The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

August 24, 2016
by Dan

Art Installation

Tate Gallery

Tom Gauld for the New Scientist.

August 23, 2016
by Dan

The Great Discontent: Jean Jullien

Photo by Daniel Arnold

Photo by Daniel Arnold

Tammi Heneveld interviews London-based graphic artist Jean Jullien for The Great Discontent:

My parents definitely introduced me to a lot of culture. My dad was keen on French bandes dessinées (comic strips) and music, which probably had something to do with my brother becoming a musician later on. My mom was very interested in architecture, product design, and classic and modern art, which she introduced us to…

…I was always more focused on graphic design, but I ended up doing illustration in a convoluted way. I started using a brush pen to break free from working on a computer all of the time and to experiment creatively. I felt quite comfortable with it and could draw letters as well as characters. That’s when I realized that the practice of illustration and graphic design aren’t necessarily exclusive. I also discovered designers like Alan Fletcher, Saul Bass, and Paul Rand, whose work all had a great sense of playfulness and a tactile aspect that I was really fond of.

Modern Life, a compendium of Jullien’s best known work, will be published by teNeues next month.

modern life Jullien

August 22, 2016
by Dan

Bookworm: Tom McCarthy on Satin Island

satin island design john gall

Author Tom McCarthy talks to Bookworm about his latest novel Satin Island:

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The rather splendid cover for the US paperback edition published earlier this year by Vintage (pictured above) was designed by John Gall.

August 22, 2016
by Dan

“Remember Those Great Volkswagen Ads?”


Remember Those Great Volkswagen Ads? is a short documentary about the classic, highly influential ad campaigns created by Manhattan advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) for Volkwagen in the 1950s and 60s:

(via Kottke)

August 18, 2016
by Dan

Thank You for Sending Us Your Manuscript

New Yorker Manuscript

Edward Steed for The New Yorker.

August 18, 2016
by Dan

Welcome to The Last Bookstore

Welcome to The Last Bookstore is a short, inspiring documentary about Josh Spencer, owner and operator of The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles:

August 17, 2016
by Dan

The End of the Novel

End of the novel Tom Gauld

Tom Gauld for The Guardian.

Tom’s new graphic novel, Mooncop, will be published by D+Q next month.

August 16, 2016
by Dan
1 Comment

Paul Buckley Cover to Cover

Penguin Classics Cover to Cover

At Observer, Penguin creative director Paul Buckley, talks about his new book Classic Penguin: Cover to Cover. I particularly enjoyed this epic rant on designing covers for new books:

New books, this piece of writing, everything is riding on that new cover. Is the mood right? Does the imagery hint at what is going on in the text? Did you tell too much? Did you tell too little? Yes, it takes place in the winter, but we want it as a summer read, so try to avoid seasons; she would never dress like that, or maybe she would, but it makes an off-putting cover; I know everyone in the book dies – but that image is so depressing no one will buy it; is the author’s name prominent enough? The type has to be much, much larger. We understand the word has sixteen letters, make it larger. No, it can’t go sideways, people can’t read sideways. I know spines read sideways, that’s not the same. No, no it’s not, and no, this word cannot be broken. We realize the title is part of the problem, we know it’s confusing, we can’t change it. Ok, the type is too condensed; it’s ok if it goes smaller if we can get a nicer font. Have you tried it sideways? The author hates it sideways and is suggesting you try championing condensed 87, do you have that font? I don’t know who designed this, I think it was one of his students, he asked that we show it to “the art dept;” I know, I know, now I can at least say I did. It’s approved! Sales didn’t like the cover, we have to change it. Was it just one person? Bob, how many in sales disliked the cover? Oh, it was just Jim, he’s always out in left field, never mind, glad I asked. Or, yes it was just Sally, BUT she looooves this book. I know you did too, we all do, we still need a new cover by next Tuesday’s deadline. Huge chain “X” wont commit to this book with this cover, I know we all loved it maybe you can save it for something else, here are some suggestions from the buyer, at least they are trying to be helpful.

You can read my 2009 Q & A with Paul here, and my 2010 interview with Paul and Christopher Brand about their book Penguin 75 here.

August 15, 2016
by Dan

New Penguin Essentials

Embers design Gray318

The latest additions to Penguin’s ‘Essentials’ series, released this month, have some rather splendid new covers, including Jon Gray‘s wonderful design for Embers by Sandor Márai, Julian House’s typographic design (with echoes of Robert Brownjohn) for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and David Foldvari‘s illustrated design for How Many Miles to Babylon by Jennifer Johnston.


