An Analysis of Young Adult Book Covers Zenyse Miller
Covers with objects on them comprise the first category. Objects are any inanimate or nonhuman substance that is the primary focus on the cover. Objects are low in complexity, as they very clearly depict only one image. They are easily recognizable as exactly what they are, as there’s no debating a single subject. Objects are also low in richness, because it’s hard to extrapolate increased symbolism in a singular object. They very clearly tell the story of what they are, but it’s difficult to draw a more expanded narrative from a sole image.
Covers with people on them form the next two categories. Novels with this type of cover feature a person as the central image. The first section involves people who are “fragmented,” where fragmented means that it is difficult to see the expressions or characteristics of the person on the cover.
These covers are high in richness because the undefined image allows every reader to project their own expectations on the image. The lack of clues on the people allows for a wide variety of interpretation. The unspecified human is relatable enough that readers will feel connected to the person, but vague enough that every individual is going to apply their own biases to the image.
The second type of person cover shows clearly depicted humans. These are covers where the person’s characteristics and expressions are easily visible. Because we do it constantly, it is easy for people to read minute details in other humans, from their posture, expression, and even clothes. Thus, clear people are low in rich richness. A clearly visible demeanor and characteristics are a direct message on how to view the cover. It doesn’t take many hints for a person to know exactly what another human is trying to express.
Both types of people categories are average in complexity, as humans have a very clear understanding of other humans. Humans project a lot of information in very little space, but they are still simple to understand. Thus, the average complexity accounts for the amount of information that is gained from the image, but also the relative ease of its transmission.
A symbol cover has a unique, iconic image that is explicitly linked with the novel. Symbols rarely have meaning before they become associated with the novel, but are instead specifically connected to the novel. Symbols are high in complexity because the reader does not have any previous associations with the image. Thus, the reader has to spend time decoding what is being pictured. This also leads to a high richness, as there are no clear pathways to understanding the symbol and so each reader will view it in whatever way they see fit.
Covers fall into the scene category whenever there is action or movement implicit in the cover. Any image that has multiple factors, where the focus isn’t clearly on one singular person or object, falls under the scene category. Scenes have average complexity because the viewer must take into account a variety of details, yet the picture is still clearly defined enough to send a focused message. They also have average richness, as the increase in detail allows for more ways that the viewer can perceive what is seen, while still remaining within the boundaries of a clearly recognizable image.
The final category is text. Text is any cover where the main focus is simply the title of the novel, with minimal to no outside design. This is extremely low in complexity and richness. Although this does allow for some interpretation, the focus remains on the content of the message instead of in the free interpretation of what is being seen. Covers like this do not encourage a close look at the visual design. Aspects of visual design might be noted and will be taken as clues to interpreting the text, but the focus remains on the meaning of the words. They simply don’t have the visual depth that more fleshed-out covers have.