By Aaron Wilson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — While a familiar adage insists you can’t judge a book by its cover, publishers like B&H Publishing Group know that the aesthetic design of new releases is often the key to drawing in readers.
This acknowledgement was on display on November 12 as the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) recognized Lifeway’s B&H Publishing Group for a trio of Top Shelf Book Cover Awards. The B&H honors went to the following titles:
- “The Courage to Stand” by Russell Moore
- “Gun Lap” by Robert Wolgemuth
- The “Lectura Fácil” series of Spanish resources
Art direction for these titles was overseen respectively by Jade Novak, Susan Browne and Matt Lehman.
“Book design is one of the most intimate, meaningful forms of product design in the world, because designers are crafting objects that people live with every day,” said Devin Maddox, B&H publisher. “I am so proud of our designers and the countless freelancers we work with because they are being recognized for excellence in work that really matters.”
The Top Shelf Award program is managed by the ECPA to recognize design excellence in the Christian publishing industry. Submissions this year represented record-breaking participation among 35 publishing houses and imprints.
“Design excellence is a growing priority for publishers as they seek to create awareness, capture reader attention and provoke engagement with life-changing content,” said Jeff Crosby, ECPA president. “I extend my sincere congratulations to each of the art directors, designers and publishing houses whose excellence in their craft was recognized with a Top Shelf Book Cover Award this year.”
Listed below are designer and judge comments for each of the winning B&H cover designs.
“The Courage to Stand” by Russell Moore
Designer: Stephen Crotts; Art director: Jade Novak
Designer comments: This book is spiritual and political. The illustrator crafted two parallel covers: one featuring Elijah being fed by ravens (a key spiritual reference in the Old Testament), and one featuring Christ before the scoffers (a pivotal political moment in the New Testament). The Elijah image is printed on the outside front of the dust jacket, and the Jesus image is printed on the inside (revealed when the jacket is removed).
Judge comments: The art for “The Courage to Stand” is not particularly catchy or loud. It blends together, separated by slight textures and shapes—dark in tone. It’s these themes that connect to the reality of the book title. Christian courage is not glorious in plain view. But like this illustration, there’s more to appreciate about it after inspection.
“Gun Lap” by Robert Wolgemuth
Designer: Jeff Miller; Art director: Susan Browne
Designer comments: This cover design required a lot of consideration to capture the right tone for the book. My intention was to keep the visual as open-ended as possible so that it gave room for the viewer to reflect and assign their own meaning to what their “gun lap” might look like. This book is, of course, very personal, so I didn’t want to get in the way with something too literal or prescriptive. The simplicity of the bird’s eye view looking down on a racetrack paired very nicely with a large title treatment. It’s as if you’re seeing from God’s point of view on your life as a whole. That felt very dignified and celebratory.
Judge comments: Over-printing is in too few designer toolboxes. The familiar lines of a track makes for a textural overlay on lovely display type and quickly communicates the title.
The “Lectura Fácil” series, various authors
Designer/Art director: Matt Lehman
Designer comments: The visual desire for the “Lectura Fácil” series was twofold: simplicity and depth. Since this is an “easy-reading” series, we wanted to strip these covers down to an essential metaphor or symbol to represent each topic. However, the metaphors were where we wanted to add conceptual depth; just because these books were accessible did not mean they were overly simplified. Additionally, we thought more negative space would allow for the gravitas of the subject and the core focus of the subject to take center stage. The bold, classic type and the texture add a richness and heritage, suggesting that these truths have a deep history in the faith.
Judge comments: The illustrations and color choices on this small-scale series were a delight. Each one had just enough texture and detail to draw us in while maintaining a beautiful balance with the typography.
More information about this year’s Top Shelf Book Award winners can be found at topshelfaward.org/winners.html.
Aaron Wilson is a writer for Lifeway Christian Resources
In operation since 1891, Lifeway Christian Resources is one of the leading providers of Christian resources, including Bibles, books, Bible studies, Christian music and movies, VBS, and church supplies, as well as camps and events for all ages. Lifeway is the world’s largest provider of Spanish Bibles. Headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., Lifeway receives no denominational funding and operates as a self-supporting nonprofit. For more information, visit lifeway.com.