up the bottom half of my floating heads with another design element – even just the title works. This helps give the appearance that the head is not just bobbing along in space and happened to end up in the snapshot of your cover.

Let’s look at this cover. The white boxes were not on the cover, of course, but since I’m talking about why I don’t think this cover works, I felt it only fair that I remove the title and author’s name.  This cover has so much potential. I love the ship, and the blue sky. But the couple is much too small, and simply looks like they are floating off to the right. There are no other elements of the cover that link them to it in any way. This cover would have been much better served had the couple been enlarged to almost the full width of the cover and faded into the sky with the top part of the ship covering the bottom part of the couple – that would tie them in with other elements on the cover. They would also then have text over the top part of their heads – another element that would tie them into the cover. I would also like to see a little more of their shoulders so they aren’t JUST heads floating there. But make sure the fade is deep and very subtle as it fades. (That is another area where many covers have issues – the portion of the image that is faded isn’t deep enough.)

Here is a cover that I feel incorporates all those elements really well. Notice how the couple is nearly the full width of the cover, they are faded slightly which makes them seem integrated into their background, the bottom portion of the image has a nice deep fade effect so they seem to seamlessly appear in the sky, and there are two sections of text that tie them to the rest of the cover. I would have done two things differently on this cover if I’d done it. One would be that I would have made the title lower so that it spanned the gap between the couple and the bottom image of the road and tied them together. The second thing is that I would have moved the scripture caption a little more to the left and probably made it a touch smaller. But other than that, I feel like this designer did a rather nice job putting an attractive cover together.

I hope those two examples will give you a good idea of what most people mean when they talk about “floating heads.” If you have any questions for me, feel free to ask me via the comments.

About the author:
Born and raised in Malawi, Africa. Lynnette Bonner spent the first years of her life reveling in warm equatorial sunshine and the late evening duets of cicadas and hyenas. The year she turned eight she was off to Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school in Kenya where she spent many joy-filled years, and graduated in 1990. That fall, she traded to a new duet--one of traffic and rain--when she moved to Kirkland, Washington to attend Northwest University. It was there that she met her husband and a few years later they moved to the small town of Pierce, Idaho. During the time they lived in Idaho, while studying the history of their little town, Lynnette was inspired to begin the Shepherd's Heart Series with Rocky Mountain Oasis. Marty and Lynnette have four children, and currently live in Washington where Marty pastors a church.


Suzanne D. Williams 
Suzanne Williams Photography  
Florida, USA 

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.


Cecilia Marie Pulliam said...

Love your designs, Lynnette, and great tips!

Lynnette Bonner said...

Thank you, Cecilia. Glad they were helpful.

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