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.

Beautifully Briefed 1.24: Optimism, Hopefully

In this installment, Honda’s new(ish) logo, the Travel Photographer of the Year 2023 winners, and the Macintosh turns 40. Plus, one more thing. But first:

My Favorite Book Covers of 2023

In case you missed it, the annual favorite book covers post is up — all 78 items (plus some extras). It’s best viewed large, so click and enjoy.

Honda’s New Logo: Not a Zero
Not a zero — an “H.” Clever(ish).

As car manufacturers go, Honda’s tiny. As a result, they’re way behind on the electric push: they’ve got some hybrid stuff, a hydrogen fuel-cell item only available in California, and a new battery vehicle build by GM. Not where you want to be in 2024.

So they’re trying to make a splash. And to their credit, they’re doing it in an attention-getting style. Introducing the Honda Zero series, starting with the Saloon:

Futuristic indeed.
There’s no mistaking this for an Accord — but then, that’s the idea.

And the Honda Zero Space Hub:

Not minivan, Space Hub. (The no-rear-window thing is becoming a trend, alas.)

Other Zero Series cars will follow, and of course, being concepts, details are scarce. Both concepts, however, highlight a new logo for Honda’s EV effort:

Yeah, not earth-shattering. (And distinct from the Zero-series logo, above, which does not seem to appear on the cars — only marketing materials.) Here’s a history, for reference:

It’s worth noting that the non-electric cars will retain the current logo they’ve used since 2001. Read more at Motor1 or The Drive. (The latter has more on Honda’s Zero cars, too.)

2023 Travel Photographer of the Year (Contest)

Disclaimer up front: it’s another pay-to-enter photography contest, which seem to have proliferated. The problem here is the outstanding quality of output — perhaps I should just get over it and move on.

The rules of this one require both prints for final judging, no composite images, no AI, and a RAW file to check results against. All of which mean, to me at least, a higher level of achievement in order to enter. Okay.

Shout out to the BBC for bringing this year’s winners to my — our — attention.

Travel Photograph of the Year 2023 overall winner: AndreJa Ravnak, Slovenia

Slovenia is a beautiful country, and AndreJa Ravnak’s winning portfolio of photographs absolutely reflects both that and its hard-working agricultural nature. But there’s more:

Nature, Wildlife, and Conservation Portfolio Winner: Martin Broen, USA

A “ray of sunshine” joke here . . . .

Leisure and Adventure Winner: Andrea Peruzzi, Italy

Certainly a lesson in how not to enjoy the wonderful city of Petra, in the Jordanian desert — but an attention-getting photograph.

Landscape and Environment Portfolio Winner: Armand Sarlangue, France

Seriously amazing stuff: moody, dramatic, and yes, fluvial morphology. Nice.

See more at the Travel Photographer of the Year website. (Also via PetaPixel.)

The Macintosh Turns 40

1984 seems like so very long ago — and let’s face it: 40 years is a long time. Indeed, these forty years of technological progress has been unrivaled in human history. But the Mac is not only still with us but better than ever.

A Mac Plus, circa 1986.

There are a stack of articles that’ll retrace the history, tell a story, cite unusual examples of the breed, or even come up with the original press release:

We believe that [this] technology represents the future direction of all personal computers,” said Steven P. Jobs, Chairman of the Board of Apple. “Macintosh makes this technology available for the first time to a broad audience–at a price and size unavailable from any other manufacturer. By virtue of the large amount of software written for them, the Apple II and the IBM PC became the personal-computer industry’s first two standards. We expect Macintosh to become the third industry standard.

— Apple Computer, January 24, 1984

My first Mac was the one pictured above: a 1989 Mac Plus, with an external 20MB (!) Jasmine hard drive. (I even still have the case, although mine was a black Targus item.) It didn’t last long, though, because I’d been bitten by the graphic design craze and soon traded it for a Mac called a Quadra, with its separate 256-color monitor.

A preview of the future: 2000’s PowerMac G4 Cube.

