Beautifully Briefed 24.6: Summer of Win (Mostly)

In this installment of Beautifully Briefed, let’s take a look at some great posters, great print items, and great photography. Plus, an update from Adobe’s continued campaign to lose friends and attract government attention. Fun stuff!

GET LECTURED (ON ARCHITECTURE)

Back in September, I mentioned Archinect’s Get Lectured poster series. They’re back with the Spring 2024 winners, including these two faves:

ELAC lecture poster design by Tashfiah Ahmed.
Lecture poster from the University of British Columbia; designer not listed.

Great examples of design in a often difficult category. See the rest.

Architecture Photographs by Hélène Binet

While we’re discussing architecture, let’s talk about a Dezeen post that caught my eye: photographer Hélène Binet has a new book out, adding to her long career capturing the old-school way — using film.

“A Sentimental Topography by Dimitris Pikionis, landscaping of the Acropolis, Athens, Greece.”

This series captures shadows and light with exceptional talent, including the above, where she’s praised for “captur[ing] in a single image the tactile and textured presence of tectonic form, both in built and natural environments.”

“Staircases in Sperlonga, Latina, Italy.”

I love the softer shades of gray than shown in the previous image, and both this and the image below demonstrate a deep understanding of architectural expression.

“Kolumba Museum, Cologne, Germany, by Peter Zumthor.”

Read the post from Dezeen, see more examples of outstanding work on her website, or buy the book with 170 photographs, essays, and more.

2024 Audubon Photography Winners

This is Colossal posted about this a day before my Audubon magazine showed up with these prominently featured, and they’re all winners.

Wild Turkey, Female Bird Prize Winner, by Travis Potter.

Bird photography is a difficult skill requiring patience, perseverance, and specialized gear; those who excel at it deserve recognition. Plus, there’s this:

Audubon’s climate science report Survival by Degrees reveals that two-thirds of North American birds are threatened by extinction from climate change, including species featured in this year’s Audubon Photography Awards like the Blackburnian Warbler, California Quail, and Sedge Wren.

Forster’s Tern, Professional Honorable Mention, by Kevin Lohman.

Check out the Colossal post, or see the full story at the Audubon website.

Special Bonus #1: Kottke points us towards the Siena 2024 Drone Photography Awards. “Look! Up in the sky! It’s … another contest!” Good stuff nonetheless:

“Jiashao Bridge” by Sheng Jiang, China.
PRINT 2024 Awards

The annual PRINT awards are out, featuring — natch — great items in print, including items like the Smithsonian’s annual report and a Naked Trails brochure. Here are a couple of items from the book design category:

Jacket design by Robin Bilardello.

Author sketch and lettering by the author. Also, let’s get the . . . :

Cover design by Milan Bozic, with illustration and typography by Lauren Tamaki.

Fantastic.

Special Bonus #2: Hoefler & Co. brings us Typographic Doubletakes: “While good typefaces have prodigious families of carefully related styles, some of the best typography builds unexpected relationships between unrelated fonts.”

Left: Chronicle Hairline + Landmark. Right: Vitesse + Gotham.

Their blog refreshes as you scroll in more ways than one — enjoy.

Left: Mercury Text + Ideal Sans SSm. Right: Whitney + Operator and Operator Mono.

Special Bonus #3: Kottke points us to a LitHub post arguing for adding full credit pages to books acknowledging everyone who worked on them. “How lovely it is to be seen and appreciated.”

Adobe “Too Easy to Hate,” Say Users, Employees

Adobe continues to score big with the public — in the best Boeing style, a formerly-great company has put profits before users and employees. While successful from the shareholders’ point of view (record profits, again), some are . . . upset. PetaPixel:

Just over a month ago, an Adobe exec called AI the “new digital camera.” Simultaneously, an Adobe marketing campaign chucked photographers under the bus, and not for the first time, which caught the attention of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP). At the very top of Adobe, there is a concerning and frustrating lack of understanding about art and the people who make it.

Even “exasperated employees implored leadership to not let it be the “evil” company customers think it is;” while that might be a stretch — “ignorant greed” is a better description — either is not a winning look.

The latest was a terms-of-service update that many saw as a rights grab, allowing the company to use users’ work to train its AI services. While those have been amended, the seemingly clear language — “We’ve never trained generative AI on customer content, taken ownership of a customer’s work, or allowed access to customer content beyond legal requirements” — comes from a company that has lost the trust of users, making those words just that — words. Time will tell if they are truth.

But there’s more: Adobe’s just been sued by the FTC (via PetaPixel, Pixel Envy) for hidden fees and difficult cancellations:

“For years, Adobe has harmed consumers by enrolling them in its default, most lucrative subscription plan without clearly disclosing important plan terms,” the lawsuit alleges. “Adobe fails to adequately disclose to consumers that by signing up for the ‘Annual, Paid Monthly’ subscription plan, they are agreeing to a yearlong commitment and a hefty early termination fee that can amount to hundreds of dollars. Adobe clearly discloses the early termination fee only when subscribers attempt to cancel, turning the stealth early termination fee into a powerful retention too that [redacted] by trapping consumers in subscriptions they no longer want.”

I’m actually glad for this, as I wasn’t aware that my $60+ monthly fee is a payment on an annual plan. (Ug.) Not too big an issue — I actually feel like there’s decent value in the plan and will continue to subscribe for the foreseeable future.

But I’d also be lying if I said I’m completely satisfied with our business arrangement: alternatives are few and far between. While Adobe does not have a monopoly legally or technically, in the publishing industry at least, they are, for all intents and purposes, the only game in town. It would be nice if they would at least demonstrate a modicum of respect for their users.

Beautifully Briefed 24.5: On Into Summer

This time, we welcome the start of summer with a selection of photography and book design items — with, as usual, a couple of bonuses. Oh, and a computer item with its own “bonus.” The Summer of Joy starts now.

SteerMouse

Like many who spend a ton of time mousing, my production Mac sports an aftermarket pointing device: a Logitech MX Master 3S. It’s a great mouse: ergonomic, covered in button options, and with a freewheeling scroll wheel that makes both design and surfing a joy.

Unfortunately, Logitech’s software doesn’t live up to the hardware’s promise. I’m certainly not alone in thinking this way, but like many, I’d resigned myself to living with it . . . with one glaring, continually-irksome exception: over the years, they’d actually removed a regularly-used feature.

There’s something significant missing from the available options. (Logitech.com screen capture.)

That’s right — there is no way to reprogram the two main buttons. They’re a single click (left) and a command/control click (right), whether you want ’em that way or not. Most of the time, I don’t.

It’s fine for surfing, sure, and for other applications as well. But for book design, not so much. The right button has to be a double-click. That way, word, sentence, paragraph and section selections are readily available through a combination of first- and middle-finger clicks. Sure, they could be assigned to the side buttons (4 and 5, above), but if you’ll forgive me mangling an analogy, race drivers don’t try to get their feet on the door handles when clutching.

Thankfully, while sitting in a tire shop the other day — speaking of driving — I was making the wait more palatable by listening to Accidental Tech Podcast, wherein Steven Hackett’s post on Logitech software was briefly mentioned. And the clouds parted.

Okay, sure, it was technically unrelated. But he’s trying SteerMouse — and that’s all the recommendation I needed:

It may not look as flashy, but it’s the content that counts. Kudos.

My double-click is back! Quality independent software, highly recommended.

Special Bonus #1: From another chapter of less-than-ideal software, Adobe continues to flub the landing. PetaPixel has been on their case in a significant way, with Adobe Says AI is the New Digital Camera, Adobe’s CEO is Just Not on the Same Wavelength as Artists, Adobe Throws Photographers Under the Bus Again: ‘Skip the Photoshoot’, and ASMP Calls Out Adobe for Its ‘Shocking Dismissal of Photography’. Whew.

A Couple Library of Congress Photographs

Speaking of PetaPixel, they’ve posted a story on someone retiring from what seems like a great way to spend a career: “The Prints and Photographs collection in the Library of Congress number more than 15 million images. Maintaining the archive is a big job and a retiring librarian has picked her favorite pictures after working there for 34 years. [Read] Jan Grenci’s final blog post.”

Even the cats know the refrigerators contain plenty of food at the Casa Grande Farms. Pinal County, Arizona. Photo by Russell Lee, 1940.
Two pigeons on a ledge with a view of the Chrysler Building in the background. Photo by Angelo Rizzuto. June 1957.

The LOC’s Picture This has a plethora of great posts, and 15 million photographs is a great way to pass a rainy afternoon (or two). Enjoy.

Special Bonus #2: From the archives comes another PetaPixel post on Getty’s Open Content Program, with its 87,000 free-to-use photographs: “Add a print of your favorite Dutch still life to your gallery wall or create a shower curtain using the Irises by Van Gogh — the possibilities are endless,” Getty explains.

