Saturday, 27 February 2021

Critique Corner - February

Welcome to our new Discovering Diamonds feature, Critique Corner, where our cover design experts volunteer kind, expert, and constructive critiques to help our readers make the most of their cover designs. Since Discovering Diamonds began in 2017, Cathy Helms of and Tamian Wood of have been co-judging the monthly cover design competition for the site. And since their selected designs have been so well received, they would like to share with all the #DDRev's fans and followers, some pearls of wisdom from their combined 40 years in the cover design business - so, over to Cathy and Tamian...

This month in Critique Corner we have this charming little cover from John DeJordy. Thanks so much for submitting it John! We appreciate your participation. 

Take it away Cathy!


Cathy Helms:

The artwork on this cover is charming and very well done! I assume from the childlike playfulness of the illustration, that this is a children’s book loosely based on historical figures and/or legends, thus the tie to historical fiction genre?


I spot the glowing cat eyes while viewing the cover fairly large, but at thumbnail size, they are hard to pick up on. And there is a lot of dead or unused space below those eyes (the dark opening of the cave) that could have been used for a sub-title or even the weaving in of the title itself. I’d suggest a sub-title in that space – or a reviewer’s quote. Something should be there as all that black seems to draw my eye away from the title entirely. Or draw in a bit more of the cat’s features – faint stripes, front legs with a paw reaching out?


The title font is playful and colorful, but it could be several points larger. The title should dominate the front cover with the artwork the secondary feature. But the author’s name is clear and a good size along the bottom. Well done.


I would have drawn a custom shape box for the copy on the back cover so you could better conform the copy around the character. And I would raise the copy to line up across the top of the cover layout with the title on the front cover – thus also allowing for the copy to be a point size or two larger. The copy is a bit tough to read and I am no fan of the black stroke on the white text either. But I do understand the struggle to get the copy legible over the top of such a rich and busy illustration. This is a good case for less copy and splitting it up around that character on the left by placing the bulk of it at the top, and the balance of it at the bottom. There is more space along the bottom that could be utilized better. And a low opacity color fill shape behind the copy would help the copy stand out a bit more than using a black stroke on the letters.


The capital ‘P’ on the first word on the back cover needs to be properly formatted and kerned. And due to working around a shape on the left, I would suggest right justifying the copy so at least one side is all aligned. The title is hard to read on the spine, so I’d recommend shifting it down so it sits over the dark areas of the rock.


Overall, a beautiful illustration as a base for this cover – the text just needs some polishing up.

What do you think, Tamian?

Tamian Wood:

I don't know about you Cathy, but I quite like this cover. The characters are positively charming. There is a bit of dead space that could have used a sub title, or a tagline, or a blurb, equidistant between the eyes in the cave and the mouse horse's nose. It doesn't bother me soooo much, it just seems like a wasted opportunity. Like some kind of focal point could be there.

The thing that bothers me the most on this cover is the title. The font is an ok choice, considering it seems like a children's book, but the colour treatment just comes out of nowhere. 

While it's true, contrast is good, It's always best to choose some colour from within the image, so that it looks like a cohesive colour story. So, for instance, had the designer/author chosen a bright green or yellow, it might still have stood out, but in a good way. 

Here's my take on it...

We do hope that our readers might pick up on a few tidbits of good design points while reading our commentary. And again, we thank our volunteer authors for willingly submitting their book covers for a free and no-strings-attached constructive critique of their designs. 

Until next time, be safe and be well!

Anyone wishing to submit their cover for our two graphic designers to critique, please contact either designer directly:

Tamian at

Cathy at

Due to their schedules, future critiques will be posted here once a month on  the day following the Cover and Book of the Month announcement (i.e the end of each month)  and often re-shared on Tamian and Cathy's individual blogs. as long as we have enough submissions.

Discovering Diamonds will not always be able to review the book selected for a cover critique and cannot, therefore, guarantee the quality of the text narrative.

Copyright Disclaimer

The Fair Use Doctrine of copyright law states that there is no copyright violation when a necessary portion of a work is presented as part of commentary or criticism of that work. Copyright restrictions on a book cover are further weakened by the fact that a cover is meant for exposure and advertising; while this is a critique article, the book covers and authors are still receiving exposure for potential new readers. The bottom line is that we, the designers offering free design critiques, are not liable for how any of the suggestions discussed in this blog may be used, interpreted or incorporated in published works. We have offered our help with no strings attached – use any of our suggestions at your own risk.

We will always supply a direct link to Amazon whom the authors/publishers have authorized to promote and sell the books we display on this blog. It is ultimately our goal to help authors better present and market their books – our area of expertise being design and marketing. However, we offer our professional input solely for the betterment of the authors who have willingly submitted their published book covers for our review. We do not accept any monetary compensation for the review.

Views Disclaimer

The opinions expressed in this blog entry are not necessarily held by Discovering Diamonds or any of its affiliated members. The opinions expressed in Critique Corner, while given by both formally educated and experienced graphic designers, are still open to interpretation by the best of those in the publishing business.