3 Bookplate Design Tips

A bookplate depicting the ancient city of Emporion or Empúries, in Catalonia, Spain. Image via Wikimedia.org.

Want a great idea for a new promotional giveaway or design product to add to your repertoire? Design a bookplate sticker!

Bookplates are those cool rectangular stickers that you attach to the endpapers of the front of a book and write your name on. This way everyone knows it’s your book from your personal library.

Bookplates are also historically know as “ex libris,” which is Latin for “from the library of” or “from the books of.” Many bookplate designs will use the phrase “ex libris” as a text header or a design element.

Image via www.goodreads.com.

Growing up, I remember first encountering bookplates or the idea of them in my Little Golden Books, such as the “Tawny Scrawny Lion” (shown at right). In the front of each Little Golden Book there was a box that said, “This book belongs to:” and a space to write your name. As an aspiring reader, I truly enjoyed scrawling my name in crayon in the front of those books!

If you’d like to offer custom bookplate design as a service, (they make really nice housewarming or wedding gifts) or if you want to create bookplates as a self promotion piece, keep these three bookplate design tips in mind:

1. Go old school
According to Wikipedia.org, bookplates were used way back in the 1300s by the Egyptians, throughout the Middle Ages and into Elizabethan times. Many early bookplate designs featured the book owner’s motto, coat of arms, crest or other identifying badge. To create an old-school bookplate, try making a crest out of your business logo, or “Latinizing” your business tagline. For inspiration, check out Happy Menocal’s custom heraldry illustrations. Menocal is a fine artist and illustrator who offers an amazing custom crest design service.

2. Use matte paper
To create a sophisticated piece that works for even the most snobby bibliophiles (those folks who collect hardcovers from Everyman’s Library or the new Penguin Classics), use matte paper. Matte paper will work with most publications’ endpapers. You don’t want to overpower the book design with a glossy sticker. Matte paper is also much easier for the user to write their name on.

3. Get the format right
A good standard size for bookplate stickers is 3 inches wide by 4.25 inches high. This will fit in both paperback and hardcover editions. Rectangular is the standard format, but you could experiment with custom die-cut stickers in the shapes of hearts, stars, apples or other exciting objects. Adding a border is a good way to differentiate the bookplate design from the book design. Also leave ample space for a name or even a gift inscription as people may want to use the plates to inscribe books they give as gifts.

For even more inspiration check out hundreds of images of 19th- and 20th-century book plates in the Pratt Library Ex Libris Collection on Flickr.com.

  • Little Red Shoe Designs

    Thanks so much; this was quite helpful!