Unit 3- The Humanities

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.”

 -Charles Dickens

“A book cover design requires the creation of an appealing graphic—a mini poster—that encourage the consumer to pick up the book and look through it. The cover graphic can set a mood or hint at what the reader might experience inside its covers. After reading the book, manuscript, or summary provided by the editorial staff, the designer interprets and translates the work into visual ideas.”

-Chip Kidd


Unit Project: Book Cover Pitch

Genre Purpose Audience Role Rhetorical Situation
Book Dust Jacket


Convince a publishing company to adopt your design in order to sell more books. Publishing House Editorial Intern You have approached a publishing house about redesigning a dust jacket for one of its books. While this particular book is interesting, it is not selling well. Your assignment is to come up with a new dust cover design and create a pitch to the publisher in 60 seconds on how this cover will sell more books.


Rhetorical Situation: The university press receives a large gift from an anonymous donor to improve the sales of one of its most prized books. In consultation with a publishing house, you selected a book that is not selling well and is due for a redesign. The new dust jacket will include a new front cover design, a new selection of blurbs, and a new less than 500-word summary of the book for the back cover. You are to compile all these elements together in order to sell more books. Once you have put together all of these elements, you are to pitch the design to the publisher.  A successful pitch will be concise, creative, and well-planned. Some ideas to get you thinking: How did you gain a new appreciation for the original book by designing a new cover? How would the book cover create a new sense from the audience’s understanding/experience of the original book?

Your Role: You are a recent college graduate in design and you desire a job in the publishing industry. You are interning at the university press when you hear that there is a new project in the works for redesigning existing dust jackets for books. With this in mind, you email the chief editor and explain to her/him that you want to pitch a new design. The editor agrees, but they are extremely busy so you only have 60 seconds to convince them that your dust jacket will sell more books.

Your Audience: The editor of a university press.

Your Goal: To convince the editor that you have an interesting, dynamic, and creative way to sell more copies of this particular book.



Feeder 1: Blurb selection

Genre Purpose Audience Role Rhetorical Situation
Book Blurbs To help convince readers that this book is worth reading. Publishing House Editorial Intern You are to comb through book reviews and find three (3) quotes that you think will improve the reader’s perception of these books. Each of these blurbs will need to be clever and engaging. Your aim is to make a potential reader want to know more. While there is not length requirement of these blurbs, make sure they are not too long.



Rhetorical Situation: You are to find three (3) separate book reviews and find interesting to quotes from those reviews to place in your new dust jacket design. These should help you figure out what your “hook” is, how you will get the public to want to open the book up and start reading.

The library has a wonderful resource for finding book reviews: http://guides.lib.unc.edu/bookreviews/databases


The Goldfinch is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind….Donna Tartt has delivered an extraordinary work of fiction.”–Stephen King, The New York Times Book Review

Feeder 2: Close Reading

Genre Purpose Audience Role Rhetorical Situation
Book Summary


To provide the audience with a concise synopsis of the book. Publishing House Editorial Intern You are to produce a new summary of the book. Think about how you want to frame this new summary and how this will influence your cover design. You do not have much real estate on the back cover, so this should be no more than 500-words. However, this summary should give the reader a good sense of the book and want to pick it up and buy it.

Rhetorical Situation: At the center of your book design is the way in which you want to frame the book. You want to give the audience a taste of the story/content without giving it all away. Think about how you want to summarize the book differently than what has been done before.


The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt


Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love—and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a mesmerizing, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.