Survey: Which Book Design Do You Like Best?

Three years ago, we consolidated our twenty-one publishing imprints under one umbrella brand: “Thomas Nelson.” We believed then (as we believe now) so many imprints only served to dilute our brand, creating needless complexity and infrastructure for everyone.

book spines with new logo treatment

At the time, we decided that we would go with our singular house logo on the spine. Believing that “less is more,” we took a page out of Apple and Nike’s playbook. No text. Not even a ® symbol to indicate a registered trademark. Just the house. Nothing more.

However, about six weeks ago, Matt Baugher, one of our publishers, suggested a little reality check. “But we are not Apple or Nike,” he protested. “We don’t have millions of dollars to spend on driving our logo into the forefront of consumer consciousness. Besides, we’re not really a consumer brand any way.”

Simultaneous with this, one of our other executives (I forget who) suggested that we should accept the fact that the spine of the book is the primary facing in most bookstores and design it first. Brilliant! I thought. Of course that is true. Maybe there’s a way we can make better use of the spine.

So, we kicked around a few ideas and decided to have Gabe Wicks, our VP of Design and MultiMedia, and Chris Ward, one of our ace designers, mock up three possibilities. Rather than let ourselves kick it around in the ivory tower here on Nelson Way, we decided to use “the wisdom of the crowd” to help us decide which one is the best option.

Our goal is three-fold:

  1. To make the Thomas Nelson brand more recognizable
  2. To provide a consistent but non-intrusive look for our brand. (We recognize that the author and the title are the primary brands.)
  3. To better utilize the spine to make our books stand out.

So please go take a look at what we’ve created and cast your vote. If you are an industry professional, try to respond as a consumer.

Your vote really will count and influence how our books look on the shelves of your favorite bookseller in the years to come. Once we get the results in, I will update this post.

Question: Are there any comments you would like to make about the overall concept or our method of surveying?
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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • Geoffrey

    Is the picture on your post a relexion of the choice you think is best for your new logo?

    Anyway, I appreciate that you give us a way to 'influence' your brand just a bit. Your posts are very interesting even for a french guy like me.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Nope. I just picked one, so I would have a graphic.

      • Gavin Baker

        "So please go take a look at what we've created and cast your vote." – I think he was referring to the fact that sentence above isn't clear that you need to take the survey to see the pictures vs viewing the pictures and then taking a survey. I was confused too.

        As a comment on your survey, I've always found it helpful to allow a contact information (not required) that way you can easily follow up with a few of the surveyors. Lastly, to fully crowdsource the idea maybe you should have included a "upload your own idea" – sure you'd get a lot of garbage but you might just get a gem too. But then again, this is just a guy from the peanut gallery. I applaud your decision to even try this out.

  • @cahatton

    @nichaelhyatt – I like it. It makes your brand more recognizable at a glance. It will make it easier to find TN books on a shelf of lots of other books in a bookstore or library. Good job!

  • JeffieRuth

    If you put the logo on the bottom of the spine, it will be covered by the call number in most libraries. I do like the look but would move it to the top.

    Some libraries put their barcodes inside the cover but many put it outside. WCPL puts it on the back of the book in the upper right corner close to the spine. Some stick it on the front for speed in checking out.

    I can send you a picture from WCPL if you want.
    @jeffieruth (twitter & facebook)

  • JeffieRuth

    If you put the logo on the bottom of the spine, it will be covered by the call number in most libraries. I do like the look but would move it to the top.

    Some libraries put their barcodes inside the cover but many put it outside. WCPL puts it on the back of the book in the upper right corner close to the spine. Some stick it on the front for speed in checking out.

    I can send you a picture from WCPL if you want.

    @jeffieruth (twitter & facebook)

  • Cindy_Graves

    Thanks for the opportunity to voice an opinion. I think you are wise to listen to the ones who actually spend the $ on your products as well as the ones who help produce them. Smart move!

  • Marysol

    I really like opportunities like this. Makes me feel like I'm some sort of important focus group.

  • Mike Wagner

    "Less is more" reminds me of Ecclesiastes 6:11 "the more the words, the less the meaning and how does that profit anyone."

    Speakers, writers and publishers ought to memorize those words.

    Keep creating…a story worth repeating,

  • Dennis

    Thank you for the opportunity to add some input. Just one thought: By doing this do you risk getting caught up in the drift?

  • @halhunter

    I would never choose a book solely on the publisher, but since coming to follow your blog and know something about you and the company you lead, I would certainly look more closely at any book I happen across from Thomas Nelson, so anything that makes it easier to spot one of your offerings would capture my attention for a closer look.

  • @RichDailey

    The matching logos across the spines first gives me the impression that it's a series. Not sure if that's good or bad.

  • colleen Coble

    I went over and voted. But hey, Mike, the least you could have done was use ONE fiction title in the mock up! :-)

    • Michael Hyatt

      Oops! Good catch.

    • @AmberStockton

      :) Nice one, Colleen. Way to give a shout out to us fiction authors…even those of us who don't write for Thomas Nelson….yet.

