Beautifully Briefed, Late April 2022: Old Macs, More or Less, to the Fore(word)

This time: System Six, from Glider’s programmer; MacOS 8 — including Glider — in your browser; and a pictorial history of Apple monitors. Nostalgia for your enjoyment!

System Six

John Calhoun, who wrote one of my all-time favorite games for the classic Mac, Glider, has taken a Raspberry Pi, an e-ink screen, and a great deal of ingenuity to make this:

It’s only got the shape of a classic Mac — and yet….

Calendar events, the current moon phase, and more, in a form that can’t help but bring a smile. Better still, he’s written about the process so others can make one, too. (Ahem, Gerald.) Best desk accessory evah, to coin a phrase.

Infinite Mac
Fastest MacOS 8 startup times in history.

A project to have an easily browsable collection of classic Macintosh software from the comfort of a (modern) web browser. […S]ee what using a Mac in the mid-1990’s was like.

Well, naturally, I’ve been . . . here:

Glider works — and wastes time — just as well as on the original.

MacOS8, with infinite fun. But that’s not all! For — wait for it — $0, you also get System 7 and KanjiTalk. (Set aside a few hours before clicking.)

Mac Monitor history, detailed

With the advent of the Apple Studio Display, Steven Hackett, of 512 Pixels fame (along with a variety of podcasts — he’s the co-founder of Relay FM), decided it was a good time to look back at some of Apple’s monitors. Starting with this gem:

Apple IIc with its LCD screen!

It takes a footnote — hmph — to get to what Steven and I both agree is a favorite, the last iteration of the CRT-based Apple Studio Display (you knew that name was familiar, right?):

The last great CRT monitor, IMHO.

And then there’s the 30-inch Cinema Display, shown here with the G5 tower:

Awesome.

I had several of these monitors, including one of the 30-inchers, and have loved every one of them. And while I, like a lot of creatives, use a 27-inch iMac these days, thanks to Apple’s discontinuation of said iMac, the next iteration of my office setup will include a standalone Apple monitor. I’m glad Steven took the time to remind us what’s been — thanks.

Bonus: Steven has an eMac G4 article up, too. Great times.

I Swear, This Title….

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

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

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

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

Most of the time:

Self-help, with style.

Something different for your day!

My 50 Favorite Book Covers of 2021

2021 Favorite Book Covers

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

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

Please remember that these are my favorites — others might say “best,” but I’ve been in this business long enough to know that there’s always another great title you haven’t seen or read about, and I don’t want to disrespect any of the great book designers not on this list. I’ve tried to include design credit where I could (thank you to the folks who answered emails with that information), and I wish to stress that any mistakes (incorrect attribution, link not working, etc.) in the list below are mine.

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

2021 Cover of the Year: Liar's Dictionary

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

With Teeth book cover

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

The rest, in alphabetical order:

Abundance

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

An Honest Living book cover

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

Awake book design

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

Beautiful Country book design

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

Brothers and Keepers book cover

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

Concepcion book cover

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

Curb book cover

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

Dear Senthuran book cover

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

Edge Case book cover

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

Foucault in Warsaw book cover

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

God of Mercy book cover

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

Gold Diggers book cover

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

Great Circle book cover

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

Hard Like Water book cover

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

Harlem Shuffle book cover

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

Harsh Times book cover

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

Hex book cover

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

House of Sticks book cover

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

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House book cover

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

In book cover

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

Intimations book cover

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

Kennedy's Avenger book cover

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

Look For Me and I'll Be Gone book cover

Brilliant on so many levels. Design by David Litman.

Morningside Heights book cover

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

My Monticello book cover

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

Nectarine book cover

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

Nobody Somebody Anybody book cover

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

O Beautiful book cover

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

O book cover

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

Pessoa book cover

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

Reparations Now book cover

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

Silent Winds Dry Seas book cover

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

Skinship book cover

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

Stranger to the Moon book cover

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

Summer Water book cover

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

Tastes Like War book cover

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

That Old Country Music book cover

An absolutely perfect photograph highlights a stack of great choices.

