Archive | June, 2010

The Secrets of Pistoulet

23 Jun

This is kind of like a kids’ book for adults, which is why I’ve included it in this scrapbook. It’s really interactive – there are little recipe cards you can pull out, scrapbooky images, cute little hand-drawn illustrations and details around the pages.

It’s very much a gifty book. It comes in a little sleeve with a window cut into through which you can see a black and white image of a woman looking through. This design reflects the story of the book: it’s inviting you to take a peek into a magical and whimsical world of french country houses and comfort food.

The typesetting’s not always super-sleek but I think that’s OK for this book. It’s kind of quaint and personal feeling, so the images and the hand-drawn aspects of the design are its appeal.


The Exquisite Book

22 Jun

Visit The Exquisite Book Project website to read more about The Exquisite Book.
Read about designing the chapter openers on Book By Its Cover.
Find The Exquisite Book on the Chronicle Books website.

I stumbled across this gorgeous book on Book By Its Cover and it interested me in terms of book design for a few reasons.

The first was because it’s a collaboration between many artists (as opposed to being, like most books, the work of one author or artist).This collaboration is incorporated into the design – each chapter is a fold out of images that carry on from one to the other so that, even though the work of each artist is very distinct, it is still connected to the work of all the other artists in the book. While I really like this idea, I’m not so sure I’m a fan of the fold-out pages: I’ve had books which do a similar thing and usually end up getting frustrated and unintentionally ripping the pages when I try to fold them back into the book!

The second was because the chapter opening pages play with font and with individual letters in a way that I found really interesting. These pages use type as an illustration, so reading is not so important as how the words look as a final image. Again, I really like this (it’s very whimsical) but I’m such a practical person that I’m not sure I like chapter intros upon which you can’t even read the chapter title properly!

I think this book is a really good example of one that is very pretty (indeed, exquisite!) but not so functional. I think that a book can let itself down if it focuses too much on how it ‘looks’ and not enough on how it ‘reads’ (or interacts with the reader in terms of use) and vice versa.


22 Jun
See more of Listography and Music Listography on the Buy Olympia and Chronicle Books websites, and on Michael Gillette’s blog, Pencil Squeezing.
Visit the Listography Books website to see the whole range.

I love these books! I love books that encourage you to write on them, rip them, earmark their corners, spill food on them … in other words, books that encourage you to make your interaction with them a contribution to their design.

Their covers always reflect the internal design: hand-drawn, imperfect, very cute. You can’t really tell from the photos but they’re made of good, thick paper (like a nice journal) with thick cardboard covers, and they even have ribbons to keep your place. I love the detail – gorgeous, bright endpapers to contrast with the vintagey/creamy paper look of the cover and the lists inside.

Don’t forget the spine

22 Jun

See more of Coralie-Bickford Smith’s designs for Penguin on her website.
Read about Michael Gillette’s design of Ian Fleming’s James Bond Series on the Penguin Blog.
See more of Emma J Wallace’s Future Classics designs on the Faceout Books website.

The saying goes that we judge a book by its cover, but it’s fair to say we judge it by its spine before that. The spine is, after all, the first part of a book that we see before taking it off a bookshelf. And, while we may come across books discarded cover-up on a desk or a coffee table, when we’re buying them we’re generally going to be viewing them spine-first.

These are just some of my favourite spines. I love what Coralie Bickford-Smith has done with the clothbound Penguins. They’re all about collection, and looking pretty on the shelf. I like the way pattern is incorporated so that it features more strongly than the text (which, interestingly for a spine, is horizontal).

I like the Bond series because of the little silhouettes at the end of each spine – they’re so Bond and such a great detail!

The New Classics are ones that caught my eye because they’re such a simple design (the brown paper thing is great). Each spine has a ‘personality’ and they also fit really well together.

No One Belongs Here More Than You

20 Jun

Visit the No One Belongs Here More Than You website.

I’ve included the cover to this book because it exhibits a number of qualities I’ve already mentioned as being effective when it comes to cover design, namely the use of one bright colour plus black and white and a very simple aesthetic. I think it works! And I love the cover with the alternating colour in the font because I think it links all the different coloured covers together.

