As summer turns to fall, let’s take a look at Type 1 fonts, a library index, revolutionary posters, posters for “get lectured,” and two different photography contests. Let’s get right into it.
Adobe discontinues a standard: The Type 1 font
Back in the early days of desktop publishing — up to about the turn of the century, give or take — everything typographic used PostScript, a programming language by Adobe. (Other stuff, too, like Adobe’s vector program, Illustrator.) PostScript fonts were the so-called “Type 1” variety, made up of a bitmapped “suitcase” that housed the standard display sizes and an outline file used by the output device to print clean, what-you-see-is-what-you-get beauty.
Companies from Apple to Microsoft didn’t want Adobe to hold a monopoly on output tech, so later fonts evolved into TrueType and then OpenType, the latter of which is the standard today.
So much so that Adobe has now discontinued Type 1, and they, along with Microsoft, have stopped being supported. Which is understandable and yet a shame: some of us still have hundreds of them.
It’s Nice That has a post that reminds us of a library’s central purpose: to leave knowing more than you did when you entered. “The library, in our shared public imagination, is a special place,” the author argues — reminding us of what libraries were established to do, often distinctly different from the modern reality (especially in the United States).
In the library you begin to be convinced that language matters, that words have the power to clarify, to rouse, to make us feel something, to help us understand the political and cultural features of historical and contemporary moments.
Lola Olufemi, It’s Nice That
All the Libraries in London does something artistic with a simple listing, elevating it, reminding us how compelling the ideal that libraries represent really is:
This is a political and artistic listing, one that invites the reader to rediscover their own memories of their local library as a site of discovery. The book’s authors invite us to reflect on our personal relationship to libraries as well as the necessity of collectively securing their future existence.
Lola Olufemi, It’s Nice That
We need more of this everywhere, but especially here in the States. Meanwhile, check out this great item at It’s Nice That.
Special Bonus #2: British book designer Steve Leard has launched a new book design podcast, Cover Meeting, featuring interviews between Leard and fellow book designers on the work, the industry, and more. The Bookseller has more.
Cuban Movie Posters. No, Really.
While we’re on the subject of great posters — and It’s Nice That — let’s talk about how Cuba’s revolution-era political posters transformed their poster design for films. Appropriately enough, a new film, El Cartel Cubano, highlights these amazing (and, likely, never seen before) items.
“How come our posters in the US aren’t this beautiful? What did this say about the priorities of the revolution? What did the medium or choices in the scarcity of materials used say about the economic situation in Cuba?” It’s these questions which form the bedrock of El Cartel Cubano, a fascinating and tender tribute to the artists on the island.
Going to soapbox a little here: pay-to-enter photo contests aren’t usually something I want to spread the word about. So ArchDaily‘s basically-a-press-release, “URBAN Photo Awards 2023 has announced its list of Finalist Photographers, marking the penultimate stage of the international contest,” was guaranteed a pass.
But there’s a problem: some of the photographs are really compelling.
The August heat is met with some refreshingly cool items for you this time: beloved movies reimagined as vintage paperbacks, graphic design on the Internet Archive, and winners of the 2023 iPhone photography awards. Plus, a bit on social media that hopefully won’t leave an aftertaste. Let’s dig in.
I don’t always link to these contests — it often seems like the publicity (and rights!) are all about the folks holding the contest rather than the people entering them — but I often look, and am always impressed with the quality coming out of a “simple” iPhone.
And while both of the above are (relatively) recent phones, in the latter case showing the macro capabilities of an iPhone 12 Pro Max, even older phones can highlight the talent of the person using it:
I’m not going to spend much time on this; I eschewed pretty much all forms of social media years ago now, and don’t regret it. That said, I do keep up with social media in the meta sense (a word that’s been stolen, as far as I’m concerned, by — wait for it — a social media company), and have noted the pain and concern associated with the implosion of Twitter.
While this conversation started with Nick Heer and the always-excellent Pixel Envy, it’s obviously evolved as the year has seen one extraordinary cage fight event after another.
For the past decade, It’s been all but required for serious brands to maintain a social media presence […] yet instead of scrambling to claim digital real estate across all these newly emerging platforms, some companies are choosing to be more judicious about which platforms they choose to join. In some cases, they’re learning from brands who jumped the social media ship years ago.
Chris Stokel-Walker, BBC
The quote above, from the BBC, attempts to answer the question, “Why your favourite brand may be taking a social media break.” Short answer: it’s complicated. I’d argue there’s an even shorter answer — it’s smart! — but for people and brands that aren’t yet established, social media is often key to discoverability.
This may be especially true for artists, designers, photographers, and others in the self- and small-business-employed creative field. Indeed, let’s go to a great source for those in the arena, Creative Boom, who recently spent a minute asking, “Creatives are saying social media is over… so what next?”