The Copenhagen Trilogy book cover

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

The Divines book cover

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

Open and Nev book cover

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

The Ghost Sequences book cover

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

The Haunting of Alma Fielding book cover

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

This Thing Between Us book cover

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

This Wound is a World book cover

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

Three Novels book cover

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

Warmth book cover

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

We Run the Tides book cover

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

Zorrie book cover

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

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

I Love Typography’s 2020 Favorites

“It’s hard to believe that a decade has passed since I published one of these annual Favorite Fonts lists. A lot has happened in the interim: I now have less hair, more grey hairs, sometimes complain about my back, and now live in another country! Anyway, that’s quite enough about me. Here are, then, in no particular order, my favorite typefaces of 2020…”

Some great choices here, especially:

A layer font — something described as “fashionable for a while” — this one deserves to be on a book cover.

Special mention: ILT’s web design. This blog and this entry both are easy to look at, well put-together, and something that makes me a little envious.

Read all of the 2020 favorites, or ILT’s main page.

Dust Jackets: A History

Although books as objects have been around for many hundreds of years, by looking at the history of the dust jacket, we can see how young the modern book design really is.

Book Riot has posted the interesting “The History of Dust Jackets: From Disposable to Collectable” for all of our entertainment, education, and general love-of-books reading.

(Check out their “Why are Books That Shape?” and “The History of Deckle Edges,” too.)

Typographic Illusions

“A collection of free tools for demonstrating typographic phenomena, for anyone teaching or studying typeface design.”

Great stuff from Hoefler & Co., stemming from an episode of the Netflix series on design. Enjoy.

The New Website and Foreword Blog

Back in the ’90s and Aughts, my ex-wife and I ran a popular book design blog called Foreword. For a variety of reasons, from divorce to moving to Georgia and then deciding to do photography full-time, I got away from it. I even let the company name, ospreydesign, get away from me.

I’ve been seriously regretting losing Foreword for a while now — and its return one of the driving reasons for the new web site. Part of that has to do with a return to book design, and wanting to comment on the same, but also because I don’t do social media and have wanted a space to talk about — and get feedback on — items to do with book design, photography, and so much more. There’s no place better than your own web site. Thus, Foreword is back, this time as part of my personal site: gileshoover.com.

Memory Lane

Here’s what ospreydesign looked like way back when:

ospreydesign as of February, 2001

The site evolved, but only to a point — those were the days of having to pay attention to screen width. Remember: 15-17-inch screens were the new hotness; 13-inch was more normal. (Hence the small layout.) There was something comforting about it, though, and this look preserved for years. Here’s another screenshot:

ospreydesign’s home page, as of January, 2007

Foreword, a relatively new item called a weblog, or blog, was both a vehicle of discussion and publicity. And it worked — this little blog grew and gained followers, basically riding the early “wave” of blogs.
Here it is from 2005:

Foreword in March, 2005

The “look” changed shortly after, while the popularity continued to grow. Here’s another, from fourteen months later:

Foreword‘s new, wider-columned look, from June, ’06

At this point, Foreword was at its utmost; thousands of readers, #1 in a Google search for “book design,” pretty much everything — and I, quite frankly, blew it.

The Photography Era

Changing my priority to photography full-time was both awesome and a completely mixed bag. I absolutely loved the instant results of digital photography, and enjoyed the possibilities of editing them; filters, textures, black and white, and more. The creativity was more immediate, as well, in that I was my own “editor,” for lack of a better term, not answering to as many people as designing books can be.

Making money was more difficult than with book design, but somehow more exciting; in many ways, it’s a performance art — I had to get it right at the time (there are no redos — events move on!), then make it better in the edit. But, I quickly found that weddings and events were not my strong suit. Like many making a profession out of a passion, I too often clashed with the “vision” thing; what I wanted to do — architecture, landscapes, “things” more than people — wasn’t what you made money on.

Maine Schooners, 2009

Worse, I was ahead of an extremely powerful wave: photography as something ubiquitous. With the rise of everything from a flood of new folks doing photography full-time to practically everyone “being” a photographer with just their cell phone, there was absolutely no way I could make the success out of it that I could have had I just stayed with book design first and photography second. Sure, I still did book design — I was early in the photography book genre — but photography as a career waned after a few years.

Lesson learned.

New Memories

So, Foreword has returned, and book design is again what I do first, with photography back to being a passion instead of a full-time job. I’m better for it, frankly; so, hopefully, will my readers, as we can again share my love book design — along with why I’ve returned to it full-time.

Having a blog again also gives me a chance to talk about design, book production, photography and how they’ve changed in the intervening years, and recommit myself to regular posting; something I’ve missed and hope others have, too.

Welcome back.