Wednesday 29 February 2012

Odd Titles, Dull Covers

Every year the UK's Bookseller magazine runs the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title. This year's nominees are indeed quite odd, but I have to say that the covers are pretty disappointing. There's nothing here even as remotely peculiar as the titles would suggest.

I was amused, though, that in searching for that last cover, Google Images decided this picture was a good match:

My own suggestion for the prize, with a somewhat more imaginative cover than any of the above?

Colour Copies

A new book is published, and all of the publicity material keeps pushing its similarity to another huge commercial success. But not everyone reads publicity material, and to read a book's blurb you have to be persuaded to pick it up in the first place. So how to you subliminally make the millions of readers of a certain black-folks-can-only-succeed-if-good-white-folks-are-their-champions novel pick up your book? Colour coding.

The original (in a couple of different but matching forms):

The would-be:

Regarding The Help, my views are summed up by this parody poster (sorry to whoever created it, but I can find no original source by Ali Gray, from here):

Thursday 23 February 2012

14 Picador 40s

Over the years the once-classy-looking Picador series has come to look a bit neglected: absorption into the Macmillan behemoth, often so-so cover designs, and a steady bleeding of their top authors to other publishers have all contributed to this. (The Australian arm of the company is something of an exception to this, with a strong set of authors and books.) But for the imprint's 40th anniversary, they are redesigning a number of their top books with dramatic monochrome covers in black, grey and white. Click for much bigger versions. Designers as yet unknown. Neil Lang, senior in-house designer at Picador, designed these. Note that 4 of them have been updated--see the end of the post for the final versions.

The only disappointing one here, since it's just the boring old cover in silhouette

And from the Australian contingent:

UPDATE: The updated final versions referred to above...

The Buzzing

Faber & Faber have just announced the winner of a competition for artists aged 13-16 to design a cover for a new edition of William Golding's The Lord of the Flies to come out later this year. The winning design is quite astonishing, I think: 'Into the Mouth of the Beast' by an unnamed 15-year-old artist. (Click for bigger versions)

Here are a few of the other entries I particularly like.

That last design is a clever real-world reconstruction of one of the book's longest-lived, well-known covers:

For more Flies interpretations, see the middle of this post and the end of this one.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Not About Books: An Excuse

A brief diversion from books here, to explain why I haven't posted anything in a few days (but more stuff is coming very soon, I promise!). I was engaged in a small, satisfying and, frankly, pointless project: the construction of a tiny vintage vinyl record shop. Gratifyingly, thanks to Boing Boing, it seems to have gone viral, with pictures of it turning up everywhere (irritatingly, sometimes attributed to someone else). Anyway, here are the original photos: click for bigger.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Typography of Lust

The full, folded-out cover for the new Penguin Classics US deluxe edition of the Kama Sutra (first discussed here); sex-type by Malika Favre, overseen by Paul Buckley. Click for a much bigger version.

I think this qualifies as the most obscene spine in my library, or at least equal-most with this one.

Monday 13 February 2012


This is not a criticism so much as an observation: I've found that being a designer and frequent image-fiddler-with-Photoshop makes you more aware of other people's fiddling. Here's a case in point. I thoroughly enjoyed Gordon Grice's The Book of Deadly Animals, a sardonic compendium of all the kinds of animals that can and have maimed and killed human beings in various ways. (Representative sentence, regarding the brown bear: "Few animals can ruin a human body so thoroughly.")

The cover of the US Penguin paperback makes use of a tremendous photo, 'The Smile of the Hyena' by Laurent Baheux.

But something about the cover bugged me, and I realised that the photo had been retouched slightly clumsily, presumably to make it fit the cover dimensions, with evidence of Photoshop's clone tool being used to fill in the gaps, resulting in an area around the hyena's neck and shoulders where the same bit of photo is used again and and again and again.

You can see this sort of thing all over the place these days, on print ads, product packaging and magazine covers and the like, and once you start seeing it, it's very distracting. So really, I'm doing you no favours by pointing it out.