Like any new craze, it was fun for a while. But there’s certainly nothing new about it any more. Facebook’s now been around for almost two decades. Twitter’s 17 years old. Even Instagram has reached its teens. And while many of us joined these platforms during their fun, “anything goes” eras, when everything was about the users, now it’s all about the algorithms and their use to make venture capitalists vast amounts of money.
Tom May, Creative Boom
While I agree that social media is a mess and has been for a while, I’m absolutely not going to tell you to give it up — only to remind you that I have given it up and continue to be completely okay with the decision.
I do want to ask you, though, to choose wisely:
Enough said. Turn off the computer, go forth, and enjoy a beautiful summer’s day.
If you’re in or going to be going to Columbus anytime soon, I cannot recommend it highly enough. The food was superlative, the service excellent, and the ambiance simultaneously upscale, casual, and fresh.
The second — and no less tasty — stop was the Ma Rainey Museum of the Blues. This period house downtown is small but demonstrates a remarkable comeback from the (literal) wreckage they started with in the ’90s. I’d originally wanted to return to the Columbus Museum, but it’s being renovated; Gerald’s suggestion here was pitch-perfect.
Inside, Gerald and I enjoyed a lengthy conversation with Xavier, a guide who was knowledgeable and enthusiastic; he absolutely made us want to explore more blues history. (I’m also going to be listening to some Ma Rainey on Tidal.)
Meanwhile, gallery of Columbus photographs is deep and varied, spanning almost fifteen years and 180 items — check it out.
The mission for these posts is simple: independent, unrelated items which add up to something interesting. This time, it’s nifty type, aka NFTy.pe, photographic AI (or not), the 2023 Logo Trends Report, great London Review of Books illustrations, and a worthy art book list hijacked for a rant on stickers. Boom!
Better Than it Sounds: NFTy.pe
Typefaces have become, from this designer’s point of view, become commodities — perhaps even part of a broken system. Most clients don’t have a budget for unique type, there are too many spread across too many different sites, and, as Creative Boom puts it, “ownership has become poorly policed, if not non-existent.”
NFType really flips the script on all of that and attempts to reimagine the industry from creation to sale. In a nutshell, NFTy.pe uses a combination of modular type design and generative scripts to create fonts with unique visual attributes. The upshot is that no two character sets are exactly the same. And thanks to smart contracts and embedded metadata, ownership is quick and easy to verify.
— Craig Ward, NFTy.pe creator, via Creative Boom
As pointed out, it’s not just for type users:
There’s a lot of work to be done to put some distance between the dumpster fire that represents much of the NFT space and projects – like this one – with actual utility. I wouldn’t vouch for the worth of a lot of what I’ve seen out there, but the underlying tech – the smart contracts themselves – [is] actually genius and will be a game changer for any industry where provenance is a key factor – agriculture, property, fashion etc.
This year has been centered around AI, it seems — and, as illustrations go, some of the results are indeed a new form of art. Take this one posted by Dezeen as part of their AItopia competition:
Fantastic. Its creator, a production technician in the prefabricated housing industry, deserves major kudos for describing something to the Midjourney engine that’s intricate and, if I dare use the term with AI, creative. (Several of the images there are excellent — check ’em out.)
That said, I’m not a fan of articles like PetaPixel‘s recently-posted “Photographers May Have to Embrace AI, Whether They Want To or Not.” Simply put: no. I don’t have to embrace it, because nothing has changed — either I can get the photograph I want using the cameras and lenses I have or I can’t. I’m not going to “generate the fill,” pure and simple. (I don’t control the computational photography my phone produces, but Apple isn’t prone to creating what isn’t there.)
I’ve been trying to write on this subject for a while, without success. Possibly because I don’t need a longer version of the above paragraph, possibly because it’s something else I haven’t been able to articulate yet — even to myself.
The 2023 Logo Trends Report
It’s back! BrandNew points us to the latest in styles and, as advertised on the tin, trends:
Always an interesting read, including this fantastic tidbit directly related to the previous section:
“Don’t worry about AI stealing your job. To replace graphic designers with AI, clients will need to accurately describe what they want. We’re safe.”
— Bill Gardner, LogoLounge
Read the full report, “a whirlwind of ideas, symbols, and AI, evolving how creators like us create,” at LogoLounge.
Illustrations at the London Review of Books
Because we cover books here often (pun intended), an article on Jon McNaught’s awesome illustrations for the London Review of Books absolutely caught my eye. “A collaborative relationship,” it’s called — and the results produced not only illustrate a huge variety of subjects in a consistent style, but do so in a way that delights:
Since 2011, Jon has been collaborating with the renowned literary journal, creating works that have a quietly mesmerising quality. His scenes breed comfort with their universality, but also their ability to evoke specific memories and feelings in the individual viewer. Through his covers, Jon artfully captures the essence of everyday life by representing the vastly contrasting nature of British weather, plus the uniqueness of London’s architecture, green spaces and public transport.
As usual, whenever I see something like this, I’m going to do something else at the same time: mine it for potentially great book design. Which, if you’ll indulge, leads to this short rant: I hate good covers marred by stickers.
