From book design and minimalist photography to … well, book design and what absolutely isn’t minimalist photography, plus some street signs and another warning about Adobe. Let’s dig in.
Book Design #1: People Really Do Judge a Book by its Cover
From University College Cork — that’s Ireland, folks — we have something that, on the surface, seems obvious: a book cover“is the most likely factor to convince a person to read a book if they are unfamiliar with the work or its author.” Maria Butler, a PhD candidate in the School of English and Digital Humanities at UCC, reminds us why.
You’re reading Foreword, so you likely agree — and shown above is one of those worth-a-thousand-words images: the first of the 2023 titles I’ve set aside for my favorites of the year, and absolutely something good enough to make me pluck it off the shelf without knowing anything about either the title or author.
This project not only scores with great web design — check the interactive version of the book, pictured above — but what also seems like great book design. It’s a Kickstarter project (or will be, next month), so the usual cautions apply, but I might just go ahead and take the leap.
Couple of interesting book design items, by the way: the TOC is at the back, the endpapers are awesome, and the macro photography is tops. The book design reminds me of The Playmakers, still my favorite book design project ever.
The Minimalist Photography Award is the only foundation that deals extensively and professionally with minimalist photography as a branch of photography in which the photographic artistic vision takes the lead.
Milad Safabakhsh, President of Minimalist Photography Awards
Direct quote, just because: “A man with three legs, a vintage car scaling a building, and an unsettling formation of people donning bird masks are a few of the scenarios highlighted in the terrifically bizarre Wonders of Street View.”
I didn’t know it was a thing to dress up and pose for the Google cameras. Perfect.
Street Sign Style Guide
Speaking of street views, did you know there’s a style guide for highway signs? Would you believe that I’m a fan?
From DPReview: “If you’re an Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber, you might want to go and turn off a new setting immediately. It’s been discovered that Adobe has automatically opted users into a ‘Content analysis’ program that allows Adobe to analyze your media files […] for use in its machine learning training programs.”
It’s important to note that Adobe only uses the files saved in the “Creative Cloud,” something I don’t do as a matter of course, but even still, this is yet another example of Adobe using its monopoly position in the creative field to take advantage of its paying customers.
Adobe, unsurprisingly, didn’t return DPReview’s request for a comment/clarification.
Just like last year, this post took longer than expected due to the best possible circumstance: there were so many great book cover designs in 2022 that I had a hard time whittling down the list. Even as it is, we’re busting right through last year’s limit of 50. Good times!
If we take a step back and look at the trends this years’ favorites represent, it’s more and better illustration, custom and hand-painted type, and a sense of a single focus — one, dominant thing on a field of color. Also, the trend of fewer photographs continues — more evidence that photography has become so ubiquitous that something different is required to stand out. (Or, of course, a really great photograph.)
Please remember that these are my favorites — others might say “best,” but I’ve been in this business long enough to know that there’s always another great title you haven’t seen or read about, and I don’t want to disrespect any of the great book designers not on this list. I’ve tried to include design credit where I could (special thanks to the folks who answered emails with that information), and I wish to stress that any mistakes in the list below (incorrect attribution, for instance) are mine.
Note: If you’re on Foreword’s main page, please click on the post title, above, to view this list. You’ll get larger covers for your viewing pleasure.
My favorite book covers for 2022 (Three-way tie):
How to be Eaten combines an aged look, just a smidgen of pencil sketch, hand-drawn type, and those eyes to create something that just goes beyond. I’m certain the background wolf and creases are real, too, either photographed or scanned — bonus points for that all-too-rare practical effects — and all this in what amounts to two colors. Simply awesome.
The Book of Goose defies use of the words “art form” — it’s the kind of cover that for many designers would be once-in-a-career good. However, Na’s work appears below, was here last year, and speaks to Na’s creativity being, well, a golden goose that just keeps on giving.
Simply put: there’s literally nothing about The Illusion of Simple that isn’t perfect. J’adore.
Other 2022 favorites, in alphabetical order:
This is striking not only for the beautifully-photographed woman in the pool, but the way the pool is extended out to make that woman even more striking. The pattern overlay is fantastic, too.
There’s nothing about this not to like: the frankly perfect illustration on a great background color, the head through the “O,” subtitle censorship bar, the sock, even the title. Enjoy-a-cigarette-after good.
Bunch of aged books with a little type, right? Yes, by so much more: striking colors, great hand-done supplementary text, perfect title treatment, style in spades.
This is a UK cover — the American one is okay, but not on this list — that celebrates a minimalism that is rarely seen, let alone so well seen.