Kirkus: 20 Books that Should Be Bestsellers

Kottke points us to a Kirkus Reviews post, 20 Books that Should be Bestsellers. Some good book design here:

Both of the above have been added to my “potential best covers” folder (without designer attribution, alas); the former for what I’d call “the quintessential 2024 style,” and the latter for the quintessential book cover purpose: fantastic type treatment and compelling imagery combined with the-question-that-has-to-be-answered. (“The seven-hundred-year-old bones of Saint Nicholas […] weep a mysterious liquid that can heal the sick,” Amazon explains.) Good stuff.

There’s also this, which isn’t quite up to the above but still interesting:

…with its box o’ quotes on Amazon:

Nice.

Special Bonus #3: Chip Kidd has been promoted: “VP and art director at Knopf and graphic editor at Pantheon.” Few are more deserving, as the long list of accomplishments on his Wiki page attests.

A couple of faves from “Good is Dead,” a selection of book covers he’s designed:

Cover design by Chip Kidd.
Cover design by Chip Kidd.

And, of course, Naked, in this post’s cover image. Kudos.

Special Bonus #4: One the subject of great designers, this film on Charles and Ray Eames was a winner. (It’s from 2011, but was new to me — and hopefully you, too.) Watch when you can:

YouTube won’t allow me to embed this, unfortunately — click the link above to view.

Special Bonus #5: The lede-of-the-day award: “Do all book covers look the same today? Euronews Culture goes under the dust cover with those that design them.”

The interesting thing here is a discussion of risk — ’cause, of course, in today’s culture, a book cover alone can result in a title getting cancelled banned — revolving around things, um, yellow:

One of my favorite covers of 2023, still without a cover designer attribution. (Darn.)

Special Bonus #6: Penguin Books reveals the Cover Design Award 2024 shortlist, a contest for non-professionals to take a crack at Penguin greatness. (Via CreativeBoom.) My favorite:

Cover design by Charlotte Gill.

Beautifully Briefed 24.4: April Snow(ed Under)

This April has been busy — meaning that I’ve not marked as many items for this column as usual. (I generally keep a browser tab group going throughout the month with items that could potentially be added, then weed them out/down as posting time gets near; usually, I aim for four or five diverse items.) This month, a great young Egyptian photographer and some details on what goes on, er, under the covers of book design.

Karim Emr, Photographer
Infinity, Karim Emr, 2021. The print is 64×64 inches(!).

Just look at that — awesome. The moment it appeared on Kottke, it got marked for posting. It’s fantastic to see a familiar locale taken with a fresh perspective, proving once again that no matter how many cameras exist in the world, it’s what you do with it that matters.

This is great, too:

“Water, Water, Water,” Karin Amr, 2021. (Forgive the color banding; that’s my fault, not the photographer’s.)

I didn’t realize that was flooded at first — the desert plays many tricks. For more, check out his Instagram or order prints at 1stDibs.

The Design of Books

You’re reading Foreword, so it’s safe to assume at least a passing interest in book design. So this one’s a natural to highlight:

New title by book designer Debbie Berne

Professional book designer Berne debuts with her first self-authored (and designed) title that seemingly anticipates every question people curious about book production might ask, as well as many they probably hadn’t thought about. . . . This title illuminates all that goes into producing and designing a book.

— Library Journal
Interior highlights from The Design of Books.

From crop marks to the editorial workings, a worthy read for those in need of better understanding the process, those in the process (you’d be surprised: it’s more than authors and editors), and, as the author — and the LJ — say, “other curious readers.” Recommended.

Special Bonus #1: The above is courtesy of another Kottke post, which has a comment regarding the redesign of the Book of Common Worship for the Church of England. It’s long and detailed, but it you have a minute: An account of the making of Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England. [PDF]

Special Bonus #2: HarperCollins, one of the biggest publishers in the world, has something to tout: saving trees through “eco design.”

It’s painfully clear which is easier to read: a change for the better . . . ?

Fast Company reports on this, although to be honest I’m not sure it’s an improvement — while it’s impressive that, “so far, these subtle, imperceptible tweaks have saved 245.6 million pages, equivalent to 5,618 trees,” perhaps the startling statistic there is that a single tree can produce nearly forty-four thousand book pages. (Along with some bark mulch, presumably.)

In any case, the VP of creative operations and production at HarperCollins — apparently an actual title — is proud of their “learnings.”

Doctor? No, Book Designer

The AIGA Eye on Design‘s book design category, always full of gems, highlights the career path of another book design professional, Jason Ramirez:

One of the first in his family to attend college, he studied biological sciences and later religious studies at the University of Rochester, and after graduation he began taking night classes in typography, color theory, graphics, and web design. At nearly 30-years-old, he applied and was accepted into Parsons School of Design, where a course with cover designer Gabriele Wilson opened up a world of possibility.

—Laura Feinstein, AIGA

He’s done well:

Cover design: Jason Ramirez

A great read on the how’s and why’s of five worthy book cover designs when you have a moment.

Special Bonus #3: CreativeBoom profiles another book designer, this time Leah Jacobs-Gordon, a freelancer in England.

Cover design: Leah Jacobs-Gordon

Enjoy your spring!

Beautifully Briefed 24.3: Bloomin’ Breadth

The end of March here in Middle Georgia means flowers aplenty, and usually with that, some photography — but I’ve not yet had a chance. (Stay tuned.) I have, however, been saving up links o’ interest: fonts, books, photography, and new(ish) car logos. Let’s go!

Kottke Meets 2024

Starting with one of the very few places that is still around from Foreword’s old days, the always-interesting Jason Kottke:

2024 marks Kottke.org’s 26th year on the ’net.

Great new looks for great content, with better Quick Links — the previews are ace — and incredibly-appreciated gift links to places like The New York Times and The Atlantic. If you haven’t been in a while, click and enjoy.

Fab Spring Type

With “a plethora of captivating new typefaces,” CreativeBoom celebrates spring with 11 new faces to tempt, inspire, and bring joy:

Arillatype.Studio brings us a thousand glyphs of greatness.

Zanco, with its bell-bottom style; Seabirds, inspired by 1930s book covers; Module, a “fluke side hustle;” and Graffeur, improvised from gaffer tape and glimpsed in this post’s header image, are all great. My far-and-away favorite, though, is At Briega, “inspired by the concept of hybridisation” and shown above.

See ’em all here.

Literary Three-Fer
M.C. Escher’s Lesser-Known Works
“The Drowned Cathedral,” a 1929 woodcut.

“Unique perspective” never does justice to someone whose name defines the term. See some never-before-seen images alongside old favorites in a new Escher book highlighted at Hyperallergic.

Multidimensional Libri

“Experimental books are flourishing, [a]nd the evidence is seen” in this Daily Heller from PRINT: a traveling exhibition on three-dimensional books, all published titles.

Oh, those Italians. Read on.

Book Design Snobbery
Hoover vs. Atwood — no joke.

“Don’t get held back from the simple pleasures of reading,” argues Natalie Fear at CreativeBloq, “not everything needs to be minimalist.” Justification for commercialism or a common-sense explanation for the bookshelves’ current look? You decide.

Photography Three-Fer
Winners of Monochromatic Minimalism
“Black Pearl” by Sascha Kohne. An honorable mention for the magazine, but a winner for me.

Some incredibly good stuff here — but perhaps more importantly, did you know of Black & White Minimalism Magazine? There’s no end to today’s continued diversification, methinks.

“Traveling through Costa da Morte, Galicia. 600m above sea level where the mountains separate the Cantabria sea from the Atlantic Ocean,” explains third-place winner Alexandre Caetano.
Aging Facades of France

“Shuttered blinds, peeling paint, and aging doors don’t usually indicate an invitation, but for French photographer Thibaut Derien, the fading facades of long-closed shops are well worth a stop,” This is Colossal says.

Sony Photography Awards: Architecture
The Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) in Valencia, Spain: “Hemispheric,” by Eng Tong Tan, Malaysia.

ArchDaily‘s coverage of the annual Sony awards shortlist announcement was an insta-click.

New Bull: Now Flat. (And a BMW.)

Lamborghini practically defines flamboyant. So it’s worth a link when their logo gets less interesting:

Old logo, left, new, right.

Late at following the industry trend of flat-is-better, because, well, Volkswagen. (Okay, I undersell. Perhaps.) Read the lack of news at Motor11Motor1 also has a decent roundup of new car logos, from 2016-present, which underscores the “flatness” trend. or The Drive, where they manage to convey the brand’s use of the phrase “digital touchpoints.”

I don’t know whether this will make any more sense in a few or even many months — which is relevant because of BMW. Four years ago, one of the industry’s design leaders expressed strong this new style, and I didn’t get it. But it’s worn better than most, and superlatively on occasion — check out the logo’s use on the Vision Neue Klasse X:

Rather than a standalone, plastic part sitting on the paint, it’s etched into the finish. Man, I hope that makes it into production.

Neue Klasse: do like. Bull? No so much.

Update, 2 April: BrandNew, itself sporting a new look, has weighed in on the new Lambo style, calling it “not good.” (FYI, BrandNew is a subscription, quite possibly the best $20/year someone interested in design can spend.)