Such was the pace of technology those days: that one was replaced with another, then another. (Including one of the Macs pictured at the top of the post. Bonus points if you know which it is.) I did not have the G4 Cube, pictured above, because by then I was rocking a tower and scoffed at Apple’s first attempt at desktop miniaturization — not to mention the inferior quality of the first generations of flat screens.

All-in-ones were — and remain — the domain of Apple’s iMac.

But less than ten years later, the computer had become part of the flat screen, and these days, I’m still using a 27″ iMac. Sure, its days are numbered, but I love its ability to get huge book and photography projects out the door with a minimum of fuss — all in a simple, elegant package with very much more than a passing resemblance to the original Macintosh.

Here’s to another 40 years, Apple. Congrats.

Special Bonus: There are few folks more “Mac” than John Siracusa, who has penned a thoughtful piece on AI: “I Made This.” (Via Pixel Envy.)

One More Thing: Word of the Year, 2023

From none other than Cory Doctorow: “enshittification.”

Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

— Cory Doctorow, Pluralistic, 21 January 2023

He’s specifically referring to TikTok, and cites Amazon and then Facebook as further examples, but oh, so many, many other items apply. I’ve not read something that represents where we sit — in America, sure, but beyond — at the start of 2024.

And this year promises to be a doozy.

“‘Monetize’ is a terrible word that tacitly admits that there is no such thing as an ‘Attention Economy,'” he writes. And yet, “monetize” is where business, education, and perhaps society is at. Ug.

The whole thing is fantastic and very much worth a read. But, “[n]ow that [they] have been infected by enshittifcation, the only thing left is to kill [them] with fire” might be taking things a bit far. Let’s hope — and work — for a better solution. For all of us.

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.

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 7.23: Items of Independence (Day)

The mission for these posts is simple: independent, unrelated items which add up to something interesting. This time, it’s nifty type, aka NFTy.pe, photographic AI (or not), the 2023 Logo Trends Report, great London Review of Books illustrations, and a worthy art book list hijacked for a rant on stickers. Boom!

Better Than it Sounds: NFTy.pe

Typefaces have become, from this designer’s point of view, become commodities — perhaps even part of a broken system. Most clients don’t have a budget for unique type, there are too many spread across too many different sites, and, as Creative Boom puts it, “ownership has become poorly policed, if not non-existent.”

NFType really flips the script on all of that and attempts to reimagine the industry from creation to sale. In a nutshell, NFTy.pe uses a combination of modular type design and generative scripts to create fonts with unique visual attributes. The upshot is that no two character sets are exactly the same. And thanks to smart contracts and embedded metadata, ownership is quick and easy to verify.

— Craig Ward, NFTy.pe creator, via Creative Boom
Create a unique typeface that rewards, in more ways than one.

As pointed out, it’s not just for type users:

There’s a lot of work to be done to put some distance between the dumpster fire that represents much of the NFT space and projects – like this one – with actual utility. I wouldn’t vouch for the worth of a lot of what I’ve seen out there, but the underlying tech – the smart contracts themselves – [is] actually genius and will be a game changer for any industry where provenance is a key factor – agriculture, property, fashion etc.

— Craig Ward

The whole article is worth a read, or go straight to the source.

Photographic AI

This year has been centered around AI, it seems — and, as illustrations go, some of the results are indeed a new form of art. Take this one posted by Dezeen as part of their AItopia competition:

Created by Midjourney for Daniel Riopel.

Fantastic. Its creator, a production technician in the prefabricated housing industry, deserves major kudos for describing something to the Midjourney engine that’s intricate and, if I dare use the term with AI, creative. (Several of the images there are excellent — check ’em out.)

That said, I’m not a fan of articles like PetaPixel‘s recently-posted “Photographers May Have to Embrace AI, Whether They Want To or Not.” Simply put: no. I don’t have to embrace it, because nothing has changed — either I can get the photograph I want using the cameras and lenses I have or I can’t. I’m not going to “generate the fill,” pure and simple. (I don’t control the computational photography my phone produces, but Apple isn’t prone to creating what isn’t there.)