What’s not to say about this cover? While faceless women are perhaps overused, this is a book I’d snatch off the shelf — and seemly catch something from — in an instant. Well. Done.
As simple illustrations go, this one in on track for the city of Superlative. Another Oliver Munday classic.
Along with “faceless woman” is “headless woman,” but the illustration here more than makes up for it. But it’s the expert, almost laugh-out-loud use of a void that makes it. Well done.
Sure, the title and background colors are neat, the sky outside is cool, and “a novel” is a nice, subtle addition. However: I want to know how this photograph happened. (And a waffle hot dog.)
The first of a couple of titles with unexpected wrap-around type treatments, this one has great type choices, too. But the real treat for me is the plane knocked out the photograph. Fantastic.
This title hides a secret: under the simple and wonderfully-die-cut jacket is a beautiful photo from René Groebli’s photoessay The Eye of Love.
Awesome. (Note that, once again, we celebrate the UK version of the book; the US hardcover has a design not on this list. Crumpets.)
The moon as O. The birds. The graduation from fur to imagery. The yellow. Any would be good on their own, but are great together. Have to say: I’ve seen this in multiple shades of yellow. I prefer the darker — closer to the Barnes title, above — to the lighter, shown here.
The typography, awesome little plane — the purse(r)! — the clouds, all of it: sky-high levels of good.
Interestingly, Fight Night‘s cover also had a 2021 version worthy of note:
I can’t begin to imagine what caused the redesign, or why it wound up being so radically — 180 degree! — different. The old design wound up on some “best covers” lists (here’s LitHub’s October 2021 post, for instance); both have wound up on mine.
The bird exiting the scene stage right makes this just right, with bonus points for the textured paper and slightly-rounded sans serif. I think the illustration is perfect — classically done, one could say — and also love that “author of Want” is in a different font.
Four Treasures to the Sky, mentioned in the May book cover design roundup, leaps into the best-of-the-best list. It features an aged look, but in a woodblock way that celebrates its limited palette. Add in the illustration’s interactions with the type and the vertical “a novel” — often an afterthought — and brilliance emerges.
As photomontages go, this one is simple — yet simply powerful: red Albania meets (and hugs!) beheaded Stalin. Great choices.
The quality of type and decorations on this “label” are beyond outstanding. This cover is candy for book design lovers and readers alike.
From It’s Nice That, we have a nice feature on Alex Merto — whose Ghost Wall cover is a great example of plant life adding so much more: “the force of a river to the head,” to paraphrase Emma Donoghue’s quote. Plus, one color! Win.
Nine parts awesome: type and illustration join to light a fire under the words “quality” and “imagination.” (Have I mentioned that I love a textured paper? Here’s a different one that’s also great.) This is one of several titles that’s not only a great book cover, but on a bunch of “best book” lists, too. Great books should have cover equal to their contents, and this one scores.
This isn’t here because of the attention Ukraine deserves these days, it’s here because of that illustration. Brilliant design needn’t be complicated, so ably proved here.
I mentioned at the top of the post that, these days, photographs have to bring something special to the table to stand out. And this cover does, from any table in any bookstore anywhere. (Lovely typography choices here, too.)
One trend I didn’t mention at the top of the article is the montage-in-type, done here to absolute perfection.
The woman in looking off the edge of the page at … something looking back. (Not only that, whatever it is casts a shadow.) The book is described as “subtle yet candid,” something that could equally be said about this brilliant cover.
Another UK cover, this image doesn’t show the uncoated stock and debased type — but does show the jump-off-the-shelf color choices and awesome interaction of title with background. (The US cover, alas, resorted to stereotype. Perhaps we aren’t sophisticated enough?)
Choose a interesting texture, put some blocks of color on it, some type and … done. Hah! (Seriously, just look at the hands: they say it all.) Bonus to the hints of doily in heaven.
The wrap-around title treatment makes another appearance here, with bonus second and third layers and a perfectly-done pull quote. With the aged ink fill and type accenting the striking illustration, this one is in that “wall-worthy” category.
On our second Ukrainian title, both flower and umbrella work together here to force us to stop and look. (The stenciled type is a brilliant stroke, too.) Proof that genius often appears simple.
The montage, taken to the next level: Jaffa, orange exports, and an healthy serving of emotion. (Also: curved text is rarely so on-target.)
So simple, yet it is precisely that reaching off the shelf, grabbing your attention. This book is described as “spare and monumental,” and no less can be said of the cover.
