© 2009 Ugur Akinci
FORM and CONTENT are two wings of the same bird. When one of them fail, the bird does not fly — or flies in circles.
To make sure the two fit one another perfectly is a very old problem and challenge in information design and marketing.
Sometimes the challenge is met through resorting to “genres.” Genres define what is “safe” within the confines of that niche category. For example, when you take “Film Noir” as a genre, then it is safe to use sharp black and white color palette and deep shadows; or such stock characters like a male detective wrapped up in a trench-coat walking at night on a rainy street, and smoking like chimney, etc. But take those FORM elements and paste it to a totally unrelated CONTENT, like Thai Cooking, let’s say, and you’ll create serious “Cognitive Dissonance” in the audience. You’ll confuse a lot of people and thus lose a lot of readers for no good reason at all. That’s the risk trying to be “cute” or “original” carries.
One recent example of this is the cover of a new book by Joel Spolsky.
I’ve discovered Spolsky while browsing the Internet about 4 or 5 years ago and I really liked what he was writing about software. I think he is an important writer that everyone interested in technology in general, and software in particular, should read. I’m sure his new book is another important work although I haven’t yet found the time to read it yet (I’m traveling overseas right now).
However, I’m not sure the cover of Spolsky’s book does justice to its CONTENT.
Why use a Baroque image of constellations and Renaissance style ornamentation for a book on SOFTWARE? What is the connection between the two? Was the aim to create a “classical” look? But what’s the point of trying to relate a cultural product as modern as software to something as ancient as Classicism? The point passed me by completely.
I hope readers are aware of Spolsky’s importance and will buy this volume despite its totally irrelevant cover design. And I can’t help but reflect on how many more people would’ve read his book if the cover really reflected its CONTENT.
Last word: yes, whether we like it or not, a book is still judged by its cover in the year 2009 and it will always be so. Why? Because fads and fashions change but HUMAN NATURE never changes. And humans, throughout the evolutionary process, have learned that it makes short-term sense to jump to immediate conclusions on the basis of how someone or something LOOKS. A detailed examination of character and content follow much later. That’s the way our species “work.”