Type designer Erik Spiekermann recently spoke to MyFont’s Creative Characters newsletter about his career and his return to letterpress printing:
I think it’s very appropriate to discuss the new interest in analog technologies, and the ways that young people are now finding to combine the analog and the digital. In fact, the difference between the two is disappearing. As type specialist Indra Kupferschmidt also remarked recently — there’s no longer any reason to make things for the screen that look worse than designs made for print. Anybody who does layouts for the screen must know about type and typography just as well as someone who designs for paper. So what counts is, just like before, how to get the message across. We have the technology, there is no more excuse for a job badly done.
What I find very interesting is the movement of people who are savvy in digital design but are genuinely interested in analog techniques. It is now more than a passing trend; there must be a deeper motive why we are newly interested in the hand-made and the haptic, material and three-dimensional aspects of type and design.
In an interview with CBC Radio in 1958, pianist Glenn Gould recounted how he came to play Beethoven in a gas mask. Now CBC Music have turned that anecdote into a charming short film illustrated by designer Heather Collett, and animated by Philip Street and John Fraser:
BBC Radio 4’s Front Row talks to Suzanne Dean, creative director at Random House UK, about the art of book cover design. Dean, who was very publicly thanked by Julian Barnes for her work on his book The Sense of an Ending, has been responsible for more Booker-winning covers than any other designer apparently.
Host John Wilson also chats with designer Matthew Young about the relaunched Pelican Books, while authors Ian McEwan, Tom McCarthy and Audrey Niffenegger, and Telegraph books editor Gaby Wood, share their thoughts on what makes a good book cover.
Another book for the wishlist (because in a shocking development no one gave it to me for Christmas), Criterion Designs features covers, art, and sketches art commissioned for the Criterion Collection. It looks beautiful…
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.