Solid cover. Soooo, who’s Jenna? Is she important enough to mar the cover with? (I DuckDuckGo’d the answer: maybe … if you watch television. Not sure that’s the audience publishers should want to cater to.)
Another solid cover — perhaps even really good, something that’s appropriate for a title up for the National Book Award. Real shame, then, that the sticker gets in the way, winding up completely distracting from the very nice circular title treatment (I’m sorry I don’t know either book designer to list here.)
I understand that it’s a little like trying to hold back the tide with a shovel, but it’s something I needed to express. [/rant]
Bonus #2 (amazing):Via Kottke, a fantastic poster and perhaps better question:
A book festival. During a war. In a city under martial law. While schools and legislatures here in the US ban books about Black and LGBTQ+ experiences based on bad faith complaints of tiny fundamentalist parent groups. Tell me, who’s doing democracy better right now?
— Jason Kottke, Kottke.org
That’s all for early July, folks. Go forth and make your summer a better place.
Lettuce first apologize for not having an update in a minute, but I’m going to try to make up for it with this word salad delicious selection of items I’ve been setting aside: ABCD book design, impossible book design, some thoughts on DPReview, Architecture in Music, Hoefler’s typographic illusions, and, because you deserve it, the Great Wave in 1-bit. Enjoy.
Book Design #1: ABCD
“Winner of All Winners,” says The Academy of British Cover Design (ABCD):
“Pearson’s design was judged to be the best book design to have won an ABCD award in its decade-long history,” says The Bookseller.
Meanwhile, their “Best of 2022” list included several I named as well, along with a few I hadn’t seen. The illustration that is the cover design for this young adult title, for instance:
Out There fills its “wonderfully weird” billing incredibly well, too:
Alas, the US version:
I often discuss UK covers when they’re pointed out somewhere, but as a general rule, my book design coverage, for lack of a better term, is US-based. Some other time, I do want to discuss why the UK covers are, generally, better than their US counterparts — as the above illustrates.
Anyway, read Design Week‘s excellent article on those and all the Academy of British Cover Design winners of 2022.
Bonus: I ran across Penguin Galaxy’s 2016 version of an Ursula Le Guin title I’ve got on my read-that-someday list — and love the cover design:
The Eyes & the Impossible the first-ever book to be published in two editions, for two readerships, and from two publishers: Knopf has one, in standard form, for the young adult audience.
The other one, however…:
Yes, that’s an illustration showing through laser-cut bamboo, with a glimpse at the red cloth spine. There’s no way to summarize this design story in a way that does it justice, so just go to PRINT and read the whole article. Great stuff.
Photography #1: DPReview Shuttering
Digital Photography Review, long known as just DPReview, is being shut down. Started in 1998 by Phil Askey, it’s currently part of Amazon and is arguably the internet’s leading camera database — with over a thousand reviews of cameras, lenses, and related items, 24,000 articles, some 2.7 million comments, and more.
Perhaps most valuable, and something that will be missed by many, is their large selection of galleries: lenses and cameras, all in a way that can be compared side-by-side, an invaluable tool for those looking to purchase a new toy essential item for their photography bag.
Askey, who left in 2010 (three years after the Amazon acquisition) blasted Amazon’s short-sightedness:
I meant to write about this long before now, but there’s an interesting thing commenting more than a month later: they’re still there. Like many corporate decisions these days (ahem, Twitter), something changed — but it doesn’t matter. The damage has been done, foot shot, whatever. The reporters have moved on, the articles have slowed to a trickle, and updates have been greeted with skepticism.
What a shame.
Photography #2: Architecture in Music
I somehow didn’t write on this one last time I saw it — so when a new series was covered by This is Colossal, there’s no way it wasn’t going to be celebrated here:
Recognize it? No? How about this one:
Charles Brooks, a twenty-plus-year overran of orchestras around the world and a cellist since childhood, has taken a probe lens and put it inside some of the world’s amazing instruments. The results are magical:
See many more here (2023) and here (2022). (See also this post’s header image, “Siete Lunas’ Guitar by Roberto Hernandez.”)
Hoefler & Co. points us at necessary illusions in typography:
Highlighted on Netflix’s Abstract: The Art of Design, these “cheats” show us that letterforms are so much more than just shapes drawn to stylize characters.
Since a number of people who teach design have suggested that we manufacture these for use in the classroom, I thought I’d take the more direct approach, and make them available as a free download, as a PDF that can be printed on transparencies. Whether you’re teaching typography, studying it, or just giving letters a closer look for the first time, I hope you’ll find these useful.
From book design and minimalist photography to … well, book design and what absolutely isn’t minimalist photography, plus some street signs and another warning about Adobe. Let’s dig in.
