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One small decision you make on your book cover can send a different message to your intended audience. One PickFu pollster was surprised when testing two different book covers.

He tested two covers for the book The Last Lessons of Christ.

Option A featured a dark red image of the back of Christ against a white and grey-toned background.

Which One Won? Book Covers with Mixed Messages

Option B showed Christ in a yellow-ombre color against a similar but brighter white and grey background.

Which One Won? Book Covers with Mixed Messages

Can you guess which one won?

And the winner is… Option B! Option B received 32 votes, whereas Option A received only 18 votes.

Bright, Vibrant Colors

Respondents felt drawn to Option B because of its brightness. Many used the word vibrant to describe the colors in the cover. One individual stated, “The colors are vibrant and really draw me in and make me want to pick up the book.” Another stated, “The colors are more vibrant and the gold leads to a bit of hope.”

Several respondents observed that Option A looked much darker. A few even commented that the dark red in Option A looked like blood.

Multiple Colors

Test panelists also preferred the use of multiple colors on the cover. One respondent observed that “the use of varying shades of color is more compelling, more powerful, relatable, and modern.”

Another noted how the varying colors related better to the title, stating, “Option A is all red, while Option B has red that is fading and turning into yellow and orange. I felt that this fading was more related to the title of the LAST Lessons of Christ. Also, Option A with all red seems more plain to me.”

Several other respondents also commented on the darkness of the single color in Option A as being evil and scary.

Depicting Hope, Not Gloom

Poll respondents frequently discussed how hopeful Option B made them feel. One individual stated, “I understand the dark red (selection A) and how that could portray the blood of Jesus, however I do like how (selection B) is darker red at the bottom and fades to the light yellow-type color at the top. Reminiscent of the story of Christ, the good and hopeful and the end.” In addition to describing the cover as hopeful, panelists also used words such as optimistic, warm, and uplifting.

Option A, on the other hand, felt much darker to several respondents, especially since the red color “look[ed] like blood.” One individual even described Option A as looking like the “Grim Reaper.”

Connecting Design Elements with Emotions

We’ve mentioned before how important it is to connect book design elements with the emotions your reader is looking for. Brightness, contrast, and color choices all play an important role in depicting that intended emotion.

You might also find that while you think an image might portray one message, the audience could interpret it differently. In the case of this book cover, the designer may not have thought that the red in Option A looked like blood or looked evil. However, by split testing on a target audience, blind spots are often uncovered.

To make sure that your book cover reflects the intended message for your audience, create a PickFu poll to test it out.


Tara Porter

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