I’ve been trying to write on this subject for a while, without success. Possibly because I don’t need a longer version of the above paragraph, possibly because it’s something else I haven’t been able to articulate yet — even to myself.

The 2023 Logo Trends Report

It’s back! BrandNew points us to the latest in styles and, as advertised on the tin, trends:

“Sonics,” part of the 2023 Logo Trends Report.
“Ritz,” as in the cracker, part of the 2023 Logo Trends Report.

Always an interesting read, including this fantastic tidbit directly related to the previous section:

“Don’t worry about AI stealing your job. To replace graphic designers with AI, clients will need to accurately describe what they want. We’re safe.”

— Bill Gardner, LogoLounge

Read the full report, “a whirlwind of ideas, symbols, and AI, evolving how creators like us create,” at LogoLounge.

Illustrations at the London Review of Books

Because we cover books here often (pun intended), an article on Jon McNaught’s awesome illustrations for the London Review of Books absolutely caught my eye. “A collaborative relationship,” it’s called — and the results produced not only illustrate a huge variety of subjects in a consistent style, but do so in a way that delights:

A great illustration by Jon McNaught.
Of the examples posted, there’s not a single one I don’t like. Copyright Jon McNaught.

Since 2011, Jon has been collaborating with the renowned literary journal, creating works that have a quietly mesmerising quality. His scenes breed comfort with their universality, but also their ability to evoke specific memories and feelings in the individual viewer. Through his covers, Jon artfully captures the essence of everyday life by representing the vastly contrasting nature of British weather, plus the uniqueness of London’s architecture, green spaces and public transport.

— Olivia Hingley, It’s Nice That

See many more illustration examples and read the article at It’s Nice That.

Hyperallergic‘s Art Books to Read this summer

Hyperallergic‘s coverage of art, despite the annoying pop-ups, is worth its bookmark — illustrated by this list of 11 Art Books to Add to Your Reading List This Summer. Some, like the Philip Guston I recently saw highlighted on Perspective, are as relevant as ever. It’s a great list.

As usual, whenever I see something like this, I’m going to do something else at the same time: mine it for potentially great book design. Which, if you’ll indulge, leads to this short rant: I hate good covers marred by stickers.

“Read with Jenna?” Seriously?

Solid cover. Soooo, who’s Jenna? Is she important enough to mar the cover with? (I DuckDuckGo’d the answer: maybe … if you watch television. Not sure that’s the audience publishers should want to cater to.)

This time, the “sticker” is National Book Award Finalist. Better, but still.

Another solid cover — perhaps even really good, something that’s appropriate for a title up for the National Book Award. Real shame, then, that the sticker gets in the way, winding up completely distracting from the very nice circular title treatment (I’m sorry I don’t know either book designer to list here.)

I understand that it’s a little like trying to hold back the tide with a shovel, but it’s something I needed to express. [/rant]

Bonus #1 (awful): From the disturbing trends department: TikTok may start publishing books. Barf.

Bonus #2 (amazing): Via Kottke, a fantastic poster and perhaps better question:

Poster for the 2023 International Book Arsenal Festival, by Art Studio Agrafka

A book festival. During a war. In a city under martial law. While schools and legislatures here in the US ban books about Black and LGBTQ+ experiences based on bad faith complaints of tiny fundamentalist parent groups. Tell me, who’s doing democracy better right now?

— Jason Kottke, Kottke.org

That’s all for early July, folks. Go forth and make your summer a better place.

Beautifully Briefed 6.23: 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 5.23: 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 2.23: Book Cover Portals, Lorem Ipsum, Favorite Fonts, and Building Photography

Look out, look up, look forward, and look through in this edition of brief, link-filled goodness.

“You May Now Enter”

PRINT covers, uh, covers:

While the book blob dominated the discourse for the last few years, we’ve recently identified another trend splashing its way across new releases: the recurring symbol of doorways, open windows, and mysterious portals.

—Charlotte Beach and Chloe Gordon, PRINT

A couple of the examples they cite:

Not only a portal but a shelf. Cool.
Not only a portal but also stairs. Nice.

