Spring Book Design Coverage

For your May Day, please take a closer look at twelve great book covers — and a bonus thirteenth! — spotted during the first four months of 2022.

In alphabetical order:

Book design: David Drummond

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.

Cover design: Brianna Harden

Another great background color choice, this time highlighting the awesome colors chosen for Fiona and Jane’s illustrations. The hand-painted text is perfectly done.

Cover design: Alex Merto

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.

Cover design: Anna Morrison

The typography, awesome little plane — the purse(r)! — the clouds, all of it: sky-high levels of good.

Interestingly, Fight Night‘s cover has gotten notice before:

Cover design: Patti Ratchford, illustration: Christina Zimpel

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); the new one has wound up on mine.

Cover design: Christopher Sergio

LitHub says this one has a very high “hang on the wall” factor. I can’t think of a better description — great stuff.

Cover design: Na Kim

Na Kim just can’t help but design the best covers: a wonderful, antique background complimented by brilliance. (Great typography, too.)

Cover design: Emily Mahon

It’s nigh-on impossibly 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.

Cover design: Jim Tierney

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. (Except: This is one of those times when an editor or publicist somewhere says, “Hey, we need to add this quote at the top. Let’s do it without consulting the cover designer.”)

Cover designer … unknown. Credit where credit is due — when I can.

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. Kudos, too, to Open Culture: The New York Public Library Provides Free Online Access to Banned Books: Catcher in the RyeStamped & More.

Cover design: Jack Smyth

Never mind the great brushed color blocks or boat-rowing-the-ocean above the title. This is here for the overlap between color and island. Shortlisted for the prize for intersection-of-the-year.

Cover design: Leanne Shapton

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. (See a note from the designer at LitHub‘s cover reveal.)

So, the bonus. No, it’s not the extra Fight Night, above, it’s a fictitious cover. That’s right:

Cover design: Anna Hoyle

In another It’s Nice That post, we have Anna Hoyle: “Judge her fake books by their comical covers.” Okay!

More book design updates soon — ’cause, here in Georgia, USA, we’re done with spring. Summer starts . . . now.

Additional sources: Spine, “Book Covers We Love” for January, February, March, and April, and LitHub, “Best Book Covers of the Month.”

I Swear, This Title….

Kottke recently revisited a theme that’s been running for a few years now: titles with a swear — f*ck, in this case — in the title. According to Slate, the practice stems from the 2011 parenting title Go the F*ck to Sleep, and has accelerated over the years.

I’m more interested in the design of such a title. Bookstores, advertisers, and publicists demand that the swear never be completely spelled out, but that doesn’t restrict great design ideas. Here are a few of my favorites:

Love the fork. (So to speak.)
The less-is-more approach.
Whales as sardines.
Interesting choice with the capitals, or lack thereof.

Note the over-arching theme: no, not that — the lack of photography. The vast majority of these titles are text based, supposedly because something competing with the swear would detract from the shock value. There’s a primary color thing going, too, probably for the same reason.

Most of the time:

Self-help, with style.

Something different for your day!

Beautifully Briefed, Early March 2022: Monograph Impresses, Monotype Trends, and Media Waste

Three diverse items in this round-up, from illustration to typography to whether or not ad-blockers are actually environmentally-friendly — along with a response that reminds us to look at the bigger picture.

Malika Favre (Expanded Edition)

CreativeBoom:

French illustrator and graphic designer Malika Favre has been impressing audiences for years with her minimalist work for publications such as The New Yorker, Vogue, and Vanity Fair. Now over a decade’s worth of her work has been released in a new monograph from Counter-Print, which contains a suitably stripped-back aesthetic.

Her style is distinctive; I’ve liked her New Yorker covers especially:

Malika Favre (Expanded Edition) in English

The book includes the illustrator’s own cover, and she had a big hand in designing the layout, too. CreativeBoom’s article is excellent — check it out.

Monotype’s 2022 Trends

It’s Nice That points us to the recently-released 2022 Type Trends Report from Monotype:

Monotype’s 2022 Type Trends Report cover

Throughout yet another “unprecedented year,” it’s safe to say that the macro trends influencing the type design community are nearly too long to list. Several socioeconomic, political, and cultural events continue to shape the way we approach creative work and how connect to each other online and offline.

