The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

April 8, 2016
by Dan
1 Comment

Book Covers of Note April 2016

All Things Cease design Mario Hugo
All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage; design by Mario Hugo (Knopf / March 2016)

Assault design Oliver Munday
The Assault by Harry Mulisch; design by Oliver Munday (Pantheon / April 2016)

Association-Small-Bombs design Matt Vee
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan; design by Matt Vee (Viking / March 2016)

Beloved Poison Jordan Metcalf
Beloved Poison by E. S. Thomson; cover art Jordan Metcalf (Little, Brown & Co / March 2016)

black hole blues design Janet Hansen
Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space by Janna Levin; design by Janet Hansen (Knopf / March 2016)

Dada design Anne Jordan
Dada Presentism by Maria Stavrinaki; design by Anne Jordan & Mitch Goldstein (Stanford University Press / April 2016)

Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain design James Paul Jones
Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris; design James Paul Jones (Doubleday / April 2016)

In the Name of Editorial Freedom design Isaac Tobin
In the Name of Editorial Freedom edited by Stephanie Steinberg; design by Isaac Tobin (University of Michigan Press / September 2015)

I’m so embarrassed that I missed this great type-only cover by the brilliant Isaac Tobin last year that I’m including it here.

Speaking of which, I also missed this rather fine David Drummond cover from late last 2015 too…

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences design David Drummond Nov 2015
Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagán; design by David Drummond (Lake Union Publishing / November 2015)

Man Lies Dreaming design Marina Drukman
A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar; design by Marina Drukman (Melville House / March 2016)

Ben Summers’ cover design for the UK edition of A Man Lies Dreaming published by Hodder and Stoughton was a book cover of note waaaaay back in October 2014!

The Miles Between Me design Alban Fischer
The Miles Between Me by Toni Neale; design by Alban Fischer (Curbside Splendor / April 2016)

Model Disciple design David Drummond
Model Disciple by Michael Prior; design by David Drummond (Vehicule Press / April 2016)

Olio design Jeff Clark
Olio by Tyehimba Jess; design by Jeff Clark / Quemadura (Wave / April 2016)

one in a million design CS Neal
The One-In-Million Boy by Monica Wood; design by C. S. Neal (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / April 2016)

Pillow Book design Alysia Shewchuk
A Pillow Book by Suzanne Buffam; design by Alysia Shewchuk (House of Anansi / April 2016)

She Weeps design Joan Wong
She Weeps Each Time You’re Born by Quan Barry; design by Joan Wong (Vintage / February 2016)

Study in Charlotte jacket art Dan Funderburgh design Katie Fitch
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro; jacket art Dan Funderburgh; design Katie Fitch (Katherine Tegen Books / March 2016)

Sudden Death
Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue; design by Stephen Parker; photograph Mark Vessey (Harvill Secker / April 2016)

The cover of the US edition published by Riverhead and designed by Rachel Willey was in last month’s post.

Susuzluk (Thirst)_Steven Mithen
Susuzluk (Thirst) by Steven Mithen; design by James Paul Jones (Koc University Press / April 2016)

Tempest design David Pearson
The Tempest by William Shakespeare; design by David Pearson (Penguin / April 2016)

tuesday-nights-in-1980 design Rodrigo Corral
Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss; design by Rodrigo Corral (Gallery/Scout Press / April 2016)

to the left of time design Jackie Shepherd
To the Left of Time by Thomas Lux; design by Jackie Shepherd (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / April 2016)

Well Always Have Paris design Justine Anweiler
We’ll Always Have Paris by Emma Beddington; design by Justine Anweiler; lettering by Cocorrina (Macmillan / April 2016)

What Belongs To You design Justine Anweiler
What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell; design by Justine Anweiler (Picador / April 2016)

This is a variant on the cover of the US edition from FSG designed by Jennifer Carrow, which is also very nice (especially the zig-zag of the type), but I especially like the Andreas Gursky-like edge-to-edge grid and hyper-real colour of the UK edition.

April 6, 2016
by Dan

In A House Besieged: An Illustrated Adaptation

Illustrator Roman Muradov has drawn a beautiful adaptation of Lydia Davis’s (very) short story ‘In a House Besieged’ — originally published in the collection Break It Down (1986) — for The Paris Review:


You can read the rest of the story here.

April 3, 2016
by Dan

Poetic Justice


Grant Snider marks National Poetry Month for the New York Times.

April 2, 2016
by Dan

Alan Kitching: “I always try to have some logic to the job”


Related to my post earlier today, typographer Alan Kitching also talked to It’s Nice That this week about printing with letterpress, and a new monograph documenting his work:

Kitching started Omnific studio with Martin Lee and Derek Birdsall, who he had met through Anthony Froshaug, in the late 1970s. They worked from a studio in Covent Garden, then still surrounded by typesetters and other service people, until rents shot up and they moved out to a toy factory in Islington. By this time some foundries were starting to sell off their type, and Omnific bought up a press and installed it at their new studio: “All this type was selling off cheap, cheap-ish, and it was the last chance to get this stuff. So we bought it all and I continued printing there for around three years until I decided I wanted to leave. I didn’t really know what I was going to do but I wanted to buy the press and the type and go and print somewhere”, Kitching says. “I didn’t want to be a jobbing printer but I wanted to start out on my own. It was a very precarious thing to do because we were successful, well-established, and I was taking a backwards step, it was a bit of a leap in the dark.”