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    Motor1 also has a decent roundup of new car logos, from 2016-present, which underscores the “flatness” trend.

Beautifully Briefed 24.2: February Favorites

This time, book design times two, book cutouts, album covers, and a reflection on my 2023 photographs. It’s one of those Februaries, so let’s leap into it.

Jodi Hunt’s Great British Design
Screen print by Kate Gibb, lettering by Jodi Hunt, and photograph by Adaeze Okaro.

You might recognize the above book cover from my 2023 Favorite Book Covers post, a fantastic series of choices that speak to all colors while definitively saying, “Black.” It’s Nice That has a short post talking about Jodi Hunt, who designer that cover — and more.

Design by Jodi Hunt.

The screen printing is prominent here, too, and the interaction between that and title are, to borrow a Britishism, “ace.” And the below, with its slightly haunting image treatment (and that great text, lower left), also earns kudos:

Design by Jodi Hunt.

Great design, deservedly highlighted. See the other examples here.

The original Book Design
Ernest Lefébure, Embroidery and Lace: Their Manufacture and History from the Remotest Antiquity to the Present Day (1888), with binding created by May Morris

Before there was book design, or even graphic design — that is, when books and pages were thought of as art instead of design — folks were still coming up with great book covers. The Grolier Club, “America’s oldest and largest society for bibliophiles and enthusiasts,” has a wonderful exhibit of cover design . . . made up exclusively of antiques.

Lynd Ward, Gods’ Man: A Novel in Woodcuts, 1929, and Madman’s Drum: A Novel in Woodcuts, 1930.

One of the most memorable artworks […] is a sumptuous but comparatively delicate volume, a 1643 book of psalms created in London. Atmospheric exposure usually turns white silk-bound editions tan and brown, but this cover is a shiny cream color. The polychrome silk and gold metallic threads, which wind around one another to form a colorful floral pattern, maintain an eye-catching vibrancy. The only sign of the book’s age is the oxidized silver “stumpwork,” a type of raised embroidery that in this case resembles beading.

Elaine Velie, Hyperallergic

The quote above refers to the book in this month’s cover image, second from left, and is but one where what you see isn’t necessarily what you think it is — it’s more complex, more interesting, made with what the artist had available in the day. Great reminders, all, that book design has a much longer history than what we think of when we hear the term.

Check out that Hyperallergic article, another on This is Colossal, or, if you’re near NYC, go to the exhibit at the Grolier, 66th and Park. If, like me, you’re not able to visit in person, give them props for also posting the exhibit online.

Books Manufacture Realities

“Meticulous incisions and methodical folding allow scenes to arise from aged books and color swatches in Thomas Allen’s paper cutouts,” This is Colossal notes — but a picture is worth a thousand words:

Timber by Thomas Allen.

The vintage paperback work happened by complete accident. I was cutting into a pulp novel one afternoon with the intent of removing the illustration completely when I noticed that if I left some areas attached, folded the parts carefully, and looked at them from a single vantage point so that everything aligned, they created the illusion of 3D pop-ups. Everything snowballed from there.

— Thomas Allen, via This is Colossal
The three-hour cutout: Shipwreck, by Thomas Allen.

Here’s his desk — whoa:

Test cutouts in Allen’s studio, via This is Colossal.

The article is a must-read. Awesome stuff.

The Article’s Great — but the Headline is the Point.

“Virality over Creativity.” Few things summarize the last few years more — it’s always about getting eyeballs, not about truth or quality. It’s satisfying the algorithm. Because, of course, these days, media is social.

Real or AI?

POV, a new series of articles from It’s Nice That examines, in this case, creativity and AI in design for the music industry. “If an artist isn’t putting a piece of themselves and their experience into the work,” it asks, “why should anyone care?”

All valid questions, yes. But it’s the headline that provides another potential word of the year: virality.

The times we live in . . . .

Some of my Favorite 2023 Photographs

I’ve updated my photography page with my favorites of 2023, including these two:

Blue Against Blue Against Blue, 943 Ellis St.

The above, taken in Augusta, is architecture that doesn’t make me feel blue, while the below, taken on the main street in Sparta, does:

Bulb Moment, 12745 Broad St.

A couple of reflections: I didn’t get out as much as I did in 2022, and regret it, and have somehow pretty much eschewed both black-and-white and effects (film grain, light leaks, etc.), and kind of regret that, too. Both things to do differently in 2024.

That said, six years after investing in a different style of photography, I’m settling in — and looking forward to the future. I hope you are, too.

University Press Design Show 2023

As I mentioned in the recent Favorite Book Covers post, I totally missed the ’23 Association of University Presses Design Show in July, 2023 — which is their best-of from 2022 — and I’d like to highlight some of the great book design. Let’s catch up.

“Our selections ended up evoking an array of responses,” said [Jayme] Yen, [Juror]. “As book designers, some books made us professionally jealous—we wish we had designed those! As designers-who-collect-books, we took notes about the books we wanted to purchase later. As readers, there were books that we lingered over for longer than absolutely necessary, the text and typography luring us in and making us forget all else.” 

Jayme Yen, AUPresses Design Show Juror

This show is a favorite because more than just the covers are brought to the fore — interior design on books is, in my opinion, the unsung hero of print and publishing. Of course, there are more than a few covers to discuss, too.

AUPresses lists designers in with their winning designs, which I’ve included in the captions below. Any errors are mine.

They also separate the awards into categories. Let’s start with a couple from Scholarly Typographic:

Duke University Press. Cover design by A. Mattson Gallagher.
Duke University Press. Interior design by A. Mattson Gallagher.

Great effect on the cover image — not an easy subject for that part of the world, handled with grace — and bonus points for a beautifully interesting contents page, an area often neglected.

Also:

Louisiana State University Press. Cover design by Andrew Shurtz.

I haven’t seen this one in person, so not sure whether the texture is in the paper or the illustration (or both), but either way, this cover design delights.

Let’s move on to Scholarly Illustrated, and this interesting title:

University of British Columbia Press. Jacket design by Michel Vrana.
University of British Columbia Press. Title page design by Michel Vrana.
University of British Columbia Press. Interior design by Michel Vrana.
University of British Columbia Press. Interior design by Michel Vrana.

Another winning contents page — this time paired with an interesting cover, great title page, and interior design up to the standards set by these pioneering women. Only question: they couldn’t get a woman to design the title?

From Trade Typographic, we have:

University of Chicago Press. Jacket design by Jill Shimabukuro.
University of Chicago Press. Title page design by Jill Shimabukuro.

That jacket is fantastic: I love a design that wraps the spine onto the front (and, in this case, back) cover. Kudos.

From Trade Illustrated, some wooden type:

University of Texas Press. Jacket design by David Shields.
University of Texas Press. Interior design by David Shields.

From Poetry and Literature, we have an all-time favorite, redone with remarkable aplomb:

Princeton University Press. Cover design by Chris Ferrante, illustrated by Alenka Sottler.
Princeton University Press. Title page design by Chris Ferrante, illustrated by Alenka Sottler.
Princeton University Press. Interior design by Chris Ferrante, illustrated by Alenka Sottler.
Princeton University Press. Illustrated by Alenka Sottler.

I can’t speak highly enough of the talent and style on display in these illustrations, complimented with great book design. Fantastic.

From the Journals category:

American Historical Association. Cover design by Paul Carlos.
American Historical Association. Interior design by Paul Carlos.

That cover photograph — wow — combined with a full-color interior that’s really well done. Great stuff.

From the Reference category, we have three, starting with a local favorite:

University of Georgia Press. Interior design by Mindy Basinger Hill.
University of Georgia Press. Interior design by Mindy Basinger Hill.
University of Georgia Press. Interior design by Mindy Basinger Hill.

The more data, the more charts, the more fuss, the harder it is to do well. Another title handled in a way that invites the reader to enjoy — nice.

University of New Mexico Press. Cover design by Mindy Basinger Hill.

The interior of this book is good, but the cover, with its natural-paper-as-sky really works for me. (I do wish the author’s name were a little more prominent.)

University of New Mexico Press. Title page design by Mindy Basinger Hill.
University of New Mexico Press. Interior design by Mindy Basinger Hill.

Killer title page with aged, map-based listings. Nice.

We round out with several selections from the big one: the Book Jackets and Covers category:

Duke University Press. Cover design by Matthew Tauch.

Great photograph complimented by fantastic use of color and geometry.

Gallaudet University. Cover design by Eric Wilder.

Next-level simple, with good typography and color.

McGill and Queen’s University Press. Cover design by David Drummond.

Next-next-level simple, with the best drop shadows I’ve seen recently. Great stuff.

McGill and Queen’s University Press. Cover design by David Drummond.

Same designer as the previous title, and perhaps similar in style, but handled well while still being distinctive.

Princeton University Press. Cover design by Kari Spurzem.

Life is short. Go though the door while you can.