Biodiversity’s relationship to type, varying type styles in a single logo, and thin serifs — the one I’m likely to use somewhere — are in this year.

New York’s Park Lane Hotel

The above example, from New York’s Park Lane Hotel, is but one they cite (see that whole, very lovely project at Brand New). Check out the whole report, and get trendy.

Perhaps we can convince Apple to go back to its also-lovely Garamond…?

Media, Trackers, Blockers, and the Environment: There’s a Problem

Did it ever occur that using an ad blocker in your browser is actually an environmentally-friendly move? No, I hadn’t put it together, either.1More from MIT on ecological impacts of cloud computing here.

70% junk. Surprise and shock (not really).

[U]p to 70% of the electricity consumption (and therefore carbon emissions) caused by visiting a French media site is triggered by advertisements and stats. Therefore, using an ad blocker even becomes an ecological gesture. But we also suggest actions web editors could take to reduce this impact.

An interesting study, certainly, with information that many of us already use and some suggestions for action in case we don’t. But…:

Another of Monotype’s 2022 Type Trends, appropriated for use here

Nick Heer:

I have qualms with this. The idea of a “carbon footprint” was invented by British Petroleum to direct focus away from environmental policies that would impact its business, instead blaming individuals for not recycling correctly or biking to work more. A “carbon footprint” is also a simplistic view of how anything contributes to global warming, and that it seems to be used here as a synonym for bandwidth and CPU consumption.

I’m not sure whether I’ve called out the excellent Pixel Envy2A sort-of Daring Fireball with Canadian roots, but this is an example of why I should.

That is where I think this well-intentioned study falters. Even so, it is absurd that up to 70% of a media website’s CPU and bandwidth consumption is dedicated to web bullshit. Remember: the whole point of web bullshit is that it is not just the ads, it is about an entire network of self justifying privacy hostile infrastructure constructed around them.

  • 1
    More from MIT on ecological impacts of cloud computing here.
  • 2
    A sort-of Daring Fireball with Canadian roots

My 50 Favorite Book Covers of 2021

2021 Favorite Book Covers

This post is late, because I had trouble narrowing my long list down . . . and then, when even the short list was too long, said, “heck, 21 is too few for a year with such superlative design.” So, instead of 21 for ’21, y’all get 50. Grab a delicious beverage, settle in, and enjoy.

My selections stem from books I’ve seen; the “best of” lists from NPR, The New Yorker, Kottke, and the BBC; and the best book cover lists from Spine, the Casual Optimist, Kottke, AIGA Eye on Design, Creative Review, LitHub, and PRINT magazine. When you’re done here, see how my list compares with theirs — a great many more outstanding covers await.

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 (thank you to the folks who answered emails with that information), and I wish to stress that any mistakes (incorrect attribution, link not working, etc.) in the list below are mine.

My cover of the year is one of those combinations of photography and printed word that works on multiple levels. Okay, sure, it’s called Liar’s Dictionary, so I may totally be pulling your leg here, but:

2021 Cover of the Year: Liar's Dictionary

“We all peacock with our words,” one reviewer said: exactly right. I’m wondering about the direction of the shadow — some Monday morning quarterbacking, for certain — but otherwise, I’d be incredibly pleased to have this cover in my portfolio. It speaks to what I aspire to, which is the best photography and best graphics working in beautiful concert. Design by Emily Mahon. (Bonus: See a Spine write-up on Emily from 2017.)

With Teeth book cover

My runner-up for favorite cover of the year, this novel of a queer mother is immeasurably strengthened by this extraordinary cover. Great color, great type . . . just great. Design by Lauren Peters-Collaer.

The rest, in alphabetical order:

Abundance

The ability of this cover to catch your eye on a crowded bookshelf is undeniable, but it’s the amount communicated with seeming simplicity that makes it a winner. Design by Kapo Ng.

An Honest Living book cover

The progression of graphics here win on several levels, but the icing on this “exquisite ransom note” (thanks, Lithub) is the shadow from the silhouette in the middle. The use of so few colors is a huge bonus. Design by David Pearson. (He doesn’t seem to have a website, but here’s a It’s Nice That article.)

Awake book design

The combination of background image — the eyebrows are perfect — with the elements making up the overlays is wonderful. The wraparound text adds to the whimsy. Brilliant results. Design by Joan Wong.