The new book, Alan Kitching: A Life in Letterpress, will be published Laurence King on April 7. A ‘Collectors Edition‘ of only 200 copies featuring a limited edition, numbered print by Kitching will also be available. Laurence King have produced four short teaser trailers for the book:

April 2, 2016
by Dan

Comma Queen: The Illustrious Ampersand

Comma Queen Mary Norris takes a quick look at the origins of the beloved ampersand for The New Yorker:

April 2, 2016
by Dan

Inside Typographer Alan Kitching’s Home

Alan Kitching 3614

The Guardian visits the London home of designer, artist and typographer Alan Kitching:

The rooms in Alan Kitching’s home are arranged like one of his letterpress prints. Some are stacked, some are wedged, some aren’t in the right place. One dominates, while others bow out. But each room, like each letter, makes an impact and has a purpose.

From the outside, it’s obvious this isn’t an ordinary home: three large, shop-style window panels showcase Kitching’s iconic prints – word-based images in big, bold type. A fourth is given over to local notices: jumble sales and student art shows. “That was Celia’s idea,” Kitching says. “She was more gregarious than me.” Celia Stothard, his late wife, bought the property 19 years ago. She chose it for its flexibility: a place for them to live and hold talks, exhibitions and performances. She was a designer and artist, too, as well as a jazz singer.

The building is a former alehouse in Kennington, south London, buttressed up against a courthouse (local folklore has it that Charlie Chaplin used to come here to fetch jugs of ale for his mother). Storage rooms cascade off the back of the ground floor, where Kitching runs the Typography Workshop, into a cellar crammed with his extensive, 19th-century type collection. Upstairs, a high-ceilinged mezzanine has a reading nook reachable only by the swivel of a library ladder.

March 30, 2016
by Dan

Lost Literature

texthunter tom gauld

Tom Gauld on lost literature for The Guardian.

And in related news, Tom’s new book Mooncop will be published by Drawn & Quarterly in September. Can’t wait.



March 30, 2016
by Dan

Graphic Means


Before the desktop computer revolutionized the way the graphic design industry worked, type and image were painstakingly put together by hand with the aid of various ingenious machines and tools.

Currently in production, the documentary, Graphic Means explores graphic design production of the 1950s through the 1990s—from linecaster to photocomposition, and from paste-up to PDF.

It looks fascinating:

You can support the production the film by pre-ordering a copy from the Graphic Means website.

March 28, 2016
by Dan

On the Media: Print is Back, Back Again

In a special report, WNYC’s On the Media recently took a look at the publishing industry and print books. It covers a lot of ground — including the subversive history of adult colouring books, Amazon’s bricks-and-mortar bookstore, and South Korea’s quest for a Nobel Prize in Literature — but the opening segment, ‘Why the Publishing Industry Isn’t in Peril‘, with LA Times books editor Carolyn Kellogg is an excellent overview of the current state of US publishing:

March 22, 2016
by Dan

Lead the Autobiographical Novelist to the Literary Prize

autobiographical novelist Tom Gauld

Tom Gauld on Karl Ove Knausgaard for The Guardian.

March 22, 2016
by Dan

Brooklyn’s Most Cluttered Bookstore

The New Yorker visits the Community Bookstore in Brooklyn as owner John Scioli begins to clean out his “cavern of books” in preparation of the store’s closing in May:

March 21, 2016
by Dan

David Pearson Found on the Shelves

Corpulence design David Pearson

At The Bookseller, designer David Pearson talks about his new cover designs for Pushkin Press’s ‘Found on the Shelves’ series celebrating 175 years of the London Library:

At the heart of successful series design is motif – be it colour, type, grid, imagery, or other visual touchpoints – yet Pearson’s latest covers for Pushkin are perhaps less obviously groupable. “The series identifier is a subtle one,” he says, “but it is present in the use of decorative borders. I had begun to explore this idea of active border-making with some of Pushkin’s Collection Covers; the idea being that a decorative border can provide a layer of meaning or a tension point within the cover, and not simply act as a framing device.

“For The London Library series, this takes the form of overlapping tyre treads in ‘Cycling: The Craze of the Hour’; snaking, northbound steam in ‘The Lure of the North. It’s a small thing to hang your ideas on – and it matters little if no one notices it – but it ensured that I didn’t flounder at the beginning of the design process, as I had something to kick against, an inbuilt challenge to wrestle with.”

Pearson attributes much of the covers’ liveliness to the illustration, which he is quick to credit: “I intend to broaden the illustrative scope [further titles are scheduled for November] but for this first selection I’m relying on tried, trusted and incredibly talented hands. Joe Mclaren produced the illustrations for ‘On Corpulence’ and ‘Life in a Bustle’ – and as with all of Joe’s work, the result is joyous.” The additional images were sourced from illustrations within the texts themselves, giving some of the covers a distinctly vintage appearance.

Each of the covers will print using a spot colour – one outside the gamut of four-colour CMYK printing, as it cannot be created using a combination of cyan, magenta, yellow and black (“key”); as a consequence of this it is bolder, more vibrant and less ubiquitous (and therefore more striking) – and will feature black foil-blocking on uncoated paper stock.


On Reading design David Pearson Life in a Bustle design David Pearson Cycling David Pearson

%d bloggers like this: