March 17, 2015
March 17, 2015
March 12, 2015
If you’ve ever wondered quite how many iterations a cover can go through before the final one is chosen, this video cycles through a multitude of design ideas for the US edition of Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum published by Random House this month:
“I worked with five designers, one illustrator and two letterers on more than a hundred versions of the jacket,” Robbin Schiff, executive art director at Random House, told Mashable. “The final design, with its stark Swiss typography against the moody and lush floral grouping, conveys a sensual but claustrophobic atmosphere”.1
UPDATE: Thank you to the folks at Random House for letting me know that the final cover for the US edition was designed by the talented Gabrielle Bordwin. The video was created by Caroline Teagle.
March 11, 2015
The New Yorker has launched a new video series “devoted to language in all its facets” called Comma Queen. In the first episode, copy editor Mary Norris talks about commas, the “little squiggle” with “a history rich in controversy”:
copy-editing can also be a soul-crushing enterprise. Not the work itself, which is perfectly pleasant and definitely necessary, but the surprising and strictly enforced class system that almost always accompanies it. Magazines are rigidly hierarchical places, no matter how outwardly easygoing and free-spirited and ad hoc they may endeavor to look on a visit to the office. A funny thing about publishing is that it’s populated almost exclusively by frustrated writers. It’s a kind of slow-burn Stanford Prison Experiment, in which former English majors are randomly assigned the roles of language guard and word prisoner, affirming once more how quickly and insanely people will adapt to new, relative states of power and powerlessness.
Mary Norris’s very funny, lucid, and lively new book, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, illuminates this shadow world at last. It’s part memoir, part language guide, and part personal account of life at The New Yorker (where Norris has worked as a copy editor since 1978). “One of the things I like about my job,” she writes, “is that it draws on the entire person: not just your knowledge of grammar and punctuation and usage and foreign languages and literature but also your experience of travel, gardening, shipping, singing, plumbing, Catholicism, midwesternism, mozzarella, the A train, New Jersey.”
Norris exemplifies what David Foster Wallace observed in “Authority and American Usage”: “We tend to like and trust experts whose expertise is born of a real love for their specialty instead of just a desire to be expert at something.”
March 10, 2015
After a while I became quite good at spotting the biblioklepts. Sometimes they gave themselves away through their body language, other times it was their appearance. One thief was dressed as a respectable businessman but his shoes were shabby and when I scrutinised him further I could see that he was wearing a charity shop suit. Our eyes met and he realised that he’d been rumbled. Later I mentioned this incident to someone in another bookshop and they said ‘Ah yes, the Businessman.’ He was well-known.
The most successful thieves were, of course, the ones we never saw. Someone used to steal entire shelves of books during Thursday lunchtimes – one week it was Nabokov, another Terry Pratchett – presumably in order to furnish another bookshop. Although we became obsessive about checking everyone who entered the shop, we never caught them.
We had regular thieves at both bookshops I worked in too. I don’t think any of them were quite as colourful as ‘the Businessman’ sadly.
March 9, 2015
As previously mentioned, Ladybird By Design is an exhibition of over 200 of original book illustrations from the late 1950s to early 1970s currently on display at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on Sea.
In this short film, Lawrence Zeegen, curator of the exhibition and author of the accompanying book, and Jenny Pearce, daughter of former Ladybird editorial director Douglas Keen, talk about the history of Ladybird and what made the books so special:
March 8, 2015
I’d be the first to admit that I didn’t really get on with William Gibson’s latest novel The Peripheral, but I really enjoyed his ‘Blue Ant’ trilogy — Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History.
Interestingly, the (fictional) Buzz Rickson MA-1 flight jacket worn by Cayce Pollard, the protagonist in Pattern Recognition, led to the Japanese clothing company working with Gibson to manufacture a line of clothes (including the aforementioned black MA-1) inspired by the author. In this fascinating interview with Rawr Denim, the author discusses Buzz Rickson, Japanese pop culture, workwear, authenticity and more:
“Authenticity” doesn’t mean much to me. I just want “good”, in the sense of well-designed, well-constructed, long-lasting garments. My interest in military clothing stems from that. It’s not about macho, playing soldiers, anything militaristic. It’s the functionality, the design-solutions, the durability. Likewise workwear.
Military clothing is built to strict contract, but with the manufacturer cutting ever corner they can without violating the specifications. The finishing on a Rickson reproduction is exponentially superior to the finishing on most of the originals, and I’d much rather have a brand-new exact copy that’s more carefully assembled…
…[In] 1947 a lot of American workingmen wore shirts that were better made than most people’s shirts are today. Union-made, in the United States. Better fabric, better stitching. There were work shirts that retailed for fifty cents that were closer to today’s Prada than to today’s J.Crew. Fifty cents was an actual amount of money, though. We live in an age of seriously crap mass clothing. They’ve made a science of it.
