We’ve all heard the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover.” In theory, it’s a nice sentiment. We shouldn’t come to any rushed conclusions before getting to know a person, product, or organization. We should research, analyze, and come to an educated verdict. This, unfortunately, is not how the world works. With the speed with which people digest an overwhelming amount of information, brands have very little time to showcase their identity— and when they do, they’d better be sure that it is an accurate representation.
For such a renowned phrase, it’s pretty astonishing how little it’s put into practice in this day and age. From cereal boxes at the supermarket to brand twitter accounts, each individual portrayal can make or break a company. With the rise of millennial influence on social media, it is as imperative as ever to be aware of how your brand is coming across in the public eye – just look at what happened to the now infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial. Faced with overwhelming public outrage, the commercial was removed from all outlets in less than 24 hours, and an apology was issued. This is becoming more and more common, especially in today’s volatile political climate. It is therefore of the utmost importance that a brand is marketed with care and precision—the right tone must be struck.
As a graphic designer, one becomes very conscious of these blunders, as well as the successes. From logos to packaging to ad campaigns to social media content, these “covers” had better be ready to be “judged” by consumers. Audiences respond to it all: color choice, messaging, design, layout, the vehicle in which it’s presented, the whole shebang. Just look at the London 2012 Olympics logo. It was criticized for everything: the colors, the lack of representation of London, the lack of representation of the era, and even a rumored conspiracy of a message hidden within.
So, with all of this criticism waiting at the fingertips of every single person with internet access, what is there to do? First and foremost, I would advise you to know your audience. Are they easily riled up by politics? Don’t go out of your way to make a statement—especially if it’s tone-deaf and overtly marketing a product. Make sure that you research any blatant connotations—I don’t think I need to remind anyone of what happened when President Trump announced Mike Pence as his running mate with yet another infamous logo. Most importantly, make sure that you have a skilled and competent graphic designer. The good ones are the masters of aesthetics, the purveyors of tone, and they make a pretty sweet book cover.