Book Design #1: People Really Do Judge a Book by its Cover
From University College Cork — that’s Ireland, folks — we have something that, on the surface, seems obvious: a book cover“is the most likely factor to convince a person to read a book if they are unfamiliar with the work or its author.” Maria Butler, a PhD candidate in the School of English and Digital Humanities at UCC, reminds us why.
You’re reading Foreword, so you likely agree — and shown above is one of those worth-a-thousand-words images: the first of the 2023 titles I’ve set aside for my favorites of the year, and absolutely something good enough to make me pluck it off the shelf without knowing anything about either the title or author.
This project not only scores with great web design — check the interactive version of the book, pictured above — but what also seems like great book design. It’s a Kickstarter project (or will be, next month), so the usual cautions apply, but I might just go ahead and take the leap.
Couple of interesting book design items, by the way: the TOC is at the back, the endpapers are awesome, and the macro photography is tops. The book design reminds me of The Playmakers, still my favorite book design project ever.
The Minimalist Photography Award is the only foundation that deals extensively and professionally with minimalist photography as a branch of photography in which the photographic artistic vision takes the lead.
Milad Safabakhsh, President of Minimalist Photography Awards
Direct quote, just because: “A man with three legs, a vintage car scaling a building, and an unsettling formation of people donning bird masks are a few of the scenarios highlighted in the terrifically bizarre Wonders of Street View.”
I didn’t know it was a thing to dress up and pose for the Google cameras. Perfect.
Street Sign Style Guide
Speaking of street views, did you know there’s a style guide for highway signs? Would you believe that I’m a fan?
From DPReview: “If you’re an Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber, you might want to go and turn off a new setting immediately. It’s been discovered that Adobe has automatically opted users into a ‘Content analysis’ program that allows Adobe to analyze your media files […] for use in its machine learning training programs.”
It’s important to note that Adobe only uses the files saved in the “Creative Cloud,” something I don’t do as a matter of course, but even still, this is yet another example of Adobe using its monopoly position in the creative field to take advantage of its paying customers.
Adobe, unsurprisingly, didn’t return DPReview’s request for a comment/clarification.
Just like last year, this post took longer than expected due to the best possible circumstance: there were so many great book cover designs in 2022 that I had a hard time whittling down the list. Even as it is, we’re busting right through last year’s limit of 50. Good times!
If we take a step back and look at the trends this years’ favorites represent, it’s more and better illustration, custom and hand-painted type, and a sense of a single focus — one, dominant thing on a field of color. Also, the trend of fewer photographs continues — more evidence that photography has become so ubiquitous that something different is required to stand out. (Or, of course, a really great photograph.)
Please remember that these are my favorites — others might say “best,” but I’ve been in this business long enough to know that there’s always another great title you haven’t seen or read about, and I don’t want to disrespect any of the great book designers not on this list. I’ve tried to include design credit where I could (special thanks to the folks who answered emails with that information), and I wish to stress that any mistakes in the list below (incorrect attribution, for instance) are mine.
Note: If you’re on Foreword’s main page, please click on the post title, above, to view this list. You’ll get larger covers for your viewing pleasure.
My favorite book covers for 2022 (Three-way tie):
How to be Eaten combines an aged look, just a smidgen of pencil sketch, hand-drawn type, and those eyes to create something that just goes beyond. I’m certain the background wolf and creases are real, too, either photographed or scanned — bonus points for that all-too-rare practical effects — and all this in what amounts to two colors. Simply awesome.
The Book of Goose defies use of the words “art form” — it’s the kind of cover that for many designers would be once-in-a-career good. However, Na’s work appears below, was here last year, and speaks to Na’s creativity being, well, a golden goose that just keeps on giving.
Simply put: there’s literally nothing about The Illusion of Simple that isn’t perfect. J’adore.
Other 2022 favorites, in alphabetical order:
This is striking not only for the beautifully-photographed woman in the pool, but the way the pool is extended out to make that woman even more striking. The pattern overlay is fantastic, too.
There’s nothing about this not to like: the frankly perfect illustration on a great background color, the head through the “O,” subtitle censorship bar, the sock, even the title. Enjoy-a-cigarette-after good.
Bunch of aged books with a little type, right? Yes, by so much more: striking colors, great hand-done supplementary text, perfect title treatment, style in spades.
This is a UK cover — the American one is okay, but not on this list — that celebrates a minimalism that is rarely seen, let alone so well seen.
What’s not to say about this cover? While faceless women are perhaps overused, this is a book I’d snatch off the shelf — and seemly catch something from — in an instant. Well. Done.
As simple illustrations go, this one in on track for the city of Superlative. Another Oliver Munday classic.
Along with “faceless woman” is “headless woman,” but the illustration here more than makes up for it. But it’s the expert, almost laugh-out-loud use of a void that makes it. Well done.
Sure, the title and background colors are neat, the sky outside is cool, and “a novel” is a nice, subtle addition. However: I want to know how this photograph happened. (And a waffle hot dog.)
The first of a couple of titles with unexpected wrap-around type treatments, this one has great type choices, too. But the real treat for me is the plane knocked out the photograph. Fantastic.