“Texture is key,” sure, but there’s texture and there’s this. The island’s brush strokes into what seem like a moon are whatever happens beyond perfection. I didn’t expect this cover for a novel about Pakistan, yet the emotion, the … evocation is perfect.
Apple? Tongue? Misfit teenager? Disturbed and distressed? Yes.
Rarely are such seemingly “dry” subjects treated with such skill: the angled type set against an urgent red, the subtitle sticker-that’s-better, and the photo choices add up to something I’d grab off a shelf immediately.
LitHub says this one has a very high “hang on the wall” factor. I can’t think of a better description — great stuff.
Na Kim just can’t help but design the best covers: a wonderful, antique background complimented by sheer brilliance. (Great typography, too.)
It’s nigh-on impossible to look at this cover and not flip it around to read the text trisecting the leopard. Take something simple, add the elusive more, get this. Yeah.
Another fantastic example of plants adding more than the sum of their parts. The mottled green background and watercolor-style falloff is perfectly complimentary. Great stuff.
From the Banned Books Department, we have the 20th Anniversary edition of this difficult title rendered in a photo-based collage that’s nothing short of brilliant. Highest praise.
Very nearly the perfect black-and-white cover. Texture and shape combine with an incredible title treatment in a way that shrugs off the need for color. Fantastic.
I’ve said before that moving to the South was a bit of a shock — the racism still all-too-evident jars all-too-often. This cover takes a simple, elegant idea and, without any of the stereotypes so often reached for, delights with style and simplicity, absolutely earning its spot in this list. (This is another of those titles that’s on many “best of” book lists, too. It’s a genuine pleasure to see worthy books get great covers.)
“Wow” is the only word here — a stunner of a photograph used in, if I may borrow from the cover, a breathtaking way. Simple, elevated to exquisite.
Never mind that I never knew Cary Grant was once a stilt walker (or named Archie Leach), this is an exercise in using a famous face in an innovative way, with a cast of supporting characters that flow as naturally as lines on paper. A trip through the possible — fantastically well-done.
Fantastic type and color treatments, yes, but it’s the way the photograph is handled that shines: where the eyes are, the color treatment implying front and side, all of it. A 2016 book reissued in hardcover with a cover guaranteed to attract new readers.
This cover is the antithesis of a swelled, salted herring: it’s brisk, to the point (if I do say so), and throws a life ring out to inspire book designers everywhere.
Brilliant: actual text, printed (on a great color paper, too), with actual string, photographed on said print. Not only is it exactly right for the subject matter, it’s simply and beautifully done.
Never mind the great brushed color blocks or boat-rowing-the-ocean above the title. This is here mainly for the overlap between color and island: shortlisted for the prize for intersection-of-the-year.
“I’ll just do a little cropping,” designers say. Then there’s … genius.
Another piece of art that’s absolutely wall-worthy — actually by the author’s mother — complimented by a tasteful type treatment with a wonderfully-offset “poems.”
“Great” can’t even begin to describe this cover — from the lemon shape, staggered type, green background, back-of-head portrait, to the slightly-aged treatment, we have ingredients that add up to that highest of achievements: a book I’d buy knowing nothing about, no hype [machine] needed.
Classical painting with a singularity. Sure. So easily pulled off … if you’re John Gall.
The title treatment is the winner here, using two translucent shades of orange to the best possible effect — taking a nice painting/illustration to the top floor.
Describing this cover as “haunting” would be a cheat — but completely accurate. (Love the line of type down the right side, too.)
The rare type-only treatment … taken to an entirely new level. Fantastic.
A triumph of textures: one matchbook you never want to throw away.
Breaks through more than water and time: it’s thrust into your memory. (See a note from the designer at LitHub’s cover reveal.)
One of only two text-only treatments in this list, done in a ’70s style — yet taken to a clever and impressive level. (Love the stacked “lls.”)
I adore how the type and frankly fantastic illustration work together here. Wonderful!
Cookbooks rarely make an appearance on “best book covers” lists — yet this one earns its spot with an antithesis-of-the-stereotype approach. Ordinary it is not, in the best possible way.
Another UK version — the US version is good, more than most even, but it’s this one that shines with its great photo choices, cut lines, and great type treatment.
This one’s a two-fer, with the UK version, above, showing the book-edge treatment done really well, while the US version…
…takes it to another level. Is there such a thing as a cloud globe? Or is that one of those old-fashioned stock-ticker covers? Either way, the subtle pattern — in front in some places, receding in others — adds a wonderful touch. Great stuff. (Great, too, to see the US version take one: a rare treat.)
Yale University Press scores a win here, with something immediately recognizable as about music, yet so much more. Performance art, indeed.
