Interactive Book Cover

October 2016

Research, Iterative Design, Fabrication, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Indesign

Prompt: Design and create an interactive book cover

Brainstorming + Research

The first step in creating my interactive book cover was to brainstorm different books and novels with content that could be represented in an interactive cover. Although any book could feasibly be made with an interactive cover, it is most effective when the interaction narratively relates and is reminiscent of the book’s content and themes. chose The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz as I felt this novel had the best and most interesting capacity for tactile interaction that related to the themes and styles of the book. The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

My initial concepts for the novel to be interactive to the reader was to incorporate old spy and investigator techniques. Some of the concepts were:


Based on critique and feedback of my concept sketches, I opted to take an element from my manila envelope book cover idea; I chose to create a decoder cipher book cover with an encoded title. I researched cryptology and ciphers to select one that would be uncomplicated for the user to decode the title while complementing a cohesive design. While Wallet-Sized Enigma Machines are visually interesting, they aren’t straightforward enough to be practical. A Caesar Cipher balanced all of the above considerations, so I picked it and began designing a Caesar Cipher for the book cover. The book's synopsis had a plot relevant number, which could serve as the key to the cipher.

images of research cipher examples

Design Testing

gif of font tests for cover design

Color Test

I created a colour palette for the book cover based on a manila envelope, the original concept and inspiration for the interactive book cover.

Type Study

Monospace typewriter typefaces were tested, as these are ideal for a classic private eye aesthetic. This would emulate typewritten case files.

Initial designs used a sans-serif typefaces to contrast with American Typewriter Condensed. However, a handwritten font more effectively conveyed a coded message quickly scrawled on a manila envelope, or a detective's notes. Dancing On The Beach was selected because

Iterations + Prototyping

First I created a prototype out of cardboard, card stock, printer paper, masking tape, and a paper clip. The book needed a firmer material for its structure, and a redesign of the cut lines. A simple rectangle had excess material when doing the delicate folds to get a traditional cover lamination. I used a paper clip as a pivot in the prototype, which was clumsy on the paper decoder. I acquired a red brass paper fastener to create a clean pivot point.

First I tested wood stains for the Caesar cipher, but there was too much friction between the wood pieces. The book was already too thick to add material to reduce the friction. To improve the book’s interaction I matched the colour of the key on the cipher to the clue’s colour on the back cover’s synopsis. This made the user’s interaction more intuitive, and the decoding process more obvious and successful. To construct the book I cut the covers and spine from plywood and assembled them with hockey tape. I resized the cover to account for the thickness of the plywood. I also researched DIY book cover techniques and book cover cut line techniques. and modified my cut lines accordingly.

image of interactive book cover prototype

Final Construction

I printed the design and glued it to the cover using spray adhesive. I then fixed the glue tabs and mounted the inside cover paper using double sided Hercules tape. I also mounted the bound pages using double sided Hercules tape. Lastly, I cut and mounted the Caesar cipher I designed in Illustrator using thick card stock, a red brass paper fastener, and double sided Hercules tape.