Visual Rhetoric Project Proposal

Visual Rhetoric Proposal

Cover Analysisà Cover Design (?)


The cliché goes “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”  With regards to books, however, most people do.  Covers are generally the audience’s first introduction to the book.  The rhetorical purpose of a book cover is to convince people to pick up the book.  Whether an elaborate scene or a minimalist presentation of just the title, if the cover does not entice the reader into picking up the book, then it is unsuccessful as a cover.  I want to examine different covers in order to analyze the messages that come across from them, and how those will or won’t appeal to potential readers.


First, I want to research what has already been studied about book covers.  My research will focus mainly on how publishers make decisions about cover arts, how is that different for different genres and different audiences, and what message do they hope to get across.  Why do most children’s books and graphic novels have vivid pictures on their covers, whereas many young adult novels have icons instead of characters?  Are there other reasons why publishers change the covers of a book other than taking advantage of a movie/television adaptation?  What are the different effects of cartoonish covers and photorealistic ones?  How much say doe the author have in the covers?


Then, I want to analyze the covers of popular books.  Either I will choose one category of books (Young adult or children’s or adult or …), or compare and contrast between different categories.  Either way, I will develop a coding system based on certain factors on the cover: number of characters, action vs. static, contrast, cartoony vs photorealistic, etc…Afterword, I will analyze the effect that the book has on both my understanding of what the book’s about and my interest in the book.  For the latter, I will read the blurbs on the back or inside and see if it lines up with my analysis.


Finally, using the information I learned about the creation of covers, I hope to conceptualize covers for my own stories.  I will explain why I made certain rhetorical decisions with regards to audience, genre, contrast, etc…  I may even design one or more of my own to present to the class for the presentation.