Unlike the blob, I’m in favor of this one — the hint of the unknown is appealing in a visceral way that offers more while simultaneously offering more sales by asking potential readers to speculate and, thus, engage. Nice call, PRINT.

See more: Several of the covers on my Favorite Book Covers of 2022 follow this trend. (Some very enjoyable blobs, too.) Or, for another trend….

Dummy Text?

Here’s a question you’ve been absolutely asking yourself: what are the origins of the infamous Lorem Ipsum?

The lack of placeholders on the shelf is remarkably appropriate. (Photo: Scott Keir.)

Turns out it’s not as simple as Aldus [known as Adobe these days —Ed.] — or the even-more-infamous annonymous. Tim Carmody, the very capable guest chair at Kottke.org, fills it in: it’s Cicero. No kidding: Slate says so.

De finibus, indeed.

Fourteen Fonts to Follow

Creative Boom, where having eyes on you is actually fun, celebrates “14 Fonts to Fall in Love With” for Valentine’s Day. While Foreword may be late to the party, a couple of the type choices are first rate:

Irregardless1I absolutely want to steal their website design: the menu system is brilliant. and Pastiche, in order. (And no, I didn’t put those two together to be funny.) Read the article and pick your faves.

Art of Building Photography

I wasn’t aware of the Chartered Institute of Building, or their Art of Building photography contest:2Their terms are good, too — something remarkably rare in contests.

“White Constellation,” by Francesca Pompei.

Since architecture and photography very much intersect in my camera, brain, and work, I’m glad to have found this great source of inspiration:

“House of God,” by Roman Robroek.
“My own little cosmos within reach,” by Pati John.

See many more, read some press coverage, and “celebrate the built environment,” as they put it. (Thanks to Archinect for the tip.)

Then, go outside, find some nature, and celebrate spring. See you in March.

  • 1
    I absolutely want to steal their website design: the menu system is brilliant.
  • 2
    Their terms are good, too — something remarkably rare in contests.

Beautifully Briefed 1.23: 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.

Beautifully Briefed, Early October 2022 [Updated]: Triboro’s Lyrics, Hoefler’s Daggers, and Skoda and Citroen Provide Contrast

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:

Front and back covers of Paul McCartney’s Lyrics, by Triboro Design.

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.

Ellen Shapiro, Print Mag
The “S” spread of Paul McCartney’s Lyrics, by Triboro Design.

Interesting and informative. Catch this interview when you can.

Bonus: Looking at Triboro’s website, this lovely piece of typography stood out:

Triboro Design’s Zolo Jesus album typography creates desire.
Hoefler Discusses Daggers

In “House of Flying Reference Marks,” Jonathan Hoefler talks about daggers, or, what you use when an asterisk isn’t enough:

Hoefler on daggers.

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.)

Bonus: Creative Boom’s article, “18 highly respected type foundries that remain fiercely independent.” (I guess you could say I’m still surprised Hoefler is now, well, Monotype.)

Skoda and Citroen have new logos

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:

Skoda’s 2022 Kodiaq, a thoroughly VW Group product.

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:

Skoda’s Vision 7s concept.

It’s … not inspiring. Maybe the actual updated logo will turn the corner:

Skoda’s 2022 logo.

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:

Evolution of Skoda’s logo, 1895–2023.

Read more at Brand New’s “Czech this Out,” or Carscoops’ more optimistic take, “Thriving Skoda Brand Forging Its Own Path Within The VW Group.”

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:

Citroen’s 2022 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:

History of Citroen’s logos, 1919–2022.

Points to them for hinting at what’s to come, too:

Citroen’s 2022 logo, with just a slice of concept car showing.

…Which turns out to be something with, ahem, Oli bits:

Citroen’s Oli: the antithesis of a Skoda.

“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.

Read more on the logo: Motor1, “Citroen Unveils Updated Retro-Flavored Logo And New Slogan,” and Carscoops, “Citroen Unveils New Logo Inspired From Its Past, Teases New Concept.” Read more on the Oli at the excellent Autopian: “The Citroen Oli Concept Is An EV Made From Cardboard And Good Ideas.”