University of Alabama Press. Cover design by Lori Lynch.

This could have been handled any one of a trillion ways — ’bout the number of breakfasts served — but this one is interesting and respectful. Bonus points for the phrase, “Southern Imaginary.”

University of Chicago Press. Jacket design by Rae Ganci Hammers.

Love this, from background to foreground, with bonus points for a back flap not filled to the brim. As I recall, this one was a runner-up for last year’s favorite covers list.

University of Iowa Press. Jacket design by Derek Thornton.

While we’re on the subject, this one not only made the cut for my 2022 Favorite Book Covers, but was in my top three. Great, great stuff, shown here both front and back.

University of Minnesota Press. Cover design by Catherine Casalino.

Jumping right off the top of the cover — perfect. (Great use of color, too.)

University of Pittsburgh Press. Cover design by Joel W. Coggins.

Interesting, compelling choice with the illustration. Bonus points for monospace, typewriter-style title, complimented with the callout. Nice.

University of Texas Press. Cover design by Lonny Hurley and Derek George.

A cover that’s neither cranky nor stupid. (Crafty, though….)

Yale University Press. Cover design by Jennifer Volvovski.

Face-off!

“The printed book should be both a functional and a beautiful object,” said Mindy Basinger Hill, “and every year this community finds new and innovative ways to bring that vision to our books.” I couldn’t agree more, and despite my tardiness in sharing, I’m happy to have seen these titles — and hope you are, too. Looking forward to next year!

See the entirety of the show’s winners here or read the overview. See also last year’s coverage.

My Favorite Book Covers of 2023

2023 seemed to go by with greater speed than normal, meaning the process of accumulating my favorite book covers occurred more hastily than I would have sometimes preferred — after all, perusing the best of the new releases is tremendously enjoyable. It’s just that, due to this year’s hefty undertakings, I was not able to make as much time as I’d have liked.

So I was surprised when, in early January, the tally of candidates in the favorites folder was over two hundred items. A bounty of goodness.

Narrowing those down to the list below was exceptionally difficult. I tried to get to last year’s limit of 70 titles, but failed; I managed to narrow it to 80, then 78, but just couldn’t winnow any further.

Pull up a chair. This one’s gonna take a minute.

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 title you haven’t seen or read about, and I don’t want to disrespect any of the talented 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 wish to stress that any mistakes in the list below 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 of 2023 (three-way tie)
Design by Keith Hayes with art by Sasha Vinogradova.

“Find a gateway to the underworld. Steal a soul out of hell. A simple plan,” the Amazon description starts, and it’s a sequel of magic, secret societies, and whatever else.

But never mind all that. This cover grabbed my attention in a way few do, with its combination of art, shadow, and type, all carved to perfection.

Design by Oliver Munday.

I dare say that only Oliver Munday could have done this expression of so much with so little. Enormously appropriate, then, for a memoir only 64 pages long.

Design by Adriana Tonello.

From The Illiterate‘s Hungarian refugee in Switzerland we move to a Norwegian immigrant seeking freedom in America. Alas, she turns out to be our first (known) serial killer — giving this hand a quiet, eerie yet somehow classic quality that quietly compels like few others. Outstanding.

Other 2023 Favorites, in alphabetical order:
Design by Holly Ovenden.

Impressive sense of movement from these figures, whose interplay with the title type combines with quotes-on-a-path (something of a trend this year) and great color choices to provide something memorable.

Design by Keith Hayes.

Such a simple concept. Such superlative results. No other concerns.

Design by Holly Ovenden.

There is another version of this on one of the “best of” lists, but I much prefer this one, with the circling birds and hand-done lettering. A two-color triumph.

Design by Oliver Munday.

Oooollllliiiiivvvvvveerr!

Design for the US version by Anna Weyant.

One of those examples where the art just shouts off the shelf, although the type treatment works exceptionally well, too. Better still, it’s one of the rare US versions that bests its UK treatment:

Design for the UK version by Kishan Rajani.

Not at all bad — in several “best of” lists, in fact. Just not mine.

Design by Sarah Wood.

I’m not sure whether the items on the page are models, made (or found) objects, or some extremely well-done Photoshop work, but ultimately it’s combination of the simple graphics and brilliant typographic treatment that earned this title its spot. Fantastic.

Design by Caroline Johnson.

The ’70s are hot right now, but this is 2023, aged to perfection. Very nearly made the “best of,” not just the “best of the rest.” Horrifically good.

Design by Oliver Munday.

Type, color, pattern, brilliance. Must be a Munday.

Design by Dylan C. Lathrop.

Eyes are a frequent guest on book covers. Rarely so many, though, and rarely in two-color. Winner of more than a Pulitzer.

Design by Emily Mahon, lettering by Martina Flor.

Edie O’Dare does tell, it turns out. “Cinematic” might be a cliché, but….

Design by Pete Garceau.

I’m a sucker for a great woodcut-style illustration. Great type treatment propels it into a standout book cover.

Design by Ingsu Liu.

There’s something decidedly non-emergency about this, yet once you understand, it works perfectly: simple, yet so very not.

Design by Eric C. Wilder.

This book of Native poetry ranges from Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) to reverence to the natural world to “the machinations of colonialism,” a cover assignment that could border on impossible. Yet, here . . . absolutely brilliant. Expressive and so much more, including possibly my favorite type treatment of all on this list.

Design by Arsh Raziuddin.

Danger: UXB. (The pink is an inspired choice, too.)

Design by Tom Etherington.

Fear knows no bounds, only stylish hats. (On the LitHub list, someone said it has “serious 2024 vibes,” which I’m concerned may turn out to have some truth to it.)

Screen print by Kate Gibb, lettering by Jodi Hunt, and photograph by Adaeze Okaro.

Rarely have photo and type worked so well together. Fantastically well done, with plenty of room for the soon-to-be-added kudos, quotes, and awards.

Design by Beste Miray Doğan.

Who splits a four-letter word onto two lines? Someone after great results, as it turns out — with bonus points for the pattern and color in the “splash.” Nice.

Design by Alex Merto.

Smile-inducing. Sometimes simple is best.

Design by Sara Wood.

Junior theatre critic gets senior designer’s knockout hit. The audience goes wild.

Design by John Gall.

I’m at a bit of a loss to describe why I like this so much, except that every time I look at it, I like it even more.

Design by Kate Sinclair.

Perfect execution of a simple concept, from colors to art to type.

Design by Devin Grosz.

Wins the “best-placed title” award, among so many others.

Design by Greg Heinimann.

A reminder that something done often can still be done with originality — and incredibly well.

Design by Emily Mahon.

The collage-as-book-cover is another (perhaps) overused item, but when in the hands of Emily Mahon, this one looks you in the eye and won’t let go.

Design by No Ideas.

The jacket that covers The King of New York with . . . Lou Reed. “Well played” seems like an undersell.

Design by Janet Hansen.

From the textured paper to the type choices, this cover’s great. But with that photo choice, it’s vaulted into “best” category.

Design by Alex Merto.

The combination of geometric shapes and unexpected typography mean this little guy will never get painted into a corner.

Design by David Drummond.

“Type here,” someone said.

Design by Oliver Munday.

Type-as-a-border is a trend — one I’m surprised to see on a Munday — that’s actually a great counter to the purposely irreverent illustration. I dig it.

Bird-as-cat’s-eye. On a Margaret Atwood. ’Nuff said.

Design by Luke Bird.

Brilliantly, uh, substantive: a lesson in how-to.

Design by Jack Smyth.

The rooftops alone make this, but avoiding the stereotypical Irish colors is a huge bonus, too. (This title went on to win the 2023 Booker Prize, by the way.)

Design by Janet Hansen.

A triumph of the less-is-more approach, starring a headless human and superlative typography. Fantastic.

Design by Kimberly Glyder.

It’s rare to see children’s literature graced with such a great cover — this one literally flies off the shelf to grab your attention. A rare bird, indeed.

Design by Alban Fischer.

St. John called: this cover is fabulous, from evocative body parts to hand-lettering to die for. Awesome.

Design by Will Staehle.

A novel on the Korean Provisional Government — and so very much more. The split treatment, with both halves running at 11, get fantastic typography and the Korean characters (in gold, obvious in person) are a great touch.

Bonus: Read the author’s reaction at LitHub.

Design of the US version by Carlos Esparza.

Another where the US version shines, especially as cassettes are coming back into fashion. (Special points for the subtitle-as-label.) A B-side no longer.

Design by Emmily O’Connor.

Brilliant comment redacted.

Design by Will Staehle.

Mallory Viridian is an amateur detective on an extraterrestrial (and sentient!) space station — perfectly sold with this line-art-only cover. Fantastic.

Design by Anna Green.

Dead birds wouldn’t ordinarily be my go-to for cover excellence. But this one, with its painterly quality and hand lettering, perfectly hints at the haunting, slightly bizarre adventure within. Perhaps I should study more; as many will testify, it’s certainly not an obedience thing. (Read the Booker Prize listing.)