This title hides a secret: under the simple and wonderfully-die-cut jacket is a beautiful photo from René Groebli’s photoessay The Eye of Love.
Awesome. (Note that, once again, we celebrate the UK version of the book; the US hardcover has a design not on this list. Crumpets.)
The moon as O. The birds. The graduation from fur to imagery. The yellow. Any would be good on their own, but are great together. Have to say: I’ve seen this in multiple shades of yellow. I prefer the darker — closer to the Barnes title, above — to the lighter, shown here.
The typography, awesome little plane — the purse(r)! — the clouds, all of it: sky-high levels of good.
Interestingly, Fight Night‘s cover also had a 2021 version worthy of note:
I can’t begin to imagine what caused the redesign, or why it wound up being so radically — 180 degree! — different. The old design wound up on some “best covers” lists (here’s LitHub’s October 2021 post, for instance); both have wound up on mine.
The bird exiting the scene stage right makes this just right, with bonus points for the textured paper and slightly-rounded sans serif. I think the illustration is perfect — classically done, one could say — and also love that “author of Want” is in a different font.
Four Treasures to the Sky, mentioned in the May book cover design roundup, leaps into the best-of-the-best list. It features an aged look, but in a woodblock way that celebrates its limited palette. Add in the illustration’s interactions with the type and the vertical “a novel” — often an afterthought — and brilliance emerges.
As photomontages go, this one is simple — yet simply powerful: red Albania meets (and hugs!) beheaded Stalin. Great choices.
The quality of type and decorations on this “label” are beyond outstanding. This cover is candy for book design lovers and readers alike.
From It’s Nice That, we have a nice feature on Alex Merto — whose Ghost Wall cover is a great example of plant life adding so much more: “the force of a river to the head,” to paraphrase Emma Donoghue’s quote. Plus, one color! Win.
Nine parts awesome: type and illustration join to light a fire under the words “quality” and “imagination.” (Have I mentioned that I love a textured paper? Here’s a different one that’s also great.) This is one of several titles that’s not only a great book cover, but on a bunch of “best book” lists, too. Great books should have cover equal to their contents, and this one scores.
This isn’t here because of the attention Ukraine deserves these days, it’s here because of that illustration. Brilliant design needn’t be complicated, so ably proved here.
I mentioned at the top of the post that, these days, photographs have to bring something special to the table to stand out. And this cover does, from any table in any bookstore anywhere. (Lovely typography choices here, too.)
One trend I didn’t mention at the top of the article is the montage-in-type, done here to absolute perfection.
The woman in looking off the edge of the page at … something looking back. (Not only that, whatever it is casts a shadow.) The book is described as “subtle yet candid,” something that could equally be said about this brilliant cover.
Another UK cover, this image doesn’t show the uncoated stock and debased type — but does show the jump-off-the-shelf color choices and awesome interaction of title with background. (The US cover, alas, resorted to stereotype. Perhaps we aren’t sophisticated enough?)
Choose a interesting texture, put some blocks of color on it, some type and … done. Hah! (Seriously, just look at the hands: they say it all.) Bonus to the hints of doily in heaven.
The wrap-around title treatment makes another appearance here, with bonus second and third layers and a perfectly-done pull quote. With the aged ink fill and type accenting the striking illustration, this one is in that “wall-worthy” category.
On our second Ukrainian title, both flower and umbrella work together here to force us to stop and look. (The stenciled type is a brilliant stroke, too.) Proof that genius often appears simple.
The montage, taken to the next level: Jaffa, orange exports, and an healthy serving of emotion. (Also: curved text is rarely so on-target.)
So simple, yet it is precisely that reaching off the shelf, grabbing your attention. This book is described as “spare and monumental,” and no less can be said of the cover.
“Texture is key,” sure, but there’s texture and there’s this. The island’s brush strokes into what seem like a moon are whatever happens beyond perfection. I didn’t expect this cover for a novel about Pakistan, yet the emotion, the … evocation is perfect.
Apple? Tongue? Misfit teenager? Disturbed and distressed? Yes.
Rarely are such seemingly “dry” subjects treated with such skill: the angled type set against an urgent red, the subtitle sticker-that’s-better, and the photo choices add up to something I’d grab off a shelf immediately.
LitHub says this one has a very high “hang on the wall” factor. I can’t think of a better description — great stuff.
Na Kim just can’t help but design the best covers: a wonderful, antique background complimented by sheer brilliance. (Great typography, too.)
It’s nigh-on impossible to look at this cover and not flip it around to read the text trisecting the leopard. Take something simple, add the elusive more, get this. Yeah.
Another fantastic example of plants adding more than the sum of their parts. The mottled green background and watercolor-style falloff is perfectly complimentary. Great stuff.
From the Banned Books Department, we have the 20th Anniversary edition of this difficult title rendered in a photo-based collage that’s nothing short of brilliant. Highest praise.
