Posts Tagged ‘design’

Do you judge a book by its cover?

Hello all. My regular guest blogger is having the Thursday slot this week as I managed to have a memory lapse yesterday and forget what day it was. So here he is, a day later than usual. Enjoy!


I suppose we’d all like to think we don’t judge books by their covers but I wonder if you ever stop and think about that. Without actually reading it how can you judge or make a judgement about a book. We like to think we are fair and reach a reasonable (and reasoned) opinion about books we are going to buy. What do you base that decision on? Is it a recommendation from a friend or a review on radio/TV or in a newspaper? (In which case probably the cover doesn’t even come into it; for example, if you’re buying a dictionary, it’s a dictionary. It doesn’t matter what’s on the cover. You want the words inside.)Why do buy a particular book? Is it for information/reference or maybe just leisure time reading? When you browse in a bookshop are there certain sections or subjects you head for because that’s your interest: history, local history, historical fiction, travel & geography, art, biography, science etc? Once you’ve got to your section there’ll usually be loads of books on that subject so how do you decide? Don’t tell me an appealing cover doesn’t sway you. Even if you don’t buy the book I’m sure there are times when you’ve taken it out to have a look at just because of its cover. Of course you’ll have a “quick flick” through and read a few paragraphs. But why? Because the cover looked “interesting”. How often do you stop and think I wonder if the cover is really telling me what this book is going to be like?

Think about this – if people didn’t, at least some of the time, judge books by their covers why is there a whole industry connected with the design of book covers. I heard one author, on the radio, recently lamenting the fact that her new book had a cover she was not impressed with because it had stuff on which suggested the type of writing inside; it was not she felt her type of writing but she had to go with it as the publishers decide. (Behind decisions like that is the whole commercial side of writing and making a product that looks appealing even with well-established authors.) Once you’ve given them your manuscript and you’ve got your payment how they package it is up to them. She described it as letting someone else wrap a present she’d brought. A similar feeling occurs when writers’ books are made into films. The producers can take liberties with the written word in order to introduce a bit more drama. Again one author I heard said that he didn’t like what was done with his book but accepted that once he’d agreed to let it be made into a film he had to just let go of it. It was like his child leaving home and finding its way in another medium. It became a different “animal” once someone else got hold of it. He was sad he couldn’t help it through the process but that’s just the way it is. That’s quite a contrast to another author who had been asked by the film producers to be a sort of “on-set advisor” on character portrayals; even so the film makers still had the final word.

Just as an example check out the following link and look at these seven covers for the novel 1984 (the other one is for Animal Farm).….0…1ac.1.30.img..1.3.318.00t653bR3xY#hl=en&q=1984+george+orwell&tbm=isch&facrc=0%3B1984%20george%20orwell%20book%20cover&imgrc=_

Given what you know the book is about do any strike you as being particularly attractive. If you knew nothing about the book would any of those covers help you? (Don’t know about you but I didn’t find any particularly appealing.)

The other thing to think about with this question is how much of a write-up or reviews are there on the cover or inside covers. They may help you, so you could say you are judging the book by its cover simply because the cover is giving you a lot of information about its content.

There is a Bo Diddley (real name: Ellas Otha Bates) song called You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover. (It was written by Stevie Wonder/Sylvia Moy/Henry Cosby and came out in 1962 on Checker Records.) It contains a number of “You can’t judge…” sentences about things like an apple & the tree, honey and the bee, daughter and the mother etc. It’s really a reminder of how easily we get into the way of judging something by reference to something else which it’s related to in some way.

If you fancy a watch/listen check this out:

Don’t worry if you notice the words are out of sync on the old black & white live bit. Also check out those synchronised dancers (nearly!). No surprise it never made the charts over here.

It was though covered by a number of artists: The Strypes, Willie Dixon, Bob Newscaster, The Shadows of Night. British band The Yardbirds also covered the song. Their line up over the years has included some VERY famous names on lead guitar: Eric Clapton (1962-65), Jeff Beck (1965-66) and Jimmy Page (1966-68); Page, after the group broke up, as you’ll know, went on to form Led Zeppelin.

