I thought I’d take a minute to let you know why I think the cover design for John’s new book The Fault in our Stars is brilliant. I am almost as dismayed by the negative responses to the cover as I was impressed by the amazingly wonderful designs submitted by many of you earlier this year. While I respect that aesthetic judgments are highly subjective, there are several reasons why this cover design is strong and that you should like it:
1) Simple is good. The forms and type treatment on the cover are easily distinguishable, but their symbolic meaning is less so. The complexity and sophistication of the black and white inverted cloud design reveals itself gradually upon consideration of the text—exactly what a successful book cover should do. Having been lucky enough read it, I can tell you that the book is intricate, challenging, simultaneously funny and tragic, and demanding of much more than an overly literal or sentimental graphic representation. Some of the best works of art are simple gestures, basic designs, and concepts that seem so obvious you wonder why no one did it before (ahem, all Apple products). But no one did do it before. It takes a talented designer to have the wisdom to use a simple, elegant design with confidence and purpose.
2) The cover does not have literal references to people, places, or things in the book. When a book cover has a photograph or illustration of a person or setting in the book (or—worst of all—the movie poster regurgitated into the cover), I am deprived of one of my most prized joys as a reader: the privilege of envisioning the people and places as described in the book through the filter of my own experience and imagination. When I am forced to conjure character X as a Hollywood actress or teen model, it makes me angry. Let me do my job!
3) The design is bold, graphic, and immediately readable. In the age of our dependence on miniscule digital thumbnails to sell a book, such a bright and highly contrasting design will undoubtedly capture the eye whether browsing in an analog bookstore or scrolling through suggested titles on your e-reader.
4) This cover design embraces the ambiguity inherent in life, in this novel, and in the many ways that we grapple with life through art. It does not condescend. It does not spoon feed. It makes you think. And I like to think.
Finally: Must I really invoke the old adage about judging a book by its cover? I am breaking my steadfast mantra to John about not indulging negative criticism, but I felt compelled to express my opinion. Let’s wait until it comes out, read it, and then have a discussion. I’ll look forward to it.