Very nearly the perfect black-and-white cover. Texture and shape combine with an incredible title treatment in a way that shrugs off the need for color. Fantastic.
I’ve said before that moving to the South was a bit of a shock — the racism still all-too-evident jars all-too-often. This cover takes a simple, elegant idea and, without any of the stereotypes so often reached for, delights with style and simplicity, absolutely earning its spot in this list. (This is another of those titles that’s on many “best of” book lists, too. It’s a genuine pleasure to see worthy books get great covers.)
“Wow” is the only word here — a stunner of a photograph used in, if I may borrow from the cover, a breathtaking way. Simple, elevated to exquisite.
Never mind that I never knew Cary Grant was once a stilt walker (or named Archie Leach), this is an exercise in using a famous face in an innovative way, with a cast of supporting characters that flow as naturally as lines on paper. A trip through the possible — fantastically well-done.
Fantastic type and color treatments, yes, but it’s the way the photograph is handled that shines: where the eyes are, the color treatment implying front and side, all of it. A 2016 book reissued in hardcover with a cover guaranteed to attract new readers.
This cover is the antithesis of a swelled, salted herring: it’s brisk, to the point (if I do say so), and throws a life ring out to inspire book designers everywhere.
Brilliant: actual text, printed (on a great color paper, too), with actual string, photographed on said print. Not only is it exactly right for the subject matter, it’s simply and beautifully done.
Never mind the great brushed color blocks or boat-rowing-the-ocean above the title. This is here mainly for the overlap between color and island: shortlisted for the prize for intersection-of-the-year.
“I’ll just do a little cropping,” designers say. Then there’s … genius.
Another piece of art that’s absolutely wall-worthy — actually by the author’s mother — complimented by a tasteful type treatment with a wonderfully-offset “poems.”
“Great” can’t even begin to describe this cover — from the lemon shape, staggered type, green background, back-of-head portrait, to the slightly-aged treatment, we have ingredients that add up to that highest of achievements: a book I’d buy knowing nothing about, no hype [machine] needed.
Classical painting with a singularity. Sure. So easily pulled off … if you’re John Gall.
The title treatment is the winner here, using two translucent shades of orange to the best possible effect — taking a nice painting/illustration to the top floor.
Describing this cover as “haunting” would be a cheat — but completely accurate. (Love the line of type down the right side, too.)
The rare type-only treatment … taken to an entirely new level. Fantastic.
A triumph of textures: one matchbook you never want to throw away.
Breaks through more than water and time: it’s thrust into your memory. (See a note from the designer at LitHub’s cover reveal.)
One of only two text-only treatments in this list, done in a ’70s style — yet taken to a clever and impressive level. (Love the stacked “lls.”)
I adore how the type and frankly fantastic illustration work together here. Wonderful!
Cookbooks rarely make an appearance on “best book covers” lists — yet this one earns its spot with an antithesis-of-the-stereotype approach. Ordinary it is not, in the best possible way.
Another UK version — the US version is good, more than most even, but it’s this one that shines with its great photo choices, cut lines, and great type treatment.
This one’s a two-fer, with the UK version, above, showing the book-edge treatment done really well, while the US version…
…takes it to another level. Is there such a thing as a cloud globe? Or is that one of those old-fashioned stock-ticker covers? Either way, the subtle pattern — in front in some places, receding in others — adds a wonderful touch. Great stuff. (Great, too, to see the US version take one: a rare treat.)
Bellevue Literary Press scores a win here, with something immediately recognizable as about music, yet so much more. Performance art, indeed.
Note: I originally attributed this title to Yale University Press instead of Bellevue Literary Press. I regret the error.
Na Kim apparently not only did the design but the illustration, as well. The rest of us can only aspire to that level of talent.
This illustration being in grayscale is, at first, a little off. But, of course, that’s exactly the point. I overuse “brilliant,” but it’s the best description. (Again, see a note from the designer at LitHub‘s cover reveal.)
Family epics, climate change, dystopian futures, and Moon — all somehow included in this rich illustration. Two-color greatness. (Bonus: Another great use of “a novel,” something often “meh.”)
A standout historical photograph is only the beginning: it’s really the coloration that’s the story here, for both book and cover — so well done.
Among the best book cover illustrations ever, perfectly inserted into the seatback in front of you. (Great Circle’s cover was in last year’s list, by the way.)
There’s something about underwater photography, with its beautiful, soft light and fascinating reflections, that is evocative — and there’s nothing about this photograph that isn’t evocative. A triumph.
• • •
Whew. Seventy great book covers. 70!
Okay, let’s summarize: 2022’s crop of favorite covers not only surpass 2021’s, the quality of work here represent what I believe to be a new standard. To all the designers — and art directors that chose them — congratulations.
This time, it’s three automotive logos . . . and Mercedes’ accounting department, plus a holiday bonus. Joy to the Auto!
