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Collect Raindrops

23 Jul

Visit Nikki McClure’s website for more information about her art and projects.
Read an interview with Nikki McClure on Fecal Face Dot Com.

This is a beautiful book. It’s very simply designed and, like Contemporary New Zealand Photographers, makes fantastic use of the white space on each page to make each of the elements stand out.

It’s basically a collection of images cut from one piece of paper with a craft knife, and all the images express themes of sustainabilty, community and the environment. Colour is used sparingly with each image so that the black is really distinctive. Words are used sparingly as complements to the images and they’re set in a font that reflects the paper-cut nature of the images. So, like the kids’ picture books I’ve looked at, this book is really about achieving harmony between image and text and I think it’s done this well.

In terms of format, this is quite a large book, hardcover and not very thick. I think the large format works really well because it is after all an ‘art’ book: you need to have enough page space to show the images well. Plus, it’s the kind of book you’d want to have lying around to look at when and as you felt like it, rather than reading it so having it big works.

One touch I really like about this book is that the spine is clothbound, but not the rest of the cover.

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The God of Small Things

8 Jul

Look inside The God of Small Things on Amazon.

After having had a rant about the praise included in the inappropriate yellow box on the cover of Palestine, it’s only fitting that I should offer an example of a cover that includes praise in a way that I (in all my designerly wisdom) see fit. The gold medal does wonders: I know that I get sucked in by it (‘Oh look! That book has a medal … it must be good. I’ll buy it.’). The ‘New York Times Bestseller’ header discreetly adds to this. Bravo.

While I like the cover image itself (so perfect for the book), I won’t go into detail about it here.

If you look inside the book you can see that the short author bio page is followed by further praise for the book. I think this is a great way of using up the spare pages of a signature at the same time as reinforcing the medal and bestseller tagline on the cover.

I did find that this book had a lot of introductory pages for a novel – a dedication, a quote, acknowledgments, and a contents page, followed by a half-title. While I think it’s really effective to have  a quote or dedication on its own on a page because it lets it really speak for itself, I think you need to be careful not to have too much introductory matter. Having too much can take away from the impact you’re trying to create, as well as being just plain frustrating.

I’m still not sure I’m such a fan of centre-aligned contents pages. I know this was in keeping with the centre-alignment of all the introductory pages and the cover, but I find centred contents pages quite difficult to read. It’s kind of tricky for your eye to jump between lines of different lengths and try to find page numbers that are all at different positions as a result.

And, as a final point, I do like the detail of the little fish and squiggly header detail of the title page. Plus the font is a great choice, simple but also kind of exotic looking.

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.

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.

Where Your Left Hand Rests

28 May

This little book is the whole package design-wise, which makes it an absolute pleasure to read and even just to look at. For starters it’s the perfect size for a cute little poetry book: just big enough to snuggle into the palms of your hands. The cover under the dust-jacket is embossed (which I was unable to scan because it wouldn’t show up) with little floral details and is also slightly ‘puffy’ which adds to the soft and gently personality of the book in general.

The handmade, hand-stitched theme of the dust-jacket is one that is carried right through the book, from the dedications page to the chapter openings to the detailed spreads interspersed throughout. This attention to detail and to continuity of design makes this book as much of a desirable object as a desirable read, I believe.

I also think the font chosen is perfect – it’s simple and understated so that you don’t really even notice it’s there. I think the layout of the type is similar – there aren’t any fancy tricks (apart from the detailed lines above each poem’s title), just simple and easy-to-flow-with text.

Beatrix Potter Books

20 May

As with the My Little Golden Books, these books are a throwback to my childhood. The Tale of Tom Kitten was my favourite book when I was too little to read myself (but I insisted it be read to me so often that I ended up learning it word-for-word by heart anyway) and I still have a Peter Rabbit soft toy on my bed. But that has nothing to do with their design.

I’ve included them for the same reasons (again, aside from nostalgia) as I did the My Little Golden Books. They’re all designed according to a very recognisable template: you look at the cover of one, with its quaint little illustration, times new roman-y font and abundance of white background, and you know who it’s by. You know that it’s one of the Beatrix Potter collection. Each book has its own story, but in appearance and design they are all essentially same … and they haven’t even changed much from their first editions, as you can see with The Tale of Mrs Tiggywinkle I’ve included.

One thing I particularly like about the Beatrix Potter books is their endpapers. They reinforce that collection idea by including characters from all of her books (not just the one in your hands), and they’re the same in each book. They’re very pretty and I can remember enjoying pointing out and naming each character when I used to read these books. I’m a big fan of detail and of putting extra space to good use, so I do like to see interesting endpapers.