Na Kim apparently not only did the design but the illustration, as well. The rest of us can only aspire to that level of talent.
This illustration being in grayscale is, at first, a little off. But, of course, that’s exactly the point. I overuse “brilliant,” but it’s the best description. (Again, see a note from the designer at LitHub‘s cover reveal.)
Family epics, climate change, dystopian futures, and Moon — all somehow included in this rich illustration. Two-color greatness. (Bonus: Another great use of “a novel,” something often “meh.”)
A standout historical photograph is only the beginning: it’s really the coloration that’s the story here, for both book and cover — so well done.
Among the best book cover illustrations ever, perfectly inserted into the seatback in front of you. (Great Circle’s cover was in last year’s list, by the way.)
There’s something about underwater photography, with its beautiful, soft light and fascinating reflections, that is evocative — and there’s nothing about this photograph that isn’t evocative. A triumph.
• • •
Whew. Seventy great book covers. 70!
Okay, let’s summarize: 2022’s crop of favorite covers not only surpass 2021’s, the quality of work here represent what I believe to be a new standard. To all the designers — and art directors that chose them — congratulations.
I don’t usually think it’s fair to quote another blog post in its entirety, and I certainly won’t make a habit of it. With that out of the way, the always-interesting Pixel Envy, written by Nick Heer, hits us with a doozy — one that, due to its length and depth, requires the complete quote:
It’s a cycle. People create something, together, that reflects their energy and weird work; that thing becomes compelling as a result, and that makes it valuable, and at some point someone puts a price on it and someone else pays that price. It is at that moment that the thing begins to change. The new owner will almost always decide that what is most interesting about this thing is not the human essence that gave it value, but The Owner Himself, and will act accordingly. People will come back for the valuable stuff until the owner succeeds in crowding it out; when that crowding is done, the owned thing dies. Until then, what’s left is just what’s valuable—the humanity and brilliance and unpredictability and fun that all that cynical and idiotic and self-serving wealth is always and everywhere busy replacing with itself. There’s nothing to do but look for the good stuff until the looking becomes too challenging, or until it’s gone.
Heer writes in response: “You may disagree with Roth’s headline thesis — ‘everything is Silicon Valley now’ — or his tie-in with the story du jour, Twitter, or his analysis of baseball’s problems. But the paragraph above? That is something to keep pinned in your brain. For most of us, it is a reminder to be wary of how things are changed in exploitative ways; for those in power, it should be seen as a cautionary pattern.”
Kottke is Back!
After a few months off, Jason Kottke is back in the blogger’s seat to enrich all of our lives. As someone who’s been reading for years — he started in 1998, and I’m certain his site was in the blogroll of the old Foreword, back in the Aughts.
We might be waiting a while for his so-called “comically long what I did on sabbatical post,” but his Sabbatical Media Diet post is a gold mine of to-read and to-watch items.
Welcome back, sir. May you blog for many seasons more.
Stop Stealing [Free] Sheep
No, not that — the type book:
From Kottke, while we’re on the subject, one of his Quick Links from Dec 20th: “Google Fonts is offering a free download of the newly updated 4th edition of Erik Spiekermann’s Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works.” It’s a PDF, available now.
9th Annual Landscape Photography Awards
It’s fair criticism to say that I both decry photography contests and yet sometimes celebrate the results. But…:
This time, it’s three automotive logos . . . and Mercedes’ accounting department, plus a holiday bonus. Joy to the Auto!
New Audi Logo Falls Flat
Audi’s “Four Rings” have been around for a long time — since Auto Union was formed, ninety years ago:
Now Audi follows the pack (see VW, Mini, Volvo, etc.) and converts their logo from three-dimensional to two; the rings now are either white and framed by a thin black border or dark grey with black borders.
Not an improvement, IMHO. One of the articles mentions the concept of “a consequence of digitalization,” and think that’s about as good a description as you’re gonna get.
The change will roll out starting with the updated Q8 e-tron — which, thankfully, still looks good:
Okay, it’s not really — it’s a conceptual sculpture, titled “Pu+Ra Zero,” that represents their rebirth:
They call it a “a three-dimensional manifesto,” and no, I don’t get it either. (The light signatures and, apparently, the circular sunroof will carry through to the new models, however.) The logo, their eighth in 116 years, is new as well:
I didn’t know Lancia well (only in passing? Eh. —Ed.) until the famous Top Gearsegment naming them “the Greatest Car Manufacturer of All Time,” although I knew of the Delta Integrale — and think that the Fulvia is one of the prettiest sedans ever:
Let’s hope their new models, and conversion to an all-electric manufacturer, lives up to their past achievements. Meanwhile, The Autopian has the best roundup of the new Lancia.