New Audi Logo Falls Flat
Audi’s “Four Rings” have been around for a long time — since Auto Union was formed, ninety years ago:
Now Audi follows the pack (see VW, Mini, Volvo, etc.) and converts their logo from three-dimensional to two; the rings now are either white and framed by a thin black border or dark grey with black borders.
Not an improvement, IMHO. One of the articles mentions the concept of “a consequence of digitalization,” and think that’s about as good a description as you’re gonna get.
The change will roll out starting with the updated Q8 e-tron — which, thankfully, still looks good:
Okay, it’s not really — it’s a conceptual sculpture, titled “Pu+Ra Zero,” that represents their rebirth:
They call it a “a three-dimensional manifesto,” and no, I don’t get it either. (The light signatures and, apparently, the circular sunroof will carry through to the new models, however.) The logo, their eighth in 116 years, is new as well:
I didn’t know Lancia well (only in passing? Eh. —Ed.) until the famous Top Gearsegment naming them “the Greatest Car Manufacturer of All Time,” although I knew of the Delta Integrale — and think that the Fulvia is one of the prettiest sedans ever:
Let’s hope their new models, and conversion to an all-electric manufacturer, lives up to their past achievements. Meanwhile, The Autopian has the best roundup of the new Lancia.
Kia, KN, and … Wait, What?
30 thousand folks a year are doing Google searches for “the KN car.” Why? Kia’s logo, of course:
I’m not a huge fan of the new Kia logo — and can absolutely see the “KN problem” — but I think it speaks more to modern society that this is a news item than anything related to graphic design. Willing to be wrong.
Mercedes: $1200/yr for Full Output
This subscription thing has gotten seriously out of hand: Mercedes-Benz USA, in an effort to further bilk their customers — ’cause, y’know, MBs don’t cost enough — has decided that the last 60-110 horsepower available on their 2023 electric vehicles are only available for a yearly fee.
This time, art from old encyclopedias, architectural art, and an appeal to add art to your post-holiday shopping and giving plans.
Books as Art — In a Different Way
Cara Barer says, “Books, physical objects and repositories of information, are being displaced by zeros and ones in a digital universe with no physicality. Through my art, I document this and raise questions about the fragile and ephemeral nature of books and their future.”
It’s more than that, though:
As This is Colossal puts it: “With cracked spins and crinkled pages, the manipulated objects reference the relationship between the natural and human-made as they evoke flowers at peak bloom.”
As a book designer, I’m glad that the titles used aren’t something a designers labored over but rather mostly instruction manuals and old encyclopedias. Either way, they’re a beautiful way to make commentary.
“Photographic escapades in arcades and colonnades”
Few scenes set my photographic heart aflutter as does the view down a long covered walkway towards a distant, barely visible vanishing point. As a self-confessed symmetry addict drawn to architectural images in black and white, photographing these vistas scratches a deep creative itch.
Keith James, MacFolios
His article is well-illustrated, informative, and speaks to my heart: I love a good arcade — although, in some cases, I feel like an entry or exit makes the point:
This is not the first time I’ve admired Keith’s work. His “Architecture Meets Sculpture in Black and White: the Interplay of Light and Form” was great work. Both articles are highly recommended.
For those of you in the United States, this weekend is the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s also that most American of traditions: a shopping weekend. I have spent recent years boycotting Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and am encouraged by the emergence of Giving Tuesday. Here’s something to add to that list:
Photographer Chris Sherman developed the concept of “Artists Sunday” in 2019, after noticing a bump in sales on that day in November. “The idea struck,” Sherman told Hyperallergic. “What a great time to patronize artists — during the busiest shopping weekend of the year.”
In 2020, Sherman launched the project alongside Cynthia Freese, a fellow artist who has also spent extensive time on the boards of arts nonprofits. On a dedicated website, Sherman and Freese provide artists and arts organizations with free marketing materials to promote the event. Now in its third year, over 4,000 artists and more than 600 towns and cities across the country have signed onto the initiative, which takes advantage of special events and partnerships (with nonprofits, individual artists, and businesses) to spread the message.
As most of you know, I’m not a huge fan of photography competitions. Like I did last year, though, there’s an exception for this one: not because it’s better than some — there’s still the problem with rights, methods of compensation, etc. — but because it’s so up my alley. (Pun intended.)
If you’ll pardon the cliché, great architectural photography is more than the sum of the building’s parts. These great shots show just that:
Entry photographs are divided into six categories: Exterior, Interior, Sense of Place, Buildings in Use, Mobile (with Bridges being this year’s theme), and Portfolio (focusing on the theme of Transport Hubs).
In this edition: Hummingbirds, the UK’s 2022 Landscape Photography of the Year 2022, a potential new logo treatment from Honda, and something just in time for Halloween.
Who Knew: Hummingbird Edition
Taken when the creatures are mid-flight and beating their wings at incredible speeds, Spencer’s striking photos capture sunlight as it filters through their feathers, emitting a full spectrum of color. The opalescent phenomenon is caused by diffraction and transforms their limbs into tiny, ephemeral rainbows.
