Like all the best things on The Casual Optimist, this post started life as a conversation on Twitter. The topic this time was the under-representation of YA book designers in all these end of the year cover lists. YA covers are becoming more and more sophisticated, yet my posts this year have rarely featured them, so feel that I am unquestionably at fault here. To make some kind of amends, I thought I would post a selection of 50 YA covers from 2014. Many, many thanks to all the book designers and publishing folk (including my colleagues Alisha, Brooke, and Megan at Raincoast) for their suggestions and assistance. And special thanks to Serah-Marie and Derek at Type Books for letting me browse their shelves with my notebook in hand…
In the past, I’ve often included a few series designs in with my favourite covers of the year. This year, I saw so many great covers that were part of a series, I thought a they deserved a post of their own…
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes; design by Nathan Burton (Alma / 2014)
The Gambler by Fydor Dostoevsky; design by Nathan Burton (Alma / 2014)
Notes from the Underground by Fydor Dostoevsky; design by Nathan Burton (Alma / 2014)
Book designers, you do amazing work. Thank you. I am especially grateful to all the designers and art directors (not to mention publicists and other publishing folk) who have shared their wisdom, provided me with images, and helped me with design credits this year — these posts would not be possible without you. I also want thank my fellow book design bloggers, notably Book Covrs, Booketing, and Caustic Cover Critic, for their sterling work, and my local bookstores, Type, Book City on the Danforth, Ben McNally Books, and Indigo Bay & Bloor, for letting me browse their shelves.
For the past few years, Quill & Quire (magazine to the stars) has asked Canadian books designers choose their favourite covers of the year. This year, however, instead of choosing a book cover like everybody else, David Gee picked out the McGill-Queen’s University Press Spring 2015 catalogue designed by David Drummond.
After laughing pretty hard at Mr. Gee’s audacity (and his transparent attempts to never work in this town again), I realised I would love to do a post on great catalogue covers.
Print catalogues can be beautiful things, and as David Gee himself points out, “the simple fact that publishers’ catalogues tend to fly under the public radar doesn’t mean they’re easy to design.” They’re are also an endangered species. Publishers are cutting costs, and most are switching to digital alternatives. Now would seem like the perfect time to celebrate the charm of the print catalogue before it disappears completely.
I don’t usually ask for submissions, but I don’t think I can possibly gather enough material together for this by myself. So if you’ve ever toiled thanklessly over a publisher catalogue and you’d like to see a little appreciation for your hard work, send me an email (hello [at] casualoptimist . com] with your favourite catalogue covers (and interiors if you wish), and I’ll showcase all my favourites in the New Year. The images should be hi-res jpegs or pngs (at least 620px wide), and please be sure to include the publisher information, and all the relevant credits.
First published in The New York Herald in 1905, McCay’s innovative, beautifully detailed strips have been available online for sometime, and there have been attempts at reprint collections before, but this oversize edition looks absolutely gorgeous:
When you visit Amazon or AbeBooks (which is owned by Amazon) and search for an out-of-print title, your results are usually listed from cheapest to most expensive. The first “store” on the list often turns out to be a barn full of books in rural Minnesota or Vermont. Some are charity stores, selling donated books—no acquisition costs at all. They certainly aren’t paying Manhattan overhead. Yet here, too, the Strand is holding on, owing mostly to that churning turnover and the quality of its stock. That barn isn’t going to have many of last year’s $75 art books for $40, and the Strand always does. Plus there are the only–in–New York surprises that come through the store’s front door. Opening a box can reveal a Warhol monograph that will sell for more than $1,000, or an editor’s library full of warm inscriptions from authors… Surely operating out of one of those barns would be cheaper. “Not with our formula,” says [owner Fred] Bass firmly. “We need the store. This business requires a lot of cash flow to operate,” and much of it comes in with the tourists. That funds the book-buying, which supplies the next cycle of inventory. Which requires this expensive retail space, and the renovation of 2003 did not just come from a desire to spiff up. It happened because of a specific event, one that probably saved the Strand: In 1996, after four decades of renting, the Basses bought the building.
I find it hard to think about design in terms of changing the world, but it’s important to think about design in terms of the decisions you make about what you make. Ask yourself: “What am I putting out into the world? Am I helping sell Big Macs or deodorant or iPhones or whatever?” I have nothing against any of those, but at some point in my life, I decided to focus on books. Books are intrinsically good: even the worst book—with some notable exceptions—isn’t truly bad. If people are reading, it is good. As designers, we’re attached to the selling of something; no matter what we’re making there is a selling component. In that sense, the decision to work with books was very much about the larger picture of what I was helping to usher into the world.