Design by Caroline Suzuki.

One of those instances where the graphic just sells the cover. Brilliant.

Design by Jaya Miceli.

The continuing stigmatization of the LGBTQ+ population in the United States is so perfectly summarized here. (I’m curious how this cover was done, too: white paint, then watercolored? Gouache? Either way, the colors serve the overall so very well.)

Design by John Gall.

This collage jumps through my psyche: sophisticated, off-kilter, and yet, somehow, completely right.

Design by Jamie Keenan.

I had to look up Charles Baudelaire, I have to admit — but didn’t need to know in order to get the disjointed, colorful appeal of this cover.

Design by Na Kim.

Leaving a trail, all right. (Also: the text colors.) This version is mercifully short of Booker notifications, too — sometimes, I wish all the callouts and clubs would just go away.

Design (and illustration) by Sarah Schulte.

Type on a path can be fraught, as can simple illustrations on off-white. Except when simple ideas are translated into compelling book design. Completely different from the above, yes, but just as accomplished.

Design by Gray318.

Crown. Asterisk. Print!

Design by Sarah Shulte.

As the risk of repeating myself: “Type on a path can be fraught, as can simple illustrations on off-white. Except when simple ideas are translated into compelling book design. Completely different from the above, yes, but just as accomplished.”

Design by Jamie Keenan.

This trick can only be pulled once, and book designers everywhere are envious downright jealous. Here’s the cover — uh, flap:

“Continued on rear flap,” it doesn’t say.

Design by Lauren Peters-Callaer.

Brilliance in titling aside, check the glint in the rabbit’s eye. Wonderful.

Design by Grace Han.

Interlocking forks, LOL. (Also, color choices.)

Design by Alex Merto.

This has gotten a bunch of well-deserved attention: from the embossed type to the gradually-increasing repetition of the artwork, Alex Merto scores and scores then repeats. Great stuff.

Design for the US version by Alicia Tatone.

Gluttonously hits a bunch of high notes, and keeps coming back for more — until:

Design for the UK version by Jo Walker.

Yeah. Score one for the UK.

Design by Kelly Winton.

Is it possible for something Escher-esque to be soothing? Yes, it turns out.

Design by Oliver Munday.

Perfectly abstract, brilliantly pulling together the remarkably disparate stories within.

Design by Kapo Ng.

“Kingdom of surfaces,” so very indeed.

Design by Beth Steidle.

“Spare, beautiful, and richly layered, the [book’s cover] is dazzling.” —Foreword

Design by Allison Saltzman.

Another of those too-simply concepts that checks out on every level. Awesome.

Design by Alex Merto.

Rarely does so much text take up so little space yet work so well — this 75th anniversary reprint stacks up. (Imagine inspiring a school-aged Stephen King, by the way. That’s “The Lottery.”)

Design by Linda Huang.

“A novel” has never played so well.

Design by Jaya Miceli.

Steppen-out: this new translation gets new meaning. (In the text, too, I understand.)

Design by John Gall.

Multi-layered shadowboxing. Nice.

Design by Steve Attardo.

A study in simple perfection. For a book examining heightening fascism, toning down the cover speaks volumes. Great choices on every level.

Design by Greg Mollica.

To collage in a way that the resulting product is of higher value than the original items: upcycling, indeed. (“The thread tying the cover together is a masterstroke,” he said.)

Design by Lauren Peters-Callaer.

“The humor of a great conversation,” one of the reviews said, and better words could not be found for the cover. Masterful.

Design by Andrew Davis.

The woodcut-style illustration is back, in two-color and aged to perfection. (The paperback kept the illustration but changed out and dulled the colors, to a much less satisfying effect. Curses.)

Design by Tom Etherington.

“Permeable boundaries,” illustrated brilliantly, with perfect texture and typography.

Design by Tyler Comrie.

“Sings,” someone said. “Seconded,” I said.

Design by Jonathan Pelham.

Stories told in a triumph of less is more. (The US version is good — another that’s one some others’ “best of” lists — but here’s another one where I think the UK slam dunks.)

Design by Laywan Kwan.

This is one of those covers that keeps giving, a three-color triumph of telling the book’s story. (Also: typographically counter-riffic.)

Design by Na Kim.

The Book of Goose was one of my top three covers last year, but high expectations are nothing when Na Kim is covering it. Storied, indeed.

UK version design by Andrew Davis.

I was going to go on for a minute, again, about how the UK gets all the good covers — and this one earned a spot in this post — but…:

US version design by Owen Gent.

…the more I look at this US version, the more I like it. The hint of cat, the red shading, the paper’s tone and texture, and the type treatment stand in direct contrast with the fabulously literal interpretation of the UK version. Given both, I literally couldn’t choose.

Design by Matt Dorfman.

“There’s a painting at the door,” in the most amazing state. (Political pun intended.)

William Morrow didn’t return a request for the cover design’s name, unfortunately.

There are so many ways to get this design wrong — but wow: someone took a cliché and literally flew in the face of it, to brilliant, memorable effect. I wish I could give appropriate credit.

• • •

Dan Wagstaff over at The Casual Optimist comments that,

[I]t’s like we’re stuck in a holding pattern, circling the same design ideas. Trends have stuck around. A lot of covers feel safe. Some of this was the books themselves. I’m not sure exactly how many celebrity memoirs is too many, but I’m pretty sure we reached that point and sailed right past it in 2023. No doubt some of it is sales and marketing departments sanding down all the edges and demanding the tried and true (see Zachary Petit’s alternative best of 2023 piece on killed covers for Fast Company). But I would not be surprised if it designers were just getting caught up in the churn — too many books, too many covers, and too much other stuff to worry about.

— Dan Wagstaff, The Casual Optimist

I think he’s right. Despite growing the number of selected covers this year over last, I feel that despite the outstanding items above, the majority of the book covers and jackets — almost certainly by publishers’ explicit direction — are playing it safe. After all, here in the Roaring Twenties, rocking the boat brings nothing short of vilification.

Thankfully, the designers on this list have battled the committees bent on mediocrity and overcome with great talent, great design, and great perseverance. Power to them, and I wish them — indeed, all of us — continued success in 2024.

’Cause, y’know, it’s gonna be a great year.

How this list was compiled

My selections stem from books I’ve seen in person; the “best of” lists from NPR, The Guardian, and the BBC (among others); and the best book cover lists from Spine, The Casual Optimist, The Book Designer, Creative ReviewKottkePRINT, The New York Times (gift link), and LitHub. See how my list compares with those, and enjoy: a great many more outstanding examples of book cover creativity await.

Please note: I somehow missed the 2023 University Press Design Show — usually linked here — so please stay tuned for that post soon (and then again in July for the ’24 Show). Apologies.

Beautifully Briefed 23.12: The Winning Winter

We round out 2023 — how’d that happen? — with some items pulled from the stockings: PRINT on a few favorite books and two different photography contests that impress. (Plus bonuses thrown in, just ’cause.)

Books in PRINT

Book designer Daniel Benneworth-Gray brings us some of his favorite books on design published in 2023:

It’s that time of year when “stop asking for books, you have too many books, look at all these piles of bloody books” echoes around our house. My excuse for all this tsundokustacking: it’s professional research! After all, my job is just … book. Plus I have an untested but absolutely correct theory that books pay for themselves by acting as insulation and thus reducing your heating bill.

— Daniel Benneworth-Gray, PRINT

They act in that role here at my place, too. In any case, I agree with several of his choices enough to highlight them:

The Graphic Design Bible has won numerous accolades this year, and reminds us that despite . . . well, the internet, a well-edited, well-curated examination of a subject as diverse as graphic design benefits from book form.

Saul Leiter’s mid-century photographic genius earned him a long career, as proven by just glancing at the cover photograph on this latest tome:

Lastly, something I’ve added to my wish list:

Note: UK cover shown, ’cause it’s better.

It’s great that PRINT pulled this article from behind the unfortunate mess that is Substack and out into the light. Enjoy.

Special bonus #1: NPR highlights public libraries’ most-borrowed books of 2023, along with their always-awesome “Books We Love,” 2023 Edition.

Special bonus #2: The Guardian reminds us that, for younger readers especially, reading print improves comprehension far more than looking at digital text.

Fantastic Landscape Photographs

“2023 International Landscape Photographer of the Year Winners,” PetaPixel announces, and some of these are just wonderful:

International Landscape Photographer of the Year: photo by runner-up Andrew Mielzynski.

Interestingly, this one reminds me a good deal of last month’s Natural Landscape winner from Adam Gibbs. (Maybe birches in water are a thing; I don’t do trends.) Also, kudos to this black-and-white taken right here in Georgia:

Winner of the Aerial Award, a special category. Taken in George L Smith State Park, Georgia, by Jim Guerard.

Again, like last month, here are two beautiful shots from the same photographer highlighted:

International Landscape Photographer of the Year: third-place photo by Matt Meisenheimer.
International Landscape Photographer of the Year: third-place photo also by Matt Meisenheimer.