March 7, 2015
March 7, 2015
The key to creating stellar covers, according to Booher, is to first throw out the tired adage about not judging books by them. “Graphic design is really about selling things,” he says. Lest that sound soulless, the good news here is that Booher is selling other people’s creative ideas. And while every book is unique, Booher says he starts by reading the six or so manuscripts he gets per season, and then mentally digests them all. “You read it, you try and find the soul of the book, something that makes it special, and make it come alive,” he says.
March 6, 2015
Congratulations to all the winners at last night’s Academy of British Cover Design Awards!
Spiders by Tom Hoyle; design by Rachel Vale; illustration by Sam Hadley (PanMacmillan / November 2014)
Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Tigerman by Nick Harkaway; design Glenn O’Neill (William Heinemann / May 2014 )
Crime / Thriller
Gollancz Simon Ings; design by Nick May; illustration by Jeffery Alan Love
(Above: City of Iron Fish. Gollancz / April 2014 )
Classics / Reissue
Women’s Fiction (Joint Winners)
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent; design by James Annal ( Picador / March 2014 )
Well done Jon Gray and Jamie Keenan for organizing the awards. All the shortlisted covers — selected by judges Mark Ecob, Yeti Lambregts, David Mann, Richard Ogle, Donna Payne, Rafi Romaya, Henry Steadman, Jim Stoddart, Rachel Vale, and Claire Ward — can be found on the ABCD website.
March 5, 2015
As CMYK, the Vintage design blog, revealed, these new editions were designed in-house by the talented Mr. Matthew Broughton, and feature black and white photography by Anton Stankowski on The Beauty Myth and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and Joy Gregory on my personal favourite, The Second Sex.
Interestingly, Vintage have also published smaller format ‘short editions’ of the same three books — The Second Sex, The Beauty Myth, and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman — featuring key extracts from the main texts.
In contrast to the sharp photographic covers above, the short editions feature illustrated covers designed by Gray318 with something of retro, E. McKnight Kauffer or Alvin Lustig, feel:
March 4, 2015
Gutenberg may have invented the movable-type printing press, used to create his monumental Bibles. But anyone who has ever sat in a cafe, or in the bath, with a paperback owes a debt to Aldus and the small, cleanly designed editions of the secular classics he called libelli portatiles, or portable little books.
“It’s become a cliché to call them the forerunners of the Penguin Classics,” G. Scott Clemons, the president of the Grolier Club, said during a recent tour of the installation in progress. “But the concept of personal reading is in some ways directly traceable to the innovations of Aldus’s portable library…”
…The Aldine Press, in its start-up phase, emphasized Greek and Latin lexicons and grammar manuals. In 1495, Aldus began publishing the first printed edition of Aristotle. In 1501, he released the first of his small octavo editions of the classics, books “that could be held in the hand and learned by heart (not to speak of being read) by everyone,” as he later wrote. The show includes 20 libelli portatiles, all bearing Aldus’s printer’s mark, a dolphin curled around an anchor. (The colophon is still used today by Doubleday.) Some of the books were treated as treasures, and customized with magnificent decoration that harked back to the tradition of illuminated manuscripts. Others were workaday volumes, filled with marginal scribbles….
…Aldus’s contributions to the art of printing [include the] first italic typeface, which he created with the type cutter Francesco Griffo, a shadowy fellow who broke with Aldus acrimoniously and then slugged a man to death with an iron bar before reputedly meeting his own demise at the end of a hangman’s rope. Italics, which were intended to mimic the humanist handwriting of the day, first appeared in a modest five words in a 1500 edition of the letters of St. Catherine and soon spread to other Aldines, and beyond.
And then there was the roman typeface devised for a 1496 book by the humanist scholar Pietro Bembo — the inspiration for the modern font Bembo, still treasured by book designers for its grace and readability.
“The book itself is almost frivolous,” Mr. Clemons said of the text, which recounts a trip to Mount Etna. “But it launched that very modern typeface.”
The exhibition runs until April 25, 2015.
March 3, 2015
Here is March’s selection of new and noteworthy covers. It’s a little bit of the Merto and Mendelsund show I’ll admit, but I assure you there really are some brilliant covers by other designers this month too!
The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson; design by Kimberly Glyder (
Harper / March 2013 killed)
I also loved Eric’s ‘H is for Hawk’ illustration in the February 22nd edition of The New York Times Book Review.
The Four Books by Yan Lianke; design by Matt Broughton (Chatto & Windus / March 2015)
(Camouflage book covers are the New Thing!)
One Day in the Life of the English Language by Frank L. Cioffi; design by Chris Ferrante (Princeton University Press / March 2015)
The version of this cover which caught my eye was actually wordless — and I believe that was the designer’s original intention — so I’m a wee bit disappointed that the publisher didn’t quite have the courage to follow through on that.