Kia, KN, and … Wait, What?
30 thousand folks a year are doing Google searches for “the KN car.” Why? Kia’s logo, of course:
I’m not a huge fan of the new Kia logo — and can absolutely see the “KN problem” — but I think it speaks more to modern society that this is a news item than anything related to graphic design. Willing to be wrong.
Mercedes: $1200/yr for Full Output
This subscription thing has gotten seriously out of hand: Mercedes-Benz USA, in an effort to further bilk their customers — ’cause, y’know, MBs don’t cost enough — has decided that the last 60-110 horsepower available on their 2023 electric vehicles are only available for a yearly fee.
In this edition: Hummingbirds, the UK’s 2022 Landscape Photography of the Year 2022, a potential new logo treatment from Honda, and something just in time for Halloween.
Who Knew: Hummingbird Edition
Taken when the creatures are mid-flight and beating their wings at incredible speeds, Spencer’s striking photos capture sunlight as it filters through their feathers, emitting a full spectrum of color. The opalescent phenomenon is caused by diffraction and transforms their limbs into tiny, ephemeral rainbows.
This is Colossal
Let’s set aside for the moment the time and energy get these photographs and just celebrate that Australian photographer Christian Spencer worked to get these shots. Better still, there’s a book:
This time, we’ve got some great book design (with a bonus), Hoefler educates on typography (with a bonus), and two updated car company logos. Let’s get right to it!
Print Magazine on the design of Lyrics
The still-very-relevant-in-2022 Print Magazine brings us a great feature on the design of Paul McCartney’s book, Lyrics:
Turns out it was designed by an outfit called Triboro Design, from Brooklyn (appropriately). Print brings us an interesting interview with David Heasty, the principal:
I […] found him to be sharp, quick, articulate, and modest. Below, we discuss Paul’s involvement with the project, the book’s gorgeous bespoke typeface, and the importance of staying true to a legend’s vision.
Bonus: Looking at Triboro’s website, this lovely piece of typography stood out:
Hoefler Discusses Daggers
In “House of Flying Reference Marks,” Jonathan Hoefler talks about daggers, or, what you use when an asterisk isn’t enough:
Beautiful examples, complete with a phrase you don’t hear everyday: “twisted quillon.” Read and enjoy. (If the opportunity presents, follow on with the ampersand article — which, uh, takes a stab at where the word came from. Nice.)
It seems like nearly all of the major car manufacturers have introduced a new logo in the past couple of years, but here are two more. One’s best described as “an update,” while the other … goes a little farther.
Skoda, for those that don’t know, is a Czech company and part of the massive VW Group. Frankly, it shows:
For 2023, they’re introducing a push to separate themselves from VW a little, resisting the downmarket image. As is (now) normal with updated car company identities, there’s a concept:
It’s … not inspiring. Maybe the actual updated logo will turn the corner:
Solid. (Pardon the pun.) But seriously, even an avid car nut like me didn’t know that represents a winged arrow — and I’m not sure the new version helps. At least they get points for consistency:
Then there’s Citroen. Even under the potentially-smothering corporate blanket that is Stellantis (there’s a name!), the pioneer of decades past still manages to actually thrive. First their new logo:
They’re not quite as consistent — the dual chevrons have varied a bit. This time, they’ve literally gone back to their roots, pulling the 1919/1921/1936 version out and dusting it off for modern use:
Points to them for hinting at what’s to come, too:
…Which turns out to be something with, ahem, Oli bits:
“Nothing moves us like Citroen,” they say. The Oli moves me, to a point where I truly wish Citroen was once again available in the ’States. Cool and radically innovative, without losing sight of something VW has truly lost: fun. Well done.
Updated, 19 October, 2022:Brand New adds to Citroen’s new logo story, with a slightly-less-than-enthusiastic take on the logo and has frankly unkind things to say about the new, custom typeface (custom typefaces are now de rigueur — a policy as much related to rights ownership than creativity, alas).
I really like the cursive in this Vimeo screenshot:
BN also includes a number of extra photographs of the simply awesome Oli, too. Here are a couple, for your enjoyment:
Note the removable Bluetooth speakers (the black tubes with “+” and “-“) and, especially, the seats:
A wide selection of items for the beginning of fall, from positive fonts to jolly cameras — with Adobe and Pantone pouring some cold water on things. Let’s get to it!