This is Colossal
Let’s set aside for the moment the time and energy get these photographs and just celebrate that Australian photographer Christian Spencer worked to get these shots. Better still, there’s a book:
Car site The Autopian scores with book design, Ford posts old marketing material gold mine, and more on the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity in this edition of Beautifully Briefed.
Autopian suggests book design
The Autopian, founded by a couple of former Jalopnik writers, is a new automotive gem: in these days of more-of-the-sameism sites trying to make money of others’ ideas, the Autopian has a retro style and interesting, original content.
Including this short post from their Cold Start column:
Sometimes you may encounter an old car ad and realize that the design of it could lend itself very well to something completely different. In this case, this 1958 Ford Zodiac ad, with its rich, saturated colors, striking dress on the model, and evocative name with understated typography just feel like something you’d see on modern book cover design.
Jason Torchinsky, Autopian Founder
His book design idea “realized”:
The Ford Heritage Vault
Ford has taken the unusual step of posting a good chunk of their old — 1903 to 2003, their first 100 years — marketing materials online: “promotional materials, photographs, and all kinds of other historical goodies,” according to CarScoops.
“Our archives were established 70 years ago, and for the first time, we’re opening the vault for the public to see. This is just a first step for all that will come in the future,” says Ted Ryan, Ford archive and heritage brand manager.
Here’s a personal favorite: the 1965 full line brochure, showing the cars set in architectural drawings — presumably, matching the car to the house:
We discussed the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity back in April, but Metropolis magazine has published an extensive article covering a visit to the Institute.
Modernism has largely been diluted from a series of ideas rooted in social change to one of just style—Instagram moments, if you will. The Eameses insisted that they did not have a style or even an “ism.” […] Modernism was an idea, not a style. With the establishment of the Eames Institute, I hope Charles and Ray will be remembered most of all for their ideas and processes.
Kenneth Caldwell, Metropolis
With our ongoing struggle to use materials more efficiently, many of the Eameses’ ideas and ideals need to be taken for the solutions that they are: style with incredible substance.
FedEx pulled up around 8:30 this morning and dropped off a new lens. (It wasn’t due ’til Tuesday — bonus!) Given that it was an absolutely beautiful morning, I shelved my plans for the day, picked up the camera, and headed downtown.
Verdict? It’s so a keeper. See for yourself:
Wound up with sixty new items posted. However, the downtown Macon gallery was getting almost too big — confusing, even — so has been separated into three parts:
This month’s favorites cover a delightful new extension of the typeface DaVinci, Google’s updated mega-font, Noto, photographs of a desert aircraft boneyard from above, and mega-photographs of the Milky Way.
Before we get there, however, I wanted to wish Jason Kottke — whose 24 years of web sleuthing has been a source for items here on Foreword dating back to its original iteration in the ’90s — good luck on his sabbatical:
“I need some space to think and live and have generative conversations and do things, and then I’ll make something, but I can’t tell you what it is just yet.”1Alexandra Bell, NYT That’s the sort of energy I need to tap into for a few months.
“When you do this sort of type exercise — based on printed letters — it gives a very organic shape and form, in opposition to the very metallic sharp shape from type materials.” Furthering this organic look by pushing the fluidity curse at its maximum, Virgile ended with a design “which is very historical, yet with a contemporary twist.”
Makes you want to find an excuse to use it. But that’s not all: Flores is an incredibly diverse artist whose work both challenges and inspires. See more.
Called “A Typeface for the World,” Google’s Noto defines “megaproject.”
Noto is a collection of high-quality fonts with multiple weights and widths in sans, serif, mono, and other styles. The Noto fonts are perfect for harmonious, aesthetic, and typographically correct global communication, in more than 1,000 languages and over 150 writing systems.
According to Google,
“Noto” means “I write, I mark, I note” in Latin. The name is also short for “no tofu”, as the project aims to eliminate ‘tofu’: blank rectangles shown when no font is available for your text.
While the font itself has been around for a few years — 2013 seems like yesterday in so many ways! — it’s updated regularly, cover 150 out of the 154 scripts defined in Unicode, and deserves attention from every web designer and type nut. Read more at Google or Wikipedia. (Via Kottke.)
Aircraft Boneyard, From an Aircraft
This is Colossal introduces us to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, whose desert conditions are ideal for storing — and scrapping — aircraft:
Celebrating the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., known as “the father of landscape architecture”, the Cultural Landscape Foundation has created an ever-growing digital guide of Olmsted’s most notable works.
Of course, the building’s interesting, too, so there’s a good mix of architecture, gardens, architecture from the garden, and — you guessed it — garden architecture:
I enjoyed the visit, and as a result of that visit, added 32 new photographs to the Columbus gallery. (They’re grouped together: “Columbus Museum – Mar22.”) Peruse anytime; purchase if you’d like. Thank you!