    • Timothy Fish

      Isn't The Noticer fiction?

  • Mauricio Vivas

    Thank you for giving us an opportunity to vote. I like your original idea of just your logo, but I see the issue of brand awareness. Personally, when o see the house logo, I already know it’s Thomas Nelson. But I may be in the minority here.

  • Neil

    as a frequent buyer of books and no real understanding of the industry my preference was for version three. I liked the way the spine was framed by the two black ends for me it would help it to stand out on the shelf edge

  • jim oberschmidt

    Mike, I can tell you I look for your House logo, and am thrilled when it is on a book in my area of interest. It was an added thrill to find it on a bible gift which I recieved last May of 2008, before we met. Many thanks for this invite to participate. jim

  • oldwoman_458

    Thank you for asking readers our opinion on this topic. Thomas Nelson and the house logo are synonymous with quality. Author and title aside, picking up a Nelson House book ensures I'll be reading something uplifting and entertaining. Keep up the good work!

  • @TheSilentChorus

    Thomas Nelson means quality, therefore its best if it can be easily distguished. I love the spine which has the black top and bottom, though I do agree with JeffieRuth about libraries covering the lower section, though maybe having the black part on the top, will make it still recognisable.

  • Jeff

    One comment I have, and I put this on the form as well. A lot of reader's aren't particularly interested in the publisher of the book, but are more interested in who the author is, so if there were a way to identify the author readily on the spine (via their logo or something) I think it would help you guys out a lot. Take a look at your DVD collection and you will see what I am talking about. Most DVDs have a headshot of the main actor on the spine. So if you are in a Will Smith mood you can see pretty easily what movies you have that are Will Smith movies.

  • Diane

    Thanks for pointing out how critical the spine is in book design. We may choose books by their covers, but at crowded bookstores, it's the spine that says, "Read me!" I love your simple logo and like how the background of Design #1 changes with the book design color. I think the black background is too somber and mysterious for your logo and what Thomas Nelson represents.

  • Kristin Billerbeck

    Before I was a writer, I cared very much about the publisher. Because I'm a book buyer, I want to know that when I spend the money I'll be able to finish the book. It's an investment. I found there were so many publishers that I rarely finished the books, that I learned to trust publishers and that's the way I purchased. Thomas Nelson (Word back then) was a trusted publisher.

    It's often the deciding factor for me. If I pick up a book that sounds interesting, but know I rarely finish publisher A's books, I'll put it back on the shelf. So I applaud you for creating brand this way. It makes it easier for us picky readers. And I'm partial to that cute lavender spine myself, but I'll go vote. : )

  • MichaelSGray

    Just voted for my favorite.

    Isn't it funny that sometimes the smallest details are the biggest hurdles?

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  • @lynnpina

    Perhaps it might be helpful to see what the new logo looks like when Thomas Nelson books are on a prototypical bookshelf with books from other publishing houses. Isn't that how they'd bein a bookstore? I suggest this because looking at the 3 images you provided, I ilke #1 b/c it's the cleanest treatment and keeps the focus on the book title (which is what a person looking in the bookshelves would be looking at). #2 treatment competes with the book title and my eye is drawn to the bottom however that might be because all the books are TN books so I see the "pattern" of consistency on the bottom and my eye goes there. I might not think that if it were one or two TN books next to those from other houses — so you might want to test that. #3 I like the least — too busy and too distracting. I don't know where you want me to look with all the boxes and type displayed on the spine.

  • @allusmorgans

    I like the uniformity on the spine. I remember back when U2 was on the Island label that their CDs all had that distinctive rainbow logo on the top of the spine. I was more likely to buy a CD from an unknown group if they were on that label because I knew that I liked the types of artists they represented. That logo made Island CDs easy to spot and was responsible for more than a few of my impulse purchases back in the 80's and 90's.

  • Renee Swope

    I like the 2nd design best because it "pops." I like the suggestion about it being at the top for library purposes. I love that you are asking your "crowd of customers" and inviting us into the process of building your brand awareness. I am one of the few it seems who looks to see who published a book. Thomas Nelson is one of my favorites. Love your blog and love your books!

    Renee Swope
    Proverbs 31 Ministries

  • Judith Robl

    My choice is number two.
    In a library, I'm not purchasing the book., so it makes little difference.

    But in a book store, seeing the black foundation stone with the TN emblem and name is a real plus.

    Number three is a little over the top. And number one changes with the color of the spine so it's a little harder to recognize.

  • patriciazell

    Simple and sweet–#1.

  • Laurie Cutter

    Thanks for giving us an insight into the decision process. Somehow it demystifies what goes on in publishing a bit. And yes, I voted!

  • joel

    Just voted. looking forward to finding out which one you choose.

  • @cathydavis

    Thanks for the opportunity for me to add my input!

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  • W. Mark Thompson

    This is a great example of a company going straight to the source for opinions on it’s product development. Who better to ask!