As Americans, Europeans, or, more generally, Westerners, we take for granted that fonts will reflect the various pieces of individual type — that is, letterforms — that we’ll need. But not everyone falls into that category.
The always-great Hoefler & Co. spends a minute educating us about italics:
Italics can be the most colorful part of a type family, diverging dramatically from their roman cousins. Here’s a look at twelve kinds of italic typeface, with some notes on their cultural contexts, historical backgrounds, and practical applications.
Hoefler & Co.
Read the article, “Italics Examined,” at Hoefler & Co.’s Typography.com.
Adobe Types, “Stop.”
Adobe and Pantone are having a . . . thing. As a result, all Pantone spot libraries have been removed from Adobe products:
A classy move, completely in character for both companies, to reach into users’ machines and remove stuff they had paid for and may rely on because of some licensing spat.
Nick Heer, Pixel Envy
I didn’t get a notice in either InDesign or Photoshop, but a check in InDesign (the CC 2022, aka 17.4, version) shows only the CMYK libraries:
You can subscribe to the additional libraries from Pantone for $60/year. Book design is almost exclusively CMYK, so I won’t be . . . but grrrr.
Mortals can dream, sure, but here on Earth, I encourage an order from this Ukrainian company instead:
They’re based on instant film cartridges, are made of recycled materials, look incredibly cool, and a kit starts at an incredibly-reasonable $99. Throw in a few extra dollars to support Ukraine and . . . feel Jolly.
To call Rolling Stone‘s place in America culture iconic might be selling it short, and their logo plays a large role in that. In 2018, they flattened it — leading that trend, possibly — and it lost something.
However, this month, it’s back:
“The assignment was a paradox. How could we make the logo look like it did in the past, without making it feel dated? My hope is that loyal readers will believe the old logo is back, but on closer inspection will be surprised to notice how much it has been modernized.”
Jesse Ragan, XYZ Type
The “old logo” he’s referring to is the one that ran from 1981–2018, but there were others, too:
A great study in logo evolution: read more at the Type Network, and lettering specifics from XYZ Type. Awesome. (Hat tip to, as usual, Brand New.)
Aston Martin’s New Logo
On the subject of subtlety, Aston Martin usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Their recent logo redesign, however, falls into that category:
The evolution of their logo emphasizes those small steps:
Subtlety and Bugatti rarely — if ever — fit in the same sentence. Aston is stratospheric as far as I’m concerned, so Bugatti would qualify as the antithesis of subtlety. But, but, but: there’s something about one.
They have a new logo and marketing campaign to go with:
It’s been a busy August, including having to make a lightning trip through the usually-not-fun Atlanta airport. But there’s always a bright spot at the end of that tunnel: being the little boy again, awed by the simple act of flying.
Better still, the flight was on a 757, the sports car of big planes. Everybody around me had their window shades pulled and noses in their phones, but I was looking out the window:
Note: Click on the title above to see this post in one-column format, which includes larger graphics — helpful with some of these jackets especially. (This applies to any post here on Foreword, by the way.)
It’s time once again to celebrate the unsung heroes of the book world: the best items published by university presses.
The annual show, now in its 57th year, honors the university publishing community’s design and production professionals. The Association recognizes achievement in design, production, and manufacture of books, jackets, covers, and journals, and the Show serves as a spark to conversations and source of ideas about intelligent, creative, and resourceful publishing.
AIGA has announced their winners of the 2021 50 Books, 50 Covers competition:
With 605 book and cover design entries from 29 countries, this year’s competition recognizes and showcases excellence in book design from around the world. […] Eligible entries for the 2021 competition were open to books published and used in the marketplace in 2021.
AIGA Press Release
In this year’s competition, innovative book designs for topics ranging from designing and motherhood, African surf culture, stories of resistance, visual histories of Detroit, Black food traditions, and more all give our jury life, hope, and visible windows into new possible worlds. The covers and books we looked at had a diverse range of visual language and took aesthetic risks.
Silas Munro, AIGA [Competition] Chair
As usual, there are items here that I haven’t seen before, along with several that surfaced on others’ “best of 2021” book design lists (see that Foreword post for my faves). Also as usual, there are some excellent choices.
Further, there’s something in this competition that you don’t see in the usual “best of” posts: interiors. Half of the competition is covers, sure, but the other half considers the whole book design — and sometimes, as I can definitely attest, an underwhelming cover can lead to a treasure within.
But enough talking. My favorites, in no particular order:
This is one from the 2021 “best of” finalists that I didn’t post about — but now that I’ve seen the interior…. So very worthy. (See more.)