The International Landscape Photographer of the Year results are published in book form, which is great if you get the physical copy but slightly limiting in (their) website form. Nonetheless, check ’em out.

Fantastic Black and White Photographs

“The incredible winning images,” PetaPixel announces of reFocus, a black-and-white-only photography competition, split into both professional and non-professional categories. (PetaPixel seems to have taken the flame that DPReview used to represent and run with it, thankfully.)

Overall professional winner Bill Pack and a small Mercedes:

reFocus Awards Black & White Photo Contest: “CarScape” by Bill Pack.

“Sensual” might be an understatement there. Meanwhile, there seem to be some overlap between categories, but when you can capture action like these two, maybe they just wanted to make room for both:

reFocus Awards Black & White Photo Contest: Oddly-filed Domestic Animals winning photo by David Zlotky.
reFocus Awards Black & White Photo Contest: Event winner from Laura Thomson.

Wow. Meanwhile, there are landscapes and architecture, too:

reFocus Awards Black & White Photo Contest: Winner, landscape (non-professional) by Thomas de Franzoni.
reFocus Awards Black & White Photo Contest: Eyes of the Sea, winning architecture by Hilda Champion.

We round out this list with something shot on film:

reFocus Awards Black & White Photo Contest: Winner of the film/analog non-professional category by Shinya Ichikawa.

Wonderful. See all the winners at the (thankfully well-presented) reFocus website.

Leica’s 2022 version of the M6 film camera, a bargain at $5695. (Lens not included.)

Special Bonus #3: Speaking of film, Nick Heer reminds us why he’s a daily read: The Neverending Film Photography ‘Resurgence’. (The Leica is relevant, not just me taking an opportunity to post a photograph of their awesome gear.)

Foreword . . . On Towards 2024

The end of 2023 hasn’t seen as much posting as I’d like, something I’m hoping to change once the new year gets underway — starting with the annual list of my favorite book covers of the year mid-January. Meanwhile, wishing you and yours all the best in 2024 and beyond.

Beautifully Briefed 23.11: Considerations

A selection of diverse items for this entry in the series: a new publication from The Guardian, open source fonts for your 2023 goodness (along with more for ’24), and the Natural Landscape Photography Award winners. Also: DAK. Let’s get into it.

The Long Read

Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of The Guardian, including its unusual-for-journalism payment model (that, frankly, some outlets in the US would be wise to copy). Now, they’re on newsstands with a “bookazine” called The Long Read.

The back cover. (See the front cover at the left in the header image.)

“We know that for many people, myself included, when it comes to long, immersive pieces, reading in print […] is still the most satisfying reading experience, and one that should be cherished in a climate so saturated by disturbance,” quotes It’s Nice That. With most of these more evergreen stories taking months or even years to build, hardy print felt the best way for them to live. [A] ‘bookazine’, it balances all the things we love about magazines (“the drama, the pace, the energy”) with the considered typesetting of a book. A lot of attention was given to packaging its large volume of text – clocking in at 55,000 words – to make the reading experience as relaxing as possible, from body type size to column widths.

Liz Gorny, It’s Nice That
An article title page — indeed, the best of a newspaper magazine in book form.

Read more at It’s Nice That, and give The Long Read a look at The Guardian bookstore or a newsstand near you.

Three Open Source Fonts for 2023, and 50 for ’24

As a self-confessed font junkie, I’m always interested when a new one comes across the bow — but there are so many these days, they’ve unfortunately become almost commodities. (That’s a huge shame, but also a discussion for another time.) So it’s interesting when I see ones that are not only good but also available for everyone, free and open source.

Monaspace is the first of three I want to highlight, “a monospaced type superfamily with some modern tricks up its sleeve.” Designed for code — hence the monospace — it’s a successful answer to the question, “Letters on a grid is how we see our code. Why not make those letters better?”

Get the full story or download from GitHub.

B612 is designed for — get this — the screens on Airbus commercial planes. “[T]he challenge was to improve the display of information on the cockpit screens, in particular in terms of legibility and comfort of reading, and to optimize the overall homogeneity of the cockpit.” Read the back story here.

B612 is available from Google or GitHub.

Inter is described as, “The 21st century standard,” “a workhorse of a typeface carefully crafted & designed for a wide range of applications, from detailed user interfaces to marketing & signage.” One of the world’s most-used font families, it’s perfect when readability is at the fore.

Inter is detailed and downloadable here.

But there’s more!

Brinca by In-House International. (Image via CreativeBoom.)

CreativeBoom has their annual compilation of 50 new fonts for the coming year up, “a comprehensive list of the best fonts that demand your attention in 2024. We’ve compiled this comprehensive list by asking the creative industry for their favourites, analysing work from the last 12 months, and taking on board the design trends emerging right now.”

National Museum in Gdańsk by Tofu Studio. Featuring Migra by Pangram Pangram. (Image via CreativeBoom.)

Great stuff. Creative. Boom!

Special Bonus: Simon Garfield publishes biographies on Albertus, Baskerville and Comic Sans. Seriously:

The Natural Landscape Photography Awards

For once: a contest that demands more — like the original RAW files. (Literally the raw image from the camera, before processing, for those who don’t know — think film negatives, rather than the resulting prints.) Okay, sure, it’s not perfect; there are entry fees and it doesn’t have a long track record, but the rules are solid with respect to image integrity.

Of course, the quality of the subject chosen to photograph is, if you’ll pardon the expression, subjective. The overriding theme here seems to be the perfection of dramatic subtlety — not an easy thing to get right.

Photo: Adam Gibbs
Photo: Adam Gibbs

The two photographs above are both by Adam Gibbs and reflect the judges’ desire to reward photographers who display a diverse portfolio of subjects.

Photo: Alberto Rodriguez Garcia
“Once Upon a Time.” Photo: Matt Redfern

A winner from the “abstracts and details” category for the first and a great title for the second image that does indeed tell so many stories. Rounding it out, another beautiful black-and-white:

Photo: Franka Gabler

See the contest website for the complete selection of 2023 winners. (Via PetaPixel.)

Remember the DAK catalogs?

If you’re a certain age — that is, were around in the ’80s — the DAK catalog was a regular. (Give me one, together with a JC Whitney catalog, and a weekend was gone.) A recent post by Cabel Sasser brought it all back:

The catalog from Summer 1983.

Oh, the products. The explanations. The fun.

I’m not going to spoil the effort put into the story of Drew Alan Kaplan, a.k.a. DAK, Joseph Sugarman, Products That Think, or any of it: go enjoy for yourself.

50 Books | 50 Covers, 2022 Edition

AIGA once again surprises and delights in their annual competition of book design.

Since its inception in 1923 as the Fifty Books of the Year competition, this annual event highlights AIGA’s continued commitment to uplifting powerful and compelling design in a familiar format we know and love. As book jackets became more prevalent, the competition evolved with the field to acknowledge excellence in cover design. Beginning in 1995, the competition became known as 50 Books | 50 Covers. 

AIGA Press Release

The jury and I were very impressed with both the quantity and quality of the entries this year, which made choosing only 50 extremely difficult. Among the trending techniques this year were use of exposed bindings and elaborate page sequencing and mixed paper choices. For me, there was a greater overall sophistication in book design, with a mix of aesthetically beautiful and graphically brash approaches in the final choices.

Andrew Satake Blauvelt, Director, Cranbrook Art Museum (Chair)

As usual, there’s some overlap with various lists of “best of 2022” — here’s Forewords — but, as LitHub puts it, these are the best book [designs] of 2022 that you (probably) haven’t seen.

A selection of my favorites, in alphabetical order:

Cover design by Mary Austin Speaker

Simplicity itself — along with some awesome block type — add up to a great cover. (Love the angled blurb, too.)

Book design by Zack Robbins and Bentzion Goldman

One of the great things about this post is the “50 Books” part; this cover’s okay, and the spine more than okay, but it’s the interior design that really wins in my book (pardon the expression):

Book design by Zack Robbins and Bentzion Goldman
Book design by Zack Robbins and Bentzion Goldman

Kudos: the photography is great, but the spread above is artistic in wonderful way.

Book design by Kimberly Varella.

The trend, mentioned above, to mix paper stocks and styles is shown to full effect here. This book has too many great examples to post; see more.

Meanwhile, Uncovering Singapore’s Traditional Chinese Puppets may not be a title you’d automatically reach for, but…:

Book design by Alvin Ng and Jesvin Yeo.
Book design by Alvin Ng and Jesvin Yeo.

More mixed papers (sizes, too), more great stuff. (See additional examples.)

Cover and jacket design by Lindsay Starr.

This is an interesting, compelling cover and jacket design as shown above. However, once again, rather than post it all here, I’m just hoping to whet your appetite — you need to see this one unfold (literally).

Cover design by Raúl Aguayo.

Great colors, great combinations, great cover.

Cover design by Vi An Nguyen.