Beautiful Country book design

This is just great: “struggle to survive” so prominently displayed, the fence and wall, what looks like a cop in the upper left, the guy staring straight at camera in the lower left, the “hurry up” notion of the mother and child, the colors of the collage, everything. Wow. Design by Linda Huang.

Brothers and Keepers book cover

This is another from the “simple is better” category. Great colors, yes, but little details, like the type and the subtle overlay of the graphs over some of that type take it over the finish line with style.

Concepcion book cover

Collage and type, yellow and green, all done beautifully well. Bonus points for the hints — just hints — at faces. Design by Lauren Peters-Collaer.

Curb book cover

Another with simple colors, but the strengths here are not only in the eye-catching type, but the repeating line drawings with their own curb . . . and that single lit window for the win.

Dear Senthuran book cover

Leopard! Wonderful pencil sketch! From the simple-at-first-glance category we have anything but.

Edge Case book cover

At the risk of repeating myself, this one seems simple. Until you realize that the tomatoes age . . . and spoil. (The vine’s awesome, too.) Edgy design by Na Kim. (Bonus AIGA Eye on Design article on her.)

Foucault in Warsaw book cover

“Memorable” doesn’t begin to describe this one; the upside-down painting is only the beginning. Design by Daniel Benneworth-Gray.

God of Mercy book cover

I’m going to go with chalk rather than brush to describe the type and especially flames, but either way, when combined with this extreme close-up, its perfectly-chosen duotone, and fantastic skin texture of this beautiful model, we get something close to amazing. Design by Sara Wood.

Gold Diggers book cover

In contrast to some, this one is not simple at all: deeply detailed and strikingly colored, this cover says “all-American” in a way only an immigrant can. Design by Stephanie Ross.

Great Circle book cover

Mentioned earlier this year, this title circles back because the artwork demands it. Cool white-type title, too. Design by Kelly Blair.

Hard Like Water book cover

The smile — and the shoes! — speak more loudly than the revolutionary themes so typical of Maoist-era settings. The perfect parody cover. Brilliant. Cover design by Matthew Broughton, based on art by Biao Zhong.

Harlem Shuffle book cover

Color, type, objects, the arrow, “a novel,” circled, the people and places . . . all add up to so much more than just the sum of the parts. Awesome.

Harsh Times book cover

Nobel prize, blah, blah. It’s the cover, darn it! Design by Alex Merto.

Hex book cover

The first of two skulls on this year’s list, this one made up of perhaps the least-hexed thing imaginable.

House of Sticks book cover

This one’s on this list for its subtle brilliance: the watercolor lines, the great typography choice, and integration of the photograph. Nicely done.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House book cover

One the one hand, a simple photograph-and-title book cover. On the other, it’s beautifully cropped, the reader/viewer catches the “look,” and it’s complimented with great color choices. Long title served oh-so-well.

In book cover

You don’t see almost-blank covers every day, and this one, especially, makes you want in. (Sorry.) Brilliant.

Intimations book cover

I. Want. To. Have. Taken. This. Photograph. (And then done this cover.)

Kennedy's Avenger book cover

This type of cover is actually very difficult to accomplish well, and here, it’s . . . well, accomplished.

Look For Me and I'll Be Gone book cover

Brilliant on so many levels. Design by David Litman.

Morningside Heights book cover

Color and type compliment the awesome choice of suit and hat here. One of those covers that demands the reader/viewer pick it up off the shelf and explore. Design by Kelly Blair.

My Monticello book cover

The painterly elements here lead the reader/viewer to the correct question: “what is this about?” and, guaranteed: it’s not what you think.

Nectarine book cover

This made a bunch of best-of lists this year, and I gotta say: it’s one accomplished scribble. Brilliant. Design by Dave Drummond. (Bonus: Dave Drummond has a write-up from PRINT.)

Nobody Somebody Anybody book cover

The best riff on “upstairs, downstairs” seen in a long, long time.

O Beautiful book cover

Watercolor, in every sense of the word. (Cloudy drips, too.) O-so-beautiful. Design by Young Jin Lim.

O book cover

Oh — wait a minute. Stick-on that isn’t, quite, combined with peeling and what seems like staring add up to a favorite. Design by Gray318.

Pessoa book cover

From the simple-but-not dept., we have another brilliant entry, with great color choices, type placement, and the best — some might say, “Iconic” — “a biography” stamp ever. Love that the smallest photo is peeling, too. I’m actually envious of the talent displayed here! Design by Yang Kim.