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:

YouTube? What YouTube? Citroen posts to Vimeo. Ahh, the French.

BN also includes a number of extra photographs of the simply awesome Oli, too. Here are a couple, for your enjoyment:

Plug-and-Citroen.

Note the removable Bluetooth speakers (the black tubes with “+” and “-“) and, especially, the seats:

I love everything about this interior.

Check the rest, and BN’s take, here.

Apologies to both Skoda and Citroen for the lack of language-correct accents. WordPress needs a glyph function.

University Press Design Show 2022

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.

Association of University Presses 2022

This show, like the 50 Books, 50 Covers also announced around this time of the year, is cool in that it doesn’t just talk about a book’s exterior — there are covers and jackets, interior design, even awards for the quality of typography.

Let’s talk about titles with both covers and interiors first, starting with the great Gumbo Ya Ya from the Poetry category:

University of Pittsburg Press. Cover design by Alex Wolfe.
University of Pittsburg Press. Interior design by Alex Wolfe.

The strength of this design, inside and out, towers head and shoulders and whatever else above — designer Alex Wolfe deserves this win and many kudos from me.

Next, two from the Scholarly Typographic category:

University of Georgia Press. Design by Erin Kirk.

Fractals are a great choice on this title page. (Love the title, too.)

LSU Press. Design by Barbara Neely Bourgoyne.

This whole project is well done, with the jacket taking an old map and giving it just the right treatment.

Three from the Scholarly Illustrated category:

Chicago University Press. Design by Jill Shimabukuro.

Not dissimilar to the above when zoomed out, but so much more than a scribble when zoomed in. (Note that the blue wraps onto the front — nice choice.)

Getty Publications. Cover design by Catherine Lorenz and Jim and Drobka.
Getty Publications. Interior design by Catherine Lorenz and Jim and Drobka.

Great cover, and the contents pages are awesome! (I don’t get to say that very often.)

Princeton University Press. Cover design by Roy Brooks.
Princeton University Press. Interior design by Roy Brooks.

This is not an easy title to design for, and here both the cover and title pages are extremely well done.

Next, the Trade Typographic category:

Johns Hopkins University Press. Design by Amy Ruth Buchanan.

A one-color triumph.

Leuven University Press. Design by Stéphane de Schrevel.

Great, great photograph with interesting typography grabs your attention here.

One from the Trade Illustrated category:

Trinity University Press. Design by Janice Shay.

It’s difficult not to appreciate a book with “Love, Loss, and Laundry” in the subtitle — but the book design does it justice.

We finish up with several favorites from the Book Covers and Jackets category:

Georgetown University Press. Design by Jeff Miller.

Flag-as-fence. ’Nuff said.

McGill-Queen’s University Press. Design by David Drummond.
McGill-Queen’s University Press. Design by David Drummond.
McGill-Queen’s University Press. Design by David Drummond.

I don’t know that these are a series of titles as much as a style for the titles — but, in either case, they work.

University of Pittsburgh Press. Design by Henry Sene Yee.

Not the only title here with textured paper, the simple typography with a fantastic — and fantastically-placed — bird wins for more than literature.

University of Minnesota Press. Design by Casalino Design.

The white border around this is difficult to see here, but adds to the overall in an interesting way; I also like the hand lettering over this amazing photograph.

University of Nebraska Press. Design by Nathan Putens

Additive color combined with the subtitle-of-the-year on this winner.

Princeton University Press. Design by Derek Thornton.

Great, great typography here. When combined with the radiating lines and provocative title, it makes for a title that I’d absolutely pick up.

I’ve saved my favorite from the whole show for last:

University of Minnesota Press. Design by Michel Vrana.

Another appearance of textured paper is just the start here, with that illustration rocking so hard indeed — the eye! Fantastic in every way. (Bonus points for “A Post-Exotic Novel.”)

See all of the entries from this great Association of University Presses show here. (FYI, nothing from Spine yet, but kudos to the University of Chicago Press for blogging about their favorites.)