I’m always a sucker for photographs of practical items used in ways that make book covers great, and this one’s a shining (pink) example.

Book design by Maria Elias.

There’s so much great design work done in the children’s book market it’s not even funny. The first of two great examples. (See more from this title.)

Book design by Mỹ Linh Triệu Nguyễn.

A book’s edges are so often a canvas left unexplored. Not with this book, Pacita Abad. (See examples from this title’s wonderful interior, too.)

Cover design by Christopher Sergio.

I’ve highlighted this design before, but every time I see it I like it more. Glad to see it as an AIGA 50 Covers winner.

Book design by Brian Johnson, Michelle Lamb and SilasMunro.

Typographic Messages of Protest, indeed — done in an appropriately powerful way. The suggestion of motion is a great touch.

Cover design by Chris Allen.

“Block party,” defined. Excellent.

Book design by Jay Marvel.

The second children’s title on this list, including an interesting and distinctive style. (See the interior of this book.)

Again, these are only some of my favorites — there are many more, all of which deserve a look. Congrats to all the designers who made these title happen and thanks to the AIGA for this annual delight.

See also: Last year’s winners. Via: It’s Nice That.

Beautifully Briefed 23.6: Welcome to Summer

This time, several items related to books and bookstores; two more — possibly the last two — from the automotive logo category; and PRINT Magazine’s 2023 roundup of great design.

Book Four-For
AI book covers? Here, now.

Creative Bloq, which I wasn’t familiar with, has a post up that’s only here because it’s the first I’ve seen of what is sure to be a trend: AI imagery on a book cover.

Image: Bloomsbury UK (Also: Where’s the body to go with the head?)

“Causing controversy,” they say, in that…:

[F]or a while now, with concerns over copyright and ethics plaguing text-to-image generators. Perhaps the most existential worry of all is the idea that AI could put human artists out of work – and while many still find the idea fanciful, we’re already seeing examples of AI-generated art being used commercially.

— Daniel Piper, Creative Bloq

The article itself has a hint of click-bait about it, what with Twitter users spotting a NY Times bestseller but complaining about the UK version of the cover design . . . but the larger question of AI coming for the book designers everywhere is valid.

Then again, AI imagery has the potential to reshape much of the creative landscape. Let’s hope — hope! — that it’s deployed ethically.

B&N’s Market Repositioning
Image: NYTimes (modified)

BookRiot asks whether Barnes & Noble’s new presentation as “a local bookstore” — something that’s part of the community in a way that Amazon can never be —is genuine, let alone successful. (We have a B&N here in Macon, which I visit infrequently, and which doesn’t feel “local.”)

Background: The BookRiot article (and the image) above ultimately stem, I believe, from a NY Times option piece from 2018.

Temples of Books

As regular readers know, I’m a huge fan of combining books and photography. Naturally, great photographs of great libraries strike just the right chord:

Cuypersbibliotheek, Amsterdam, Netherlands

As This is Colossal puts it, “Written by Marianne Julia StraussTemples of Books: Magnificent Libraries Around the World celebrates the stunning architecture and quietude associated with wandering the stacks.”

Phillips Exeter Academy Library, Exeter, New Hampshire

Positioning these spaces as intellectual havens, Temples of Books highlights their wide array of offerings, including botanic gardens, archival repositories, and of course, room to read. “As an institution that can curate knowledge, scrutinize the status quo, and encourage education, the library is more important today than ever,” a statement says. “This responsibility is only growing as the freedom to publish on all manner of channels increases.”

— Grace Ebert, This is Colossal

Instant wishlist item!

Take Action for Libraries
Image: everylibrary.org

Simple brilliance: a handy step-by-step guide on what to do if you don’t like a book at your local library.

Carmaker Logo Updates: Porsche and JLR
Jaguar Land Rover > JLR
No, that’s really it.

Formerly Jaguar Land Rover, but generally known in the industry as JLR, the British company1Technically, it’s an Indian company, as JLR is a subsidiary of the TATA conglomerate. decided to have a FedEx moment and rebranded. Alas, Paul Rand was unavailable, so there’s no brilliance in the execution. (We’ll absolutely leave whether walking away from Land Rover as a brand is a smart move for another, longer discussion.) Motor1 has the details.

Porsche > Almost all other mainstream car brands

There’s a new Porsche logo!

The new 2023 version of the Porsche logo. (Image: Porsche)

That’s right: it’s a very subtle change. But it’s a significant one, perhaps because it’s only the fifth in the company’s 75-year history:

All five Porsche badges. (Image: Porsche)

The biggest changes are the backgrounds and the prancing horse in the middle, which is completely redrawn. (And, yes, has more than a passing — heh — resemblance to Ferrari’s.)

Not-at-all-staged photograph by Porsche.

Wallpaper* has the best coverage I’ve seen.

Bonus: Motor1 has a roundup of every recent (2015+) automotive change in branding. Of course, I’ve covered most of ’em here, too.

Update: Nissan, already on the updated list above, might be up to something.

PRINT‘s Best of 2023

PRINT reminds us that not everything is digital these days — so much of the work still goes on paper or packaging — in their 2023 roundup of great stuff:

The 2023 PRINT Awards celebrated outstanding design in every shape and form, from the delicate texture and exquisite form of print to digital design that married technical skill with precise craftsmanship.

— PRINT Magazine

The best in show is a brilliant environmental design, the annual reports category is oddly satisfying (I didn’t know that Land O’ Lakes is a cooperative that owns Purina, for instance), the editorial category contains brilliance, and many, many more worthy of a design lover’s attention.

Sadly, their book design category is a bust. I like “The Every,” but pretty much any of my Best of 2022 picks run circles around it (and the other two choices):

The Every as photographed by PRINT.

But there are gems. I really like Bakemono, for instance, a winner in the fonts category and the best monospaced font I’ve seen:

Italian foundry Zetafonts brings us Bake Mono.

It’s a long article (they call it a 74-minute read!), but when you have a moment, grab a drink and an iPad and enjoy — hopefully as much as I did.

And that’s it! Settle into summer, and stay tuned for more soon.

Beautifully Briefed 23.5: Spring Mix

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):

Cover design by David Pearson.

“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:

Cover design by Michelle Brackenborough.

Out There fills its “wonderfully weird” billing incredibly well, too:

Cover design by Lydia Blagden.

Alas, the US version:

Cover designer unknown. (Probably just as well.)

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:

Cover designer unknown — I’ll look into it and update this post if possible.

The whole series is awesome, in fact. Check it out.

Book Design #2: The Impossible Bamboo Hardback

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…:

Cover design concept by the author.

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:

“1995 Low C Prestige Bass Clarinet,” by Charles Brooks

Recognize it? No? How about this one:

“The Exquisite Architecture of Steinway, Part 8,” Steinway Spirio R piano, by Charles Brooks

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:

“St. Marks Pipe Organ, Part 1,” by Charles Brooks

See many more here (2023) and here (2022). (See also this post’s header image, “Siete Lunas’ Guitar by Roberto Hernandez.”)

Typographic Illusions

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.

—Hoefler & Co.

Absolutely. Check ’em out.

One-Bit Wave

Last but not least this Monday morning, let’s please celebrate Great Wave Off Kanagawa — in glorious 1-bit greatness:

I usually use either my Quadra 700 or PowerBook 100, mostly because those are my reliable and easy to access computers (that run System 7, my favourite and most familiar OS of that era).

Software-wise I use Aldus SuperPaint 3.0, which is what my family had when I was a kid. Yes, I’d say that all of this is 99% nostalgia-driven…

—James Weiner

Incredible. There’s more info at his fantastic web site (done, naturally, in the style of a classic Mac system). Thanks to Kottke for the link.

Bonus: As I was writing this, he was posting 1-bit emoji. Sweet!

Have a great week!

Beautifully Briefed 23.3: Kottke’s 25, The Book Cover Review, B&N Back to its Roots, The End of Type 1 Fonts, and I Don’t Want to Log In

This time, the twenty-fifth anniversary of one of my favorite websites, a new book cover review site, an interview with B&N’s CEO, the end of Type 1 fonts, and a world-class rant.

Kottke Turns 25
“Fine Hypertext Products,” indeed.

Jason Kottke has been publishing a blog continuously for twenty-five years — more than half his life — and along the way, earned many an eye. (It’s been a full-time job since 2005.) Some of his thoughts from the anniversary post:

My love for the web has ebbed and flowed, but mainly it’s persisted — so much so that as of today, I’ve been writing kottke.org for 25 years. A little context for just how long that is: kottke.org is older than Google. 25 years is more than half of my life, spanning four decades (the 90s, 00s, 10s, and 20s) and around 40,000 posts — almost cartoonishly long for a medium optimized for impermanence.

I had a personal realization recently: kottke.org isn’t so much a thing I’m making but a process I’m going through. A journey. A journey towards knowledge, discovery, empathy, connection, and a better way of seeing the world. Along the way, I’ve found myself and all of you. I feel so so so lucky to have had this opportunity.