Reparations Now book cover

I hope it comes out in the relatively small photograph, but this is actually paper cut. Great choices, great colors.

Silent Winds Dry Seas book cover

Like a dreamily lace curtain, the overlay on this painted shore brings what could be nice to the level of sublime. Having a cool title helps, too. Winner.

Skinship book cover

Wow. This cover violates so many supposed rules, yet succeeds on so many levels — absolutely brilliant. Design by Janet Hansen.

Stranger to the Moon book cover

The simple-yet-not cup floweth over with this one; its scant 96 pages encompass dystopian political fiction that wins national awards and deserves something this strong. Design by Janet Hansen.

Summer Water book cover

Illustration rules, in a foreboding style that suggests anything other than a Scottish summer. Lovely slim type is complimented perfectly by the script at the bottom. The title is actually Summerwater, by the way — I missed the hyphen at first — but ultimately I’m not sure it matters. Design by June Park.

Tastes Like War book cover

The ingredients on this cover, together with splattered red, suggest more than food, racism, and a parent’s problems, yet this is a title I’d definitely pick and and spend time examining — all thanks to great design.

That Old Country Music book cover

An absolutely perfect photograph highlights a stack of great choices.

The Copenhagen Trilogy book cover

The old-time portrait it taken to the next three levels. Fantastic. Bonus points for an unusual type choice (type name, according to site name). Great, great design by Na Kim. (See also the PRINT write-up on this title.)

The Divines book cover

The photograph cropping alone brings this title to the table, but when combined with the aged background, the white dots perhaps suggesting a past shot through with problems, and the desiccated flower suggest something so much more. Design by Mumtaz Mustafa.

Open and Nev book cover

Sure, impressing Ta-Nehisi Coates and Barak Obama means impressive fiction — but it deserves a cover with star power, and this design by — absolutely delivers. Great stuff.

The Ghost Sequences book cover

The second skull on the list, this “house built by memory in-between your skin and bones” requires a second look, then a third. Deal me in. Design by Vince Haigh.

The Haunting of Alma Fielding book cover

Great type complimenting great illustration choices, sure, but those feet . . . .

This Thing Between Us book cover

Surreal smart speaker — no kidding. How does one design a cover for that, exactly? This way. Design by Sara Wood.

This Wound is a World book cover

“[C]ut a hole in the sky / to world inside,” this volume of Native American poetry suggests. The cover does just that.

Three Novels book cover

“Another few cuts of paper,” he said with such casualness. Ha! Design by Tom Etherington.

Warmth book cover

“Beautifully rendered and bracingly honest,” one of the reviews says. The cover, as well. (Plus, lines.)

We Run the Tides book cover

The color choices here, combined with the illustration, suggest something soothing, yet catch the eye in a way that demands attention. The mystery within does, too, from practically the first sentence. Here because I know I wouldn’t have done it so well.

Zorrie book cover

Climbing that ladder’s going to take a minute. But then, that’s what it’s all about . . . .

On to 2022, everyone! Thanks for surviving 2020, 2021, and continuing to read — here, and behind your favorite book cover.

NPR’s Books We Love, 2021 Edition

NPR's Books We Love 2021

Books We Love is NPR’s annual, interactive, year-end reading guide. (You might have known us as the Book Concierge, but this year we got a makeover! We’ve changed our name and adopted a warm and welcoming new look.) What hasn’t changed is the annual bounty of hand-picked books. Mix and match tags such as Book Club Ideas, Biography & Memoir or Eye-Opening Reads to filter results and find the book that’s perfect for you or someone you love.

Always a dependable list, this year in a slightly different wrapper. Enjoy. (Previously: 2020, 2019.)

Washington Post’s Best Book Covers 2021

WP Best Book Design 2021

The Washington Post has an article from book designer Kimberly Glyder with her favorite book covers of 2021. Her bio:

Kimberly Glyder’s studio specializes in book design, illustration and lettering. Her work has been featured in the AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers show, the Type Director’s Club Annual Exhibition, Print magazine, American Illustration, the American University Presses Book Jacket and Journal Show, and the New York Book Show.

Check her “best of” at the WP, and stay tuned for more 2021 lists next month.

