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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Imitation? Flattery? Or Would You Call It Something Else?



Reader Jeff said this about the Kurlansky title, which I posted earlier today:

"What I'm more interested in is not only the cribbing of the classic Chuck Klosterman cover style, but even some of the cover copy..."

This is an important issue -- one that's been hashed out on many blogs and in many design classes -- but I want to hear what you have to say. Exactly what defines a unique visual style? Someone would be insane to use Futura Bold Italic on a book cover -- unless that someone is Barbara Kruger -- but what's the limit? One could probably make the case that the Klosterman books look like Miller Beer ads from a few years ago, which looked like...which looked like...

The point, I think, is that Jeff is essentially correct: walk by this in a bookshop and I'm guessing you would think this is a Klosterman book. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's a problem...or does it?

If you've not read it yet, there's a great post on this question (and LOTS of comments) at Design Observer.

7 comments:

jpf said...

I see what you're saying, especially with the extra recall from "dangerous idea," but I don't want to call it inappropriate, if only for the implications. Chuck Klosterman cannot have Helvetica.

Joseph said...

And that's exactly the point, I think. Klosterman *can't* have Helvetica. But who, if anyone, should be saying "Um, that sorta looks like the Klosterman books, doesn't it? Is everyone OK with that?" Art director? Marketing?

jpf said...

Yeah, for sure, that's a completely valid real-world consideration. Just stamping my feet a little. I should probably have more of a client-focused attitude ...

I have Sex Drugs etc. on the shelf here, and I didn't see the parallel in the first post of the Kurlansky book -- now, of course, I can see it just fine, but it didn't come to mind without some prompting.

I guess my feeling is that if someone catches it, it's certainly worth thinking about whether you want to change the design or live with the potential associations. But I'm not sure we can expect anyone -- or even everyone -- involved in the design and approval to catch everything, for that to be part of their responsibility. Just cause there's so much stuff out there. That's not a license to not try; I'm just saying being practical swings both ways.

Ingrid said...

I've been told by various groups - marketing and sales in particular - that the goal for some titles is to look like a more successful book, to ride its coattails. Makes me squeamish as a designer.

Marie said...

I think we all know that publishers, editors, and marketing people prompt (maybe force) designers to appropriate certain styles for certain genres. Would it be chick lit without pink? Would it be a thriller without Trajan?

Zak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zak said...

You may call it imitation. I'm not so sure. But if so, I would not call it succesful. This book cover hardly appears, even at a distance, to be designed by Paul Sahre for Chuck Klosterman.