Rebecca Souster, independent publisher and designer, talks to The Table about the importance of design and branding in the book world...

Penguin Orange to publishing is what Yves Klein Blue is to art. When Penguin dropped the pantone for the covers of their printed books, it wasn’t long before they realised how important Penguin Orange was to the design of their covers and, more importantly, their branding. Penguin reinstated the pantone for their book covers after lining up a series of their paperbacks; the orange spines didn’t match…

But why did this matter? Is the average reader really going to care about the orange on the cover of the book that they’re reading? The answer is yes, we do.

Brand, as we know, is about experience. However a publisher brand wants to represent itself, it must be in a way that is relevant to its core readers. If you’re Penguin Random House it’s a combination of legacy and quality authors; if you’re Oxford University Press it's through academic authority; if you’re Taschen it's through artistic and cultural clout. If you’re an indie, however, it’s an entirely different ball game as you don’t yet have a core of readers to relate to.

With over 3500 publishers in the UK alone, it is more crucial than ever for publishers to have a defined space within the industry. Having specialised in working with small start-up publishers and authors over the last couple of years, I've learnt that the way in which a publisher packages their books has become an integral part of their publisher brand. In an already oversaturated market, their books need to stand out. The paper weight, the format, the typeface chosen, the cover design and finish; all of this plays a huge role in how a reader interacts with a book.

The design of the physical reading experience has become just as important as the content itself. For those who favour physical over digital, it is this experience that is the key to getting readers to identify with your publisher brand as a source of a good quality book.

In a well-made book, where designer, publisher and printer have all done their jobs, your book comes to life. It is your responsibility as the publisher to nurture what you have created and by representing yourself with a strong brand identity, whether this is through a trademark colour, a logo, or series design, you are showing a certain level of respect and professionalism not only to what you do, but also to your readers.

In an industry where you’re competing not only with other books but other media channels, branding and design is a vital part of the publishing process. Because when you take care of your readers, they take care of you.

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