50 Books, 50 Covers: 2021 Edition

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:

Cover by George McCalman.
Book design by George McCalman.

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.)

Cover design by David Chickey and Mat Patalano.
Book design by David Chickey and Mat Patalano.

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.

Design overseen by Haller Brun.
Design overseen by Haller Brun.

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.)

Cover by Andrea A. Trabucco-Campos.
Book design by Andrea A. Trabucco-Campos.

“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.)

Cover by Gary Fogelson and Ryan Waller.
Book design by Gary Fogelson and Ryan Waller.

“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.”

Brian Johnson, AIGA Judge

This is one of those books that you have to say, “I wish I’d done that.” Great stuff. (See its individual entry.)

The Time Formula. Cover by Honza Zamojski.
Book design by Honza Zamojski.

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:

Cover by Janet Hansen.

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:

Cover by Lydia Ortiz.

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.)

Many, many more to choose from at AIGA: set aside a little time, wander through all of the projects chosen, and truly enjoy. (Via Locus.)

FYI: See last year’s 50 Books, 50 Covers, too.

Beautifully Briefed [Updated]: Book Six-Fer, June ’22

A book design treat for your Monday morning: four of my favorite new book covers from last month’s debuts.

How To Be Eaten. Design by Julianna Lee.

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.

Sedating Elaine. Design by Janet Hansen.

A veritable how-to on less-is-more. Brilliant.

Vladimir. Design by Katie Tooke.

Another solid-color triumph. Great font choice here, too. Awesome.

I’ve saved the best for last:

You Have a Friend in 10A. Design by Kelly Blair.

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.

Via LitHub and Spine, as usual. Have a good week!

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:

Invisible Child.

The grainy photograph, the wonderfully placed city skyline, and classic typography, combined with the diagonal cutline, elevate this title from mundane to eye-catching.

The Sweetness of Water.

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).

Spring Book Design Coverage

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

In alphabetical order:

Book design: David Drummond

Brilliant: actual text, printed (on a great color paper, too), with actual string, photographed on said print. Not only is it exactly right for the subject matter, it’s simply and beautifully done.

Cover design: Brianna Harden

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

Cover design: Vi-An Nguyen

Woodcut or just aged? Doesn’t matter, as “brilliant” falls short when describing this title.

Cover design: Alex Merto

From It’s Nice That, we have a nice feature on Alex Merto — whose Ghost Wall cover is a great example of plant life adding so much more: “the force of a river to the head,” to paraphrase Emma Donoghue’s quote.

Cover design: Anna Morrison

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

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

Cover design: Patti Ratchford, illustration: Christina Zimpel

I can’t begin to imagine what caused the redesign, or why it wound up being so radically — 180 degree! — different. The old design wound up on some “best covers” lists (here’s LitHub’s October 2021 post, for instance); the new one has wound up on mine.

Cover design: Christopher Sergio

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

Cover design: Na Kim

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

Cover design: Emily Mahon

It’s nigh-on impossibly to look at this cover and not flip it around to read the text trisecting the leopard. Take something simple, add the elusive more, get this. Yeah.

Cover design: Jim Tierney

Another fantastic example of plants adding more than the sum of their parts. The mottled green background and watercolor-style falloff is perfectly complimentary. Great stuff. (Except: This is one of those times when an editor or publicist somewhere says, “Hey, we need to add this quote at the top. Let’s do it without consulting the cover designer.”)

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

From the Banned Books Department, we have the 20th Anniversary edition of this difficult title rendered in a photo-based collage that’s nothing short of brilliant. Highest praise. Kudos, too, to Open Culture: The New York Public Library Provides Free Online Access to Banned Books: Catcher in the RyeStamped & More.

Cover design: Jack Smyth

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

Cover design: Leanne Shapton

This illustration being in grayscale is, at first, a little off. But, of course, that’s exactly the point. I overuse “brilliant,” but it’s the best description. (See a note from the designer at LitHub‘s cover reveal.)

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

Cover design: Anna Hoyle

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

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

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