I’ve included the white cover with the girl face-down on a bed as a comparison to highlight the effect a cover has on how a book is perceived – whether people like to admit it or not, they totally judge books by their covers. The reaction to the cover with the girl on it is going to be different to the reaction to one of the other covers, and as a result, the kind of readers it might attract will be different (just as I talked about with the different My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead covers).

I’ve also started thinking about the importance of cover design when it comes to purchasing ebooks and pbooks online: the cover is the thumbnail we see on a website, so little details (like review quotes) become redundant and big, clear font and bright colours become really important. I don’t know how this consideration will affect cover design (or if it even will) but I think it’s really interesting to note how the whole ‘needing to catch someone’s eye from afar’ aspect of a cover is just as pronounced on a webpage as it is on a bookshelf. I think a cover like the yellow one here works well on both levels: it’s well designed, so it looks good; but it’s also not overcomplicated, so it’s easy for your eye to snag on. Hmmmm.

My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead

20 Jun

Browse inside My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead on the Harper Collins US Website.

I’ve included these covers as examples the same book covered for different markets. Each cover uses the same text (Jeffrey Eugenides’ name boldly emblazoned somewhere, plus a plug for Nabokov and Munro to attract all the readerly types, and a subtitle of ‘great love stories’ to attract everyone else) but work with it in very different ways and to very different effect.

I’m personally a fan of the black, white and gold cover: it’s simple and striking (as I already mentioned in my Nineteen Eighty-four entry, I think the black and white plus one colour combo for book covers is a hard one to get wrong). It captures the whimsical yet slightly ominous nature of the book, which is a collection of love stories that are sad and happy and sometimes neither.

And then, they somehow managed to make what was a perfectly pretty cover putrid. OK, that might be strong language, but I am so not a fan of the purple, blue and gold edition (which I own and which upsets me. It’s even worse on crummy cardboard). I get that the whole colour thing is a matter of taste, and even culture (hence the different colours for different markets thing that a couple of the designers who came and spoke to us mentioned) but I just don’t think those three colours used work together at all.

The other two covers are ones I could take or leave. But, personal preference aside, I think that the image they give off is really interesting to consider. They’re all packaging exactly the same stories, but each cover gives quite a different message.

I feel like the one with the anatomical heart is very, well, anatomical. But I do think the soft colour use and the unobtrusive font help to moderate what could be an otherwise somewhat off-putting image. And I like the idea behind the image – that all the different authors are dealing with and analysing a different experience of the human heart. However, it’s an image you need to stop and look at to get the full meaning of, and I’m not sure if many people would do so. So, in terms of catching interest (which is what a book cover’s supposed to do, right?), I’m not one hundred percent convinced that this cover does its job.

The fourth cover with the paper heart is one I think delivers its message very quickly and effectively. To me it says: ‘scholarly book (maybe like something you’d be given to read in high school), well respected, probably written by someone well known and already read by lots of people’. Which isn’t hugely interesting, I’ll admit, but it isn’t intimidating or off-putting either.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

15 Jun

This cover is another example of one that has no title or author and that uses instead a quote as the typographic element. It’s a very clean and simple design and I especially like the hyphenation of ‘extraordinary’ which not only avoids an unbalanced look but also emphasises the ‘extra-‘ part of the word. Looking at this cover, I can almost hear someone saying in an old-fashioned English accent ‘extraordinary personal beauty’. I think it’s an excellent use of typography, expressing a huge amount with apparently little (just words and a blue background).

This cover raises all the same questions as the Nineteen Eighty-four one designed by gray318 about how well known a book and author needs to be before you can consider taking the risk of including neither on the cover. I think it works again here as the quote chosen is so recognisable. But even if you didn’t recognise it, you’d probably be intrigued and take a look inside …

Where you’d find the magazine-like layout which I love! In terms of readability, I don’t know how great the layout would be (I can imagine getting a bit annoyed and losing the thread between pulled-out quotes and jumping from columns to no columns) but, my, does it look cool. I think it’s a great example of a classic book being repackaged in a way that makes it something new and different: it’s not just Oscar Wilde’s novel Dorian Gray, it’s the story reinterpreted and articulated by the designer (in this case, John Morgan for Four Corners Books). I think what’s neat about it is the way the internal design is commenting on the content.