Now what about if we take the “book by the cover” to be a metaphor for relationships between people? Do you judge people by how they dress? Don’t tell me you’ve never looked at someone either younger or older and thought there’s no way you’d dress like that – perhaps it was the pink hair or skinhead or long hair or too scruffy look or too well-manicured look or too tall or too short and so on. I’m sure you’ve all done it. You’ve categorised people by that first impression. You don’t want to bother getting to know them because they’re not likely to be “your sort of person”. You’re definitely judging the “book” by its cover. Alternatively perhaps one of those qualities mentioned would cause you to be attracted to that person because they’re likely to be “your sort of person”. It’s the same thing though isn’t it except this time it’s attraction rather than avoidance.

The only real way to find out is to actually speak to the person and get to know them just like with the book the only answer is to read it and then pass an opinion.

The key is are you a “book” that someone would want to read? Would someone want to read the cover and find out more? Maybe that’s why we spend quite a lot of time making our “covers” attractive; and just maybe in doing that we’re admitting what we don’t want to – that we do judge people by their appearance. Otherwise why spend that time making ourselves more appealing if we’re not going to use that as a standard by which we judge others. Bit of a contradiction isn’t it? – spending time to make our covers more attractive (knowing that others probably do judge us that way) and then saying we don’t judge others that way. Hmmm……Human Nature perhaps??

Advertising nonsense

The other day I was flipping through one of the many catalogues we get sent at work. They are full of new products on the market and cool discounted deals and all the usual advertising jargon you see in the world of products of this sort. Occasionally, though, I come across something which is utter crap.

The most offensive one I saw recently was this nonsense tag line for a coffee company…


What can this possibly mean? Hand-roasted coffee? Hand picked, maybe. Even handmade. But hand roasted? How is that even possible? The workers at Union have limbs which can reach temperatures of over 100 degrees so they simply hold the coffee in their hands for a while? Or they have huge walk-in ovens so they each take a handful of coffee and walk in the oven to caress the coffee beans gently whilst they roast, in the process roasting themselves alive and getting third degree burns, but they don’t mind. They sacrifice their bodies for the sake of bringing us ‘hand-roasted’ coffee. How lovely.

What?! What can it mean? Hand-roasted? Any suggestions?

Next up, a tea company.


Design led. Is that supposed to be a good thing? I’m not sure why that would seem good. Do I want a tea company which is taste led? So I know I’m getting a nice tasty cup of tea? Or even innovation led? So I know that maybe I’m getting something new and interesting. Perhaps a fantastic new tea experience which could change my life.

No! This tea company doesn’t give two hoots about the taste, the innovation, the potential for new experiences. It couldn’t give a cuppa for my morning being made or ruined on the strength of my tea-drinking experience. No. What they care about is the design.

The design. That’s right. They’ll throw any old PG Tips in the box without a care in the world. So long as the design is good, this company is happy. They are design led. Good to know.

The next nonsense is geography-specific.


Stonewall Kitchen, advertising their product in a UK magazine, which is being sent out to small delis and shops around the country, are enticing me to buy their product and stock it in my shop by telling me that I will recognise their product from ‘artisan shops in the US.’

O, thanks for pointing that out. I couldn’t think where I recognised it from. I just knew I’d seen it somewhere!

Because I’m always hanging out in artisan shops in the US.


I’m never out of them.

I practically live in them.


Kiwis, curries and rats with style

It’s that time again. Time to see what Chat has to offer this week. Once again, I am blown away by their fabulous witticisms, sprinkled throughout. For example, I open the magazine and the first thing which greets me is a photo of a pig in a picnic basket, with the caption ‘designer ham bag?’


Brilliant. There doesn’t seem to be any reason why the massive photo of the pig is there, just a little sentence about how the pig looks so comfy, “there’s no way we could ‘rasher’ to go anywhere.”