The Most Iconic Book Covers (Again)

LitHub has posted an article about what the author terms, “The 25 Most Iconic Book Covers in History.” (See the BBC’s article, previously.) Hard to disagree with LitHub’s choices, either:

Some were less familiar to me —wherein I’m familiar with the work if not the cover — but awesome nonetheless:

2001-29- Matt Flynn 039

And then there are the covers that spawned movie posters, like this one:

My personal favorite, which also falls into the movie category, is a Chip Kidd masterpiece:

Please enjoy the whole article, including both the bonus items at the end and some excellent suggestions in the comments. (Via Kottke.)

Beautifully Briefed: September, 2021

BB - Sept 21

Let’s get the shock news out of the way first:

Hoefler and Monotype

It’s been thirty-two years, four months, and fourteen days since I hung out a shingle to announce that The Hoefler Type Foundry was open for business. What started as a sole proprietorship grew into the Hoefler&Co of today, a diversified design and technology practice with an international reach, still dedicated to the invention of original, thoughtful, and hard-working typefaces.

Meanwhile, “nothing will change,” Jonathan Hoefler (previously) says, except that he’ll be stepping down. That’s kind of a big change, IMHO — but after using typography to “help elect a president,” where do you go from there? Read more here.

In happier news, the much-delayed new Bond movie, No Time to Die, is finally in theaters next week.

The 007 logo

Ever wonder who was responsible for the above (slightly brilliant) graphic? Read Stephen Heller’s The Daily Heller: The Most Prolific Designer You’ve Never Known. Informative and great. Bang!

Corp State of America: GA

Keith Fleck has gotten a good deal of press for his Corporate States of America, but in case you haven’t seen it, it’s absolutely worth a look. Maine’s L.L. Bean, Florida’s Publix, and, of course, Georgia’s Coca-Cola are all winners. 51 bonus points!

Lastly for this month, some book design:

On Myself

Daily Nous asks their readers to nominate the best philosophy book covers — Judging Philosophy Books By Their Covers — and there are some winners, some absolute losers, and a few funny moments, too:

Black Sabbath, except not

“This always reminded me of a rejected Black Sabbath album cover or something,” says the poster. Nice. (And only 185 cents!)

Beautifully Briefed, July/August 2021

It’s been a busy summer here in Middle Georgia; after regular updates to Foreword for several months, things have slowed down a little. Thus, some good items have piled up.

Starting with a book design I really like:

NPR describes it as, “A Monk And A Robot Meet In A Forest … And Talk Philosophy.” Interesting description, interesting design. I’d pick it up off a shelf.

Speaking of bookshelves, a notable quote from Andy Hunter, of Bookshop.org:

Take a look at this graph. The blue is Amazon’s share of book sales in the past six years. The orange is where we are headed if their average growth rate (8%) continues. If nothing slows their momentum, Amazon will control nearly 80% of the consumer book market by the end of 2025. Every single book lover should worry. After we’re done worrying, we must change the way we buy books.

The graph:

I’m not a fan of Medium — Andy, please choose a better place to post your very valid point — but it’s worth reading. Then change your book-buying habits if possible!

Also from the book category, check out Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill’s latest book of built work 2009-2019. Tons of great work here, but one example might tower over the others:

Great photography, too. designboom has more, in their famous all-lower-case style.

While we’re talking about great photographs of New York City, check this out — complete with 1WTC in the background:

A winner from the recent 2021 iPhone Photography Awards, which I enjoyed … until I found out it’s just another contest, complete with entry fee. (Hey, at least they don’t reassign copyright.)

While we’re at the intersection of photography and architecture, these shots of modern churches across Europe are stunningly beautiful:

From the nearby intersection of photography and illustration:

The whole series is great, great stuff, and has very deservingly been used by the likes of Apple, The New Yorker, and more. Read on.

Last and almost certainly least, I’ve updated the Musella gallery:

Check that gallery out, look at the Middle Georgia collection, or peruse all my Georgia photographs on the road to purchasing a print or getting in touch to let me know you’d like to use something in a book or design project. Thank you.

On to September!

