Contrary to the popular adage, I’ve judged many a (literal) book by its cover. I’m not particularly proud of this fact; and, of course, there have been plenty of exceptions. I can always overlook some less-than-pretty packaging in exchange for a good read — but I’ll admit that few things bring me joy quite like a beautiful book cover. Book design is an art form in its own right; and, as someone with no visual art abilities whatsoever, it’s an art form I admire.
But am I too judgmental? I read a fair amount — at least a book or two a week. What if my aesthetic sensibilities are getting in the way of my path to literary gold?
Enter Judgey: The game that lets you rate a book based on its cover, and then compares your judgment to the book’s Goodreads rating. Created by Nate Gagnon and Dean Casalena, the project challenges us to change how we look at literature, and in the process, reveals a surprising amount about the value of aesthetics.
In the end, the game also judges you — just to keep things fair. It’s an interesting exercise in discovering how judgmental of a person you are, and proves that a beautiful book cover does not always mean a beautiful book. As HelloGiggles is an office of diehard book lovers, we had to find out more.
Check out what Nate and Dean had to say about the project below.
HG: The concept behind the game is pretty straight-forward, but I was curious what inspired you to start it.
N: The idea came a while ago, and was inspired by seeing all this data out there in the form of book ratings, and asking if there was something fun we could do with them. It seemed fun to turn the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” on its head.
HG: I felt like there were actually two ways of playing the game: just rating the book by its cover, or actually trying to guess the book’s Goodreads rating. (As a side note, I definitely felt my opinions on certain books affected my answers.) Was that intentional?
N: I think it’s kind of inevitable that people play both ways. And both ways involve a bit of judgment. Ideally it’s less about judging Goodreads’ bookworms, and more about the actual covers. But you’ll probably find that if you go strictly off the covers, that your score suffers a bit.
D: Guessing the Goodreads score based on the cover was as close as we could get to guessing the book’s literary value based on the cover, which is admittedly not the same thing. Related enough to be interesting though!
HG: What were your favorite findings from the project? Was there anything that surprised you?
N: Well, we’re really just getting started when it comes to looking into the data (there’s a lot!) for trends in color, font, title size, all kinds of things. But it’s the overall the response that’s been super surprising. People love books. And those people have been reaching out. It’s fantastic.
D: I’ve had a lot of fun with the data – and published something recently at playjudgey.com/data. I think the biggest thing to skew the data was people’s existing familiarity with many of the books, but it’s exciting to see things like that directly reflected in the graphs.