Book covers should reflect the content – Old gold and black

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Haruki Murakami is one of the most prolific writers of our time, but his books are so, so ugly. The commercial paperback run by Vintage Press is uniformly aesthetic in most of its titles. Each cover displays an unappealing tangle of lines, rectangles, and parallelograms layered over a cartoon color gradient ripped from a Microsoft Windows 2004 screensaver. The plain-Jane font, which is too close to a Comic Sans look-alike. for my convenience, is completely consistent, and the position and size of the title and author remain the same in many of the books. Worse are the Penguin Classics, which you undoubtedly dealt with yourself during your upbringing. The fourth black panel with “author” in bright orange Futura and “title” in baskerville in white italics is dry and unappealing. The shoddy images that make up the top of the covers usually don’t alleviate the awkward boredom of the business.

Books have the inherent ability to be beautiful physical objects, but more and more I’m finding contemporary book cover design quite boring. Initially a purely utilitarian tool for protecting book covers, book covers became a medium for commercial graphic design in the 1890s and have since evolved to accommodate ephemeral design trends. Physical books possess a timeless tactile quality that cannot be achieved by an eBook – beautiful literary works deserve to be read between equally convincing covers. Good covers situate the reader in a time and place or draw the reader’s attention to a certain theme, doing it elegantly and adhering to design standards. The font, space, color and illustration must freeze precisely so that the book itself becomes an object of material beauty. Ideally, book covers reflect the aesthetic culture of a moment and draw on a body of collective human experiences.

And I don’t think I just fetish a vintage aesthetic like Volkswagen bus drivers and Ramones t-shirt wearers. There is a gorgeous contemporary cover design, it’s just watered down in a sea of ​​Harper Perennial Modern Classics and New York Times Examine books. This year brought some fantastic covers: Richard Powers’ The story is awesome, just like that of Tommy Orange There there and that of Ottessa Moshfegh My year of rest and relaxation.

There has always been a tension between unique book cover design and business models, but in the past this tension was more effectively managed. Blankets like Avon-Bard’s A hundred years of loneliness make good use of aesthetically contextual art and a well-composed business model. by Scribner Contemporary classics Likewise, the series weaves contextually relevant works of art into a corporate standard that (usually) succeeds in building an attractive and time-relevant aesthetic.

Norton Critical Editions and others may never go away. Perhaps their ease and cost effectiveness make them a permanent fixture in book design. But Penguin Press recently created some absolutely gorgeous book covers – see The Penguin Book of Japanese News. Why should such a niche book live inside such a stunning cover when Jack Kerouac’s On the road is under a low resolution blue image of a car?


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