— Jason Kottke, Kottke.org

Cited here often, always brimming with interesting items, and a regular source of learning, Jason deserves massive congratulations. Happy 25! Here’s to many more.

Bonus: Kottke was a guest on Daring Fireball’s The Talk Show. Check the links — Textism! — and enjoy a trip down blogging’s memory lane.

The Book Cover Review
NYT? No, English, actually.

FastCompany points us to a new and interesting cover review site: mostly classic titles, covered in ~500 words “from a range of voices around the world.” Good stuff, with a NYT Book Review look and feel, updated regularly. Give it a try.

The Verge interviews B&N’s CEO
Decode B&N with James Daunt

I’m not a regular listener of The Verge’s Decoder — it’s usually business-centric, going so far as to describe itself as secretly about org charts — but this one’s interesting: an interview between Nilay Patel and Barnes and Noble CEO James Daunt. They cover changes at B&N (with emphasis on why) and, of course, the elephant in any room:

[Amazon is] really terrible at putting a book in front of you that you never thought you’d want to read, that you have no reason to read and no tether to at all. Whereas a bookstore is precisely the place that does that. You pick up the book that you never thought you would want to read, might read, or could even think about reading, by an author you’ve never even heard of until that moment. When a bookseller says, “Look at that,” “Read that when you next come in,” or “I love that,” or whatever it is, all those small, little recommendations are personal and able to attach themselves to books that otherwise have nothing going for them at all.

James Daunt, CEO, B&N

Props to The Verge for providing a full transcript, especially helpful for folks who would rather read the interview than listen to it. Whether you want to read or listen, though, book lovers in the US should take in this interview.

Adobe Discontinues Type 1 Support
Flying Suitcases.

Back in the old days, Type 1 fonts were the backbone of desktop publishing. They were multi-part, often incomplete or corrupted, and always getting in the way of perfect print output — and yet beautiful and opening never-before-appreciated horizons of possibility for your projects.

Now, in these days of OpenType, Google Fonts, and digital output, Adobe has taken the decision to discontinue support for the legacy Type 1 format. TypeNetwork has the full story, along with some options, and there are other converters if you need ’em.

Bonus: TypeNetwork also has all of the Adobe Originals, from back when Adobe was your go-to instead of the corporate behemoth. Classy classics: see the list.

The end of an era. (Via BrandNew.)

The Perfect Rant: Solved
There’s a park calling your name.

One more from The Verge: “I don’t want to log in to your website.” The surge of login and email requests before being allowed to read “free” content is addressed brilliantly:

So what we’re looking at here is creating a worse user experience in order to pursue a variety of scummy money-making schemes. And that sucks because there are no real public spaces on the internet. Here in reality, I can fuck off to a park and hug a tree and sit on a bench and do stuff without ads, without anyone trying to track me, and without having to pay a dime. There was a time within my memory when people tried to make websites feel like semipublic places — you could hang out on someone’s cool blog and enjoy yourself. 

Elizabeth Lopatto, The Verge

Read the whole thing, nod in agreement, and go enjoy that park.

Beautifully Briefed 23.1: Winter Potpourri

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.

Design by Kimberly Glyder.

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.

Bonus: See 70 (!) more of my Favorite Book Covers of 2022.

Book Design #2: Shift Happens

A fantastic website has clicked our way: Shift Happens, for a book about keyboards.

A screenshot from the Shift Happens website. Great stuff.

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.

Bonus: Tim Walsh, author of The Playmakers, is still going strong. Nice.

Photography #1: Minimalism

The winners of the Minimalist Photography of 2022 awards are in, some are fantastic. Here are a couple of favorites, from the architecture category:

“Prince Claus Bridge in the Netherlands,” by Arthur van Orden
“Blue Window,” by Andrea Richey

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
Photography #2: Wonders of Street View

This is Colossal brings us another gem from Neal.Fun: the Wonders of Street View.

“Wall Driver,” indeed.

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?

Interestingly, there is an I-42/I-17 interchange in Phoenix, but this ain’t it: these signs are representational.

As with most things government, there’s confusion, too many regulations, and yet it’s based around good ideas. Beautiful Public Data has a guide to the guide.

Adobe Steps in it, Again

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.

My Favorite Book Covers of 2022

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):
Design by Julianna Lee.

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.

Design by Na Kim.

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.

Design by Derek Thornton.

Simply put: there’s literally nothing about The Illusion of Simple that isn’t perfect. J’adore.

Other 2022 favorites, in alphabetical order:
Design by Matt Bray.

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.

Design by Pete Garceau.

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.

SoHo Press didn’t return a request for cover design information.

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.

Design by Jo Walker.

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.

Design by Tyler Comrie.

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.

Design by Oliver Munday.

As simple illustrations go, this one in on track for the city of Superlative. Another Oliver Munday classic.

Illustration by Seb Agresti.

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.

Design by Aleia Murawski and Sam Copeland.

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.)

Design by Maddie Partner.

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.

Design by Suzanne Dean.

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.)

Design by Mike Topping.

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.

Design by 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 also had a 2021 version worthy of note:

Design by Patti Ratchford, illustration by 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); both have wound up on mine.

Design by Ploy Siripant.

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.

Design by Vi-An Nguyen.

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.

W. W. Norton didn’t respond to a cover designer request. Apologies.

As photomontages go, this one is simple — yet simply powerful: red Albania meets (and hugs!) beheaded Stalin. Great choices.

Design by Alison Forner.

The quality of type and decorations on this “label” are beyond outstanding. This cover is candy for book design lovers and readers alike.

Design by 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. Plus, one color! Win.

Design by Grace Han.

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.

Design by Emily Mahon.

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.

Design by Lucy Kim.

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.)

Design by Matthew Broughton.

One trend I didn’t mention at the top of the article is the montage-in-type, done here to absolute perfection.

Design by Andrea Ucini.

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.

Design by Holly Ovenden.

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?)

Yale Univ. Press didn’t respond to a request for the cover designer.

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.

Design by Emma Ewbank.

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.

Design by Matt Dorfman.

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.

Design by Jenny Carrow.

The montage, taken to the next level: Jaffa, orange exports, and an healthy serving of emotion. (Also: curved text is rarely so on-target.)

Design by John Gall.

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.

Design by June Park.

“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.

Design by Oliver Munday.

Apple? Tongue? Misfit teenager? Disturbed and distressed? Yes.

W. W. Norton didn’t respond to a request for cover design information.

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.

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 sheer brilliance. (Great typography, too.)

Cover design: Emily Mahon

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.

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.

Macmillan did not return my inquiry regarding a cover designer.

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.

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

Design by Anna Jordan.

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.

Design by Allison Saltzman, art by Sonya Clark.

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.)

Design by Holly Macdonald.

“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.

Design by Jamie Keenan.

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.

Design by Jamie Stafford-Hill.

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.

Design by Oliver Munday, or perhaps Erik Rieselbach (depending on who you ask).

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.

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: Jack Smyth

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.

Design by Luke Bird.

“I’ll just do a little cropping,” designers say. Then there’s … genius.

Design by Mary Austin Speaker, art by Stacia Brady.

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.”

Design by Colin Webber.

“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.

Design by John Gall.

Classical painting with a singularity. Sure. So easily pulled off … if you’re John Gall.

Graywolf Press didn’t respond to a request regarding cover design.

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.

Design by Alex Merto.

Describing this cover as “haunting” would be a cheat — but completely accurate. (Love the line of type down the right side, too.)

Design by Jamie Keenan.

The rare type-only treatment … taken to an entirely new level. Fantastic.

Design by Christina Vang.

A triumph of textures: one matchbook you never want to throw away.

Design by Lauren Peters-Collier.

Breaks through more than water and time: it’s thrust into your memory. (See a note from the designer at LitHub’s cover reveal.)

Design by Albon Fischer.

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.”)

Design by June Park.

I adore how the type and frankly fantastic illustration work together here. Wonderful!

Bonus: Read how this cover came to be on Spine.

Design by Claire Rochford.

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.

Design by Jack Smyth.

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.

Design by Katie Tooke.

This one’s a two-fer, with the UK version, above, showing the book-edge treatment done really well, while the US version…

Design by … ?

…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.)

Cover design by Roman Muradov.

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.

Design by Na Kim.

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.

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. (Again, see a note from the designer at LitHub‘s cover reveal.)

Design by Elizabeth Yaffe.

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.”)

Design by Brian Moore.

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.

Design by Kelly Blair. Illustration by Toby Leigh.

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.)

Design by Christopher Moisan.

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.

Looking forward to 2023!

How we got here:

My selections stem from books I’ve seen in person; the “best of” lists from NPRThe New YorkerKottke, The Guardian, and the BBC; and the best book cover lists from Spine, The Washington PostCasual OptimistKottkeCreative Review, and LitHub. See how my list compares with theirs — a great many more outstanding examples of cover creativity await.

See also: my favorites from 2022’s University Press Design Show.