University Press Design Show 2021

AUPresses 2021 Show header

From AUPresses:

“Since 1965, the Association of University Presses (AUPresses) Book, Jacket, and Journal Show has fulfilled its mission to “honor and instruct”: honoring the design and production teams whose work furthers a long tradition of excellence in book design […]. The Book, Jacket, and Journal Show recognizes meritorious achievement in design, production, and manufacture of books, jackets, covers, and journals by members of the university press community. It also provides an evaluation of their work and serves as a focus of discussion and a source of ideas for intelligent, creative, and resourceful bookmaking.”

Credit where credit is due: Spine, in their excellent way, has already covered this. Head on over there, knowing that I largely agree with their post in its entirety. However, there are a number of covers I like that they didn’t talk about — and they didn’t talk about interior design at all.

So, without further ado, let’s start with the covers and jackets. Interiors follow, then items that are in both categories.

Columbia University Press with a series (in order, top to bottom): Woe from Wit, The Little Devil and Other Stories, and Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Each is great on their own, but put ’em together and the series stands tall. Excellent design by Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich.

Performing Jane

Louisiana State University brings us Performing Jane, with design by Barbara Neely Bourgoyne. Simplicity wins.

Inside the Critic's Circle

On the subject of simplicity, Inside the Critic’s Circle brings a seemingly-casual-yet-carefully-designed newspaper clipping onto a yellow background. Together, they’re attention-getting and just right. Nice. Design by Chris Ferrante for Princeton University Press.

Vénus Noire is about as far from a bust as can be — except not really:

Venus Noire

Another example of simpler-is-better, yet something so much more. Design by Kaelin Chappell Broaddus.

Stars and Silhouettes

Wayne State University Press brings us Stars and Silhouettes, in all its hand-drawn glory. Love the design by Brad Norr.

My favorite of the stand-alone cover designs, however, contains a wrinkle or two:

The Duchess of Angus

Lovely. The illustration and paper photograph combine into something really special. Design by Derek Thornton — whose website, by the way, has a bunch of other great stuff. Nice!

On to some interior design, with Pinceton’s Dante:

Dante's Interior

Puts “boring academic title [page]” to rest. Design by Chris Ferrante.

Next, a title on “knowing what not to know in contemporary China”, called Negative Spaces:

Negative Spaces 1
Negative Spaces 2

Design by Courtney Leigh Richardson for Duke University Press.

Next, stories from “the people of the land”:

Gwitchin 1
Gwitchin 2

Our Whole Gwich’in Way of Life Has Changed / Gwich’in K’yuu Gwiidandài’ Tthak Ejuk Gòonlih, with design by Alan Brownoff for the University of Alberta Press.

Next, a couple where both the cover and interior excel, starting with Horace Kephart from the University of Tennessee Press:

Horace 1

UTenn Press has a cool logo, too.

Horace 2
Horace 3

Lovely detailing in this design by Mindy Basinger Hill. Only one question here: Why doesn’t the script on the cover match that used inside? Both are nice — I prefer the one used on the interior, but either way, pick one!

Last but certainly not least, perhaps the best designed of all the projects in the AUPresses 2021 Show, Duke’s Sentient Flesh:

Sentient 1

Fantastic. And check the interior:

Sentient 2
Sentient 3

Kudos to designer Matthew Tauch for a “best in show,” at least as far as I’m concerned!

50 Books, 50 Covers

50 Books 50 Covers

It’s time once again for AIGA’s 50 Books, 50 Covers:

This time-honored competition aims to identify the 50 best-designed books and book covers. With 696 entries from 36 countries, the juror-selections from this year’s 50 Books | 50 Covers of 2020 competition exemplify the best current work from a year marked by unparalleled change.

Picking favorites from this list is always fun, and often includes books and/or covers that I haven’t seen before — especially 2020, when seeing things in person was often … difficult. So without further ado (in no particular order):

Accidentally Wes Anderson

The unique destinations of Accidentally Wes Anderson. This 50 Books item catches the eye with the cover and the photographs carry you inside and to places heretofore unknown. Great stuff. Design by Mia Johnson.

Manifesto - Cover

Manifesto is more than meets the eye, even though the cover does an excellent job leading you in. It’s easier to quote the existing description than write one, so: “The opening pages contain an original text employing the sort of bombastic rhetoric traditionally associated with the manifesto genre. The typeset text is then cut up and reassembled, repeating throughout the book, each iteration becoming source material for subsequent cut-ups. The project takes a critical approach to book arts to explore authorship, readership, and the materiality of language.” Yeah:

Manifesto - interior

It’s tiny, too: 4.125 by 6. The design, by Victor Mingovits, is anything but. Well done!