This series of three books not only have striking covers I’d not seen before but exceptionally competent interiors done on matte paper, a personal favorite. (Click through for more examples.) Excellent.
In this fascinating book, architectural photographer Iwan Baan and (Pritzker-winning) architect Francis Kéré “set out to capture how the sun’s natural light cycle shapes vernacular architecture.” While I may be slightly biased in terms of architecture and photography, this one’s a winner. (Read the AIGA’s take.)
“A little overly precious,” the AIGA says … while awarding it a prize. Completely fresh, I say, with interesting content presented in a way that does considerably more than interest. Well done. (See them apples.)
“The type on the cover and in the body is perfect, in all ways and choices. The use of the gutter for captions is a great understanding of the art and a perfect way to save space. The page numbers too.”
There always seems to be some projects that violate book design “rules” — this one doesn’t have a title on the cover, has page numbers in the gutters, and more. Yet this book, about a sculpture project, makes for interesting viewing indeed. (See more.)
Last, we have a couple that are only covers:
This was considered for my favorites of 2021 (and made it onto others’ lists). I’m glad to have been given the chance to call it out. Excellent in its simplicity. (See the AIGA entry.)
Last, but certainly not least:
Another advantage of this competition: seeing more than the front cover. And this cover, front, back, and spine, is so much more — especially in person: black plus four neon inks. Wow. (See the AIGA’s praise.)
Car site The Autopian scores with book design, Ford posts old marketing material gold mine, and more on the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity in this edition of Beautifully Briefed.
Autopian suggests book design
The Autopian, founded by a couple of former Jalopnik writers, is a new automotive gem: in these days of more-of-the-sameism sites trying to make money of others’ ideas, the Autopian has a retro style and interesting, original content.
Including this short post from their Cold Start column:
Sometimes you may encounter an old car ad and realize that the design of it could lend itself very well to something completely different. In this case, this 1958 Ford Zodiac ad, with its rich, saturated colors, striking dress on the model, and evocative name with understated typography just feel like something you’d see on modern book cover design.
Jason Torchinsky, Autopian Founder
His book design idea “realized”:
The Ford Heritage Vault
Ford has taken the unusual step of posting a good chunk of their old — 1903 to 2003, their first 100 years — marketing materials online: “promotional materials, photographs, and all kinds of other historical goodies,” according to CarScoops.
“Our archives were established 70 years ago, and for the first time, we’re opening the vault for the public to see. This is just a first step for all that will come in the future,” says Ted Ryan, Ford archive and heritage brand manager.
Here’s a personal favorite: the 1965 full line brochure, showing the cars set in architectural drawings — presumably, matching the car to the house:
We discussed the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity back in April, but Metropolis magazine has published an extensive article covering a visit to the Institute.
Modernism has largely been diluted from a series of ideas rooted in social change to one of just style—Instagram moments, if you will. The Eameses insisted that they did not have a style or even an “ism.” […] Modernism was an idea, not a style. With the establishment of the Eames Institute, I hope Charles and Ray will be remembered most of all for their ideas and processes.
Kenneth Caldwell, Metropolis
With our ongoing struggle to use materials more efficiently, many of the Eameses’ ideas and ideals need to be taken for the solutions that they are: style with incredible substance.
Three items for the end of June, 2022: AIA Los Angeles announces photography awards, the 2022 edition of the Logo Lounge logo trends report is out, and Buick makes its new logo official. Let’s get into the details.
AIALA Photography Awards
The Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA|LA) has announced this year’s winners of the annual Architectural Photography Awards, and there’s some pretty great stuff:
[W]hile there are still corporate-looking marks being crafted there is a stronger effort to find ways to identify products that are artisanal and handcrafted.
Bill Gardner, Logo Lounge
Corporations trying to be more human. (News at 11.) But then, my use of that particular phrase perhaps betrays my lack of being in touch with the modern corporate world; I think publishing is a different animal, and prefer being part of that world despite the regular influence of corporate entities there, too.
Nonetheless, following logo trends is, from a purely graphic design perspective, worthwhile — and this report summarizes beautifully. Read on.
A book design treat for your Monday morning: four of my favorite new book covers from last month’s debuts.
Aged, distressed paper is a great look when done well, and this one hits all the right notes. The size relationship between the characters, the glow around the eyes, the two color choices, the type, all of it — great stuff.
A veritable how-to on less-is-more. Brilliant.
Another solid-color triumph. Great font choice here, too. Awesome.
I’ve saved the best for last:
Great Circle has featured before, and this follow-up takes us inside the plane and into the safety brochure in the best possible way. Great, brilliant, and awesome wrapped into one.