And on we go, to the photos page and there are a few good ones this week. The first is a here-are-some-cupcakes-I-made photo. The second is a here’s-me-with-a-huge-plastic-ape picture. And no, I’m not kidding. Someone really thought that the world would be interested in a picture of her with a huge plastic ape. Check it out.


There are some others of dogs and cows, which aren’t even worth mentioning in any greater detail.

So onward we go, past a story about a girl who had a maggot living in her back and a story of scandal with a 9.9 shock factor (!), to the Blimey, That’s Clever page.

And what have we here today? I think my favourite might be the kiwi fruit tip. Put it in an egg cup, we’re told. And that’s it. That’s the tip. Eat a kiwi out of an egg cup. £25 they got for that.  


Maybe I’ll make up some top tips and try to get £25 from Chat. Watch this space. I’ll think some up for tomorrow.

Another of the top tips is to use toothpaste to clean your mugs if they have tea stains. While I can’t see anything initially wrong with this, it just sounds a bit dodgy, cleaning a mug with toothpaste. You’re bound to have toothpaste-tasting tea for the next few days, I reckon.

Another tip seems to be, my granddaughter chewed the straw bit off her favourite beaker, so I put a new straw in. I don’t know whether that really warrants a place on the Blimey, That’s Clever page, do you? It’s not as though, previously, people have been throwing away their children’s beakers every day with no clue how to fix it and then they open Chat, see this tip and go ‘Wow! I’ll just stick a new straw down the hole where the old straw was. That’s genius.’

Next we have some more scandal, a murder, some letters, some weight loss stories and then the baby photos page. Ahhhh, the baby photos page. Photos of babies. Doing nothing at all. Just being babies. A whole page. One is a baby on a slide, one is a baby swimming, another is a baby and a cat, one is two children smiling a bit. A whole page.

To the side of this page, we have the recipe section. Now previously, I have seen some amazing gourmet recipes that opened my eyes to a whole new world. The week they had a recipe for mushrooms on toast was a week that changed my life. This week’s recipe? Onion and potato curry.

Mmmm. Doesn’t that sound great? Onion and potatoes. In a curry. Like when you look in the fridge and you don’t have anything in so you bung together some nonsense and fill up on ice cream afterward. Mmm. Nothing-in-the-fridge curry. The ingredients? Olive oil, 4 potatoes, 2 onions, spices and mustard seeds. And the attraction in making this meal? It’s only 54p per head.

Now it doesn’t take a genius to work out that it’s not 54p because Chat are so great at providing good meals on a budget. It’s because there’s NOTHING IN IT.

If you want great meals on a budget, I can give you far better, go-to ingredients – squid is really cheap, people. Fry it with fennel. Re-use old bread by chopping tomatoes, adding red wine vinegar and basil and ripping your old bread up and mixing it in for a panzanella salad. If you want a curry, spend your money on some chicken and chuck it in a pan with tomatoes (tinned or fresh) and add whatever combination of spices you find in the cupboard, depending on what country’s cuisine you are chanelling.

See? All those will probably be about £1 per person but don’t resemble student food or invoke severe depression in the person who is eating it.

Anyway, back to Chat, the finale is the ‘Ratwalk models’ story on page 46. Yes, RATwalk models. You know what’s coming. It’s a story about a lady who designs and makes clothes for rats. Yes. Rats. It started with making ‘couture creations’ for her pet chihuahua, inspired by a dress worn by Penelope Cruz to the Oscars.

A few years later, business was booming, she went full time into her pet clothing designing and her friend asked her to help “raise the profile of her annual rat convention.”

Honestly, this is not a joke. It’s all true. Her friend runs a yearly rat convention.

So she designed and made the dresses. There was a fashion show with 12 of the ‘models’. Post-show, fame and fortune came her way, she got calls from everyone, even David Letterman.


The article finishes with the touching line, “After all, every single pet should feel like a star.”

That’s something we should all remember as we go on with our days today.

I hope you have learned something here.