You can see more of the new Penguin Essentials covers, and read about the design process, at Design Week.

August 15, 2016
by Dan

David Carson: All For a Few Good Waves


If you’re not a fan of David Carson’s (in)famous design work, this video is unlikely to change your mind. It is hard, however, to shake the feeling that he’s having the last laugh…

Between this and William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days, the surf dad aesthetic is clearly having a moment.

(I have also just learnt that there is already a Canadian indie band — from landlocked Regina of course — called Surf Dads. Perfect.)

August 11, 2016
by Dan

Book Covers of Note August 2016

Back from vacation and back to the grind… August is traditionally a slow month in publishing, but that isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of great covers around at this time of year…

Ashes of Fiery Weather by Kathleen Donohoe; design Brian Moore (HMH / August 2016)

Behold the Dreamers design Jaya Micelij
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue; design by Jaya Miceli (Random House / August 2016)

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall; design by Alysia Shewchuck (House of Anansi / August 2016)

Book design David High
The Book by Keith Houston; design by David High (W.W. Norton / August 2016)

A Burglars Guide to the City design by Nayon Cho
A Burglar’s Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh; design by Nayon Cho (Farrar, Straus & Giroux / April 2016)

compartmentno6 design Kimberly Glyder
Compartment N0. 6 by Rosa Liksom; design by Kimberly Glyder (Graywolf Press / August 2016)

Comet Seekers design Chloe Giordano
The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick; design by Chloe Giordano (Harvill Secker / August 2016)

Cuckoo design Jack Smyth
Cuckoo by Keren David; design by Jack Smyth (Atom / August 2016)

Enter Title Here design Maria Elias
Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia; design by Maria Elias (Hyperion / August 2016)

Fire This Time design Na Kim
The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward; design by Na Kim (Scribner / August 2016)

The Hate Race by Maxime Beneba Clarke; design by Allison Colpoys (Hachette Australia / August 2016)

Inexperience design Alissa Dinallo
Inexperience and Other Stories by Anthony Macris; design by Alissa Dinallo (UWAP / August 2016)

Making Literature Now design Anne Jordan and Mitch Goldstein
Making Literature Now by Amy Hungerford; design by Anne Jordan and Mitch Goldstein (Stanford University Press / August 2016)

Impossible Modernism design Anne Jordan and Mitch Goldstein
Impossible Modernism by Robert S. Lehman; design by Anne Jordan and Mitch Goldstein (Stanford University Press / August 2016)

These two look rather nice side by side…

Marx 2020 design Daniel Gray
Marx 2020 by Ronaldo Munck; design by Daniel Benneworth-Gray (Zed / August 2016)

Nordic Theory design by Milan Bozic
The Nordic Theory of Everything by Anu Partanen; design by Milan Bozic (Harper / June 2016)

playing dead design Alison Forner
Playing Dead by Elizabeth Greenwood; design by Alison Forner (Simon & Schuster / August 2016)

pond design by Alex Merto
Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett; design by Alex Merto (Riverhead / July 2016)

The jacket art for Pond is apparently a detail from ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair’ by artist Margriet Smulders.

Radiance design Nathan Burton
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente; design & illustration by Nathan Burton (Corsair / August 2016)

Nathan’s design is a nice compliment to Will Staehle‘s cover for the US edition published by Tor Books last year:

Riverine design Kimberly Glyder
Riverine by Angela Palm; design by Kimberly Glyder (Graywolf / August 2016)

The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel; design by Allison Colpoys (Scribe / August 2016)

Tadunos Song design Chris Gale
Taduno’s Song by Odafe Atogun; design by Chris Gale (Canongate / August 2016)

Underground Airlines design Oliver Munday
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters; design by Oliver Munday (Mulholland Books / July 2016)

Underground Railroad design Oliver Munday
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead; design by Oliver Munday (Doubleday / August 2016)

YouDontHavetoLiveLikeThis Design by Jarrod Taylor
You Don’t Have to Live Like This by Benjamin Markovits; design by Jarrod Taylor (Harper / July 2016)

July 25, 2016
by Dan
1 Comment

Innovations for the Modern Novelist

innovations for the modern novelist Tom Gauld

Tom Gauld for The Guardian. Who needs people?

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