Update, June 20th: WABE, Atlanta’s NPR station, has a summer reading list out, highlighting Georgia books and authors — and I’d like to include two of the covers here:
The grainy photograph, the wonderfully placed city skyline, and classic typography, combined with the diagonal cutline, elevate this title from mundane to eye-catching.
Excellently distressed doesn’t begin to describe this, on many levels. Side note: it’s a terrible shame that the Oprah and Booker call-outs have been elevated to logo status in what can politely be described as a distraction (from a book designer’s point of view, at least).
This month’s favorites cover a delightful new extension of the typeface DaVinci, Google’s updated mega-font, Noto, photographs of a desert aircraft boneyard from above, and mega-photographs of the Milky Way.
Before we get there, however, I wanted to wish Jason Kottke — whose 24 years of web sleuthing has been a source for items here on Foreword dating back to its original iteration in the ’90s — good luck on his sabbatical:
“I need some space to think and live and have generative conversations and do things, and then I’ll make something, but I can’t tell you what it is just yet.”1Alexandra Bell, NYT That’s the sort of energy I need to tap into for a few months.
“When you do this sort of type exercise — based on printed letters — it gives a very organic shape and form, in opposition to the very metallic sharp shape from type materials.” Furthering this organic look by pushing the fluidity curse at its maximum, Virgile ended with a design “which is very historical, yet with a contemporary twist.”
Makes you want to find an excuse to use it. But that’s not all: Flores is an incredibly diverse artist whose work both challenges and inspires. See more.
Called “A Typeface for the World,” Google’s Noto defines “megaproject.”
Noto is a collection of high-quality fonts with multiple weights and widths in sans, serif, mono, and other styles. The Noto fonts are perfect for harmonious, aesthetic, and typographically correct global communication, in more than 1,000 languages and over 150 writing systems.
According to Google,
“Noto” means “I write, I mark, I note” in Latin. The name is also short for “no tofu”, as the project aims to eliminate ‘tofu’: blank rectangles shown when no font is available for your text.
While the font itself has been around for a few years — 2013 seems like yesterday in so many ways! — it’s updated regularly, cover 150 out of the 154 scripts defined in Unicode, and deserves attention from every web designer and type nut. Read more at Google or Wikipedia. (Via Kottke.)
Aircraft Boneyard, From an Aircraft
This is Colossal introduces us to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, whose desert conditions are ideal for storing — and scrapping — aircraft:
For your May Day, please take a closer look at twelve great book covers — and a bonus thirteenth! — spotted during the first four months of 2022.
In alphabetical order:
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.
Another great background color choice, this time highlighting the awesome colors chosen for Fiona and Jane’s illustrations. The hand-painted text is perfectly done.
Woodcut or just aged? Doesn’t matter, as “brilliant” falls short when describing this title.
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.
The typography, awesome little plane — the purse(r)! — the clouds, all of it: sky-high levels of good.
Interestingly, Fight Night‘s cover has gotten notice before:
I can’t begin to imagine what caused the redesign, or why it wound up being so radically — 180 degree! — different. The old design wound up on some “best covers” lists (here’s LitHub’s October 2021 post, for instance); the new one has wound up on mine.
LitHub says this one has a very high “hang on the wall” factor. I can’t think of a better description — great stuff.
Na Kim just can’t help but design the best covers: a wonderful, antique background complimented by brilliance. (Great typography, too.)
It’s nigh-on impossibly to look at this cover and not flip it around to read the text trisecting the leopard. Take something simple, add the elusive more, get this. Yeah.
Another fantastic example of plants adding more than the sum of their parts. The mottled green background and watercolor-style falloff is perfectly complimentary. Great stuff. (Except: This is one of those times when an editor or publicist somewhere says, “Hey, we need to add this quote at the top. Let’s do it without consulting the cover designer.”)
Never mind the great brushed color blocks or boat-rowing-the-ocean above the title. This is here for the overlap between color and island. Shortlisted for the prize for intersection-of-the-year.
This illustration being in grayscale is, at first, a little off. But, of course, that’s exactly the point. I overuse “brilliant,” but it’s the best description. (See a note from the designer at LitHub‘s cover reveal.)
So, the bonus. No, it’s not the extra Fight Night, above, it’s a fictitious cover. That’s right:
In another It’s Nice That post, we have Anna Hoyle: “Judge her fake books by their comical covers.” Okay!
More book design updates soon — ’cause, here in Georgia, USA, we’re done with spring. Summer starts . . . now.