DR. ME

Not Dead of Famous Enough, Yet compiles 10 years of work from a design firm into one place, with this surprisingly modest cover. DR. ME, as the duo of Ryan Doyle & Mark Edwards became known, not only do quality work, they know how to stitch together a quality book — to a point where they picked up a prestigious award. See more.

Talking Animals

Talking Animals violates one of my usual cover-design rules: it’s not immediately apparent which title word is first. Nonetheless, it’s eye-catching enough to warrant an exception — and a 50 Covers award. Design by Na Kim.

Self Portrait with Russian Piano

Na Kim makes another appearance with Self Portrait with Russian Piano. Kudos for something that’s equally eye-catching yet about as completely different as humanely possible — talent, defined.

Sestry

“Eye-catching and mysterious,” says the entry for Sestry. “Oppressive and mysterious,” says the description. Both work — it’s certainly mysterious enough to catch your attention, grab it off the shelf, and investigate further. Design by Jan Šabach.

I Lived on Mars

Once Upon a Time, I Lived on Mars: Space Exploration, and Life on Earth is a loooooong title/subtitle combination. It’s something that, as a cover designer, you dread — but Johnathan Bush knocked it out of the park with this hand-lettered illustrated piece that’s 180 degrees from where you’d expect.

The Turn of the Screw is probably my favorite of the whole collection:

Turn of the Screw

Almost simplistic … until you really look at it; the kind that makes you think, “I wish I’d done that.” Fantastic work by Kaitlin Kall.

Lastly, two covers previously mentioned here:

Verge

Verge, where unexpected choices lead to great new places here, especially with the yellow band overlaying the wolf. So, so good. Design by Rachel Willey. And:

Zo

Zo, which uses illustrations to huge effect — but this time with a huge typography effect to go along with it, and lo, it works. Great design choices by Janet Hansen.

Again, see the whole list at AIGA: 50 Books, 50 Covers. Props to Hyperallergic for the heads up.

(More) Beautifully Briefed, Books and Design, May 2021

BB_May-2021_More

On David Hockney’s Piccadilly Circus logo:

piccadilly-circus

It’s been a minute since I’ve been in London — 2011, to be exact — and I’d love to go back. The food, the parks, the museums, the Thames, the short train rides to more interesting places (Hello, Cambridge?), and even the Tube. (We’ll leave the anti-Americanism aside for right now — we’re post-Trump and post-Covid, so traveling is at least an option!) Yet even the cultural masterpiece that is London is showing some cracks; from the New Statesman:

Hockney’s Piccadilly Circus has also drawn criticism for its simplistic approach. Over on the cesspit of arts criticism that is Twitter, anonymous accounts that decry all art made post-1920 as an abomination have ridiculed Hockney’s scrawl as indicative of the death of art. Other critics have rightly argued that the work feels like a red flag to a bull: fuelling culture-war debates about the legitimacy of public art, rather than encouraging the public to get onside.

I like it more every time I see it. Read more at It’s Nice That.

On the NYC subway map:

Speaking of It’s Nice That, an interesting new book from Gary Hustwit . . . on the debate over the New York City subway map. On the one side, the iconic Massimo Vignelli version, introduced in 1972, representing the less-is-more approach. On the other, the replacement version from John Tauranac, introduced in 1979, representing the more-accurate-is-more approach. (An updated version of the latter is still in use today.)

But back in 1978, the two got up on stage at Cooper Union’s Great Hall — home to debates of, among others, Abraham Lincoln — and pitched their case:

They Look Happy! (Subway debate 1978)

Newly discovered photographs and audio lead to this new, smartly-designed, book. Read more at It’s Nice That; Dezeen has an interview with the author. Pre-order the book and get a limited-edition letterpress print at Oh You Pretty Things.

Subway Map Debate Book

On books and book design:

Nice new cookbook chock full o’ seventies-era design, “Violaine et Jérémy returns with a cookbook for Molly Baz, featuring three of the studio’s much-loved typefaces,” at — wait for it — It’s Nice That:

Nicoise Sandwich

Sandwich Nicoice. Mmmmmmm.

Lastly, just because, Kottke collects pencil photography to examine the typography. Nice.

Kottke on Pencil Photography