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Monday, September 29, 2008

Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Designer info to come

I can't decide which I like better: the elegant recollection of the 70s in the design for the book jacket:

or Oliver Munday's tire / Enso circle that accompanies the New York Times review of the book:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Winner and Runners-Up of the Creativity / Penguin Design Competition

UPDATE: Here's some information from Creativity Magazine about the competition and the selection process.

Now that the debate is over...check out the winning design and the first and second runners-up of the design competition featured earlier this week. Click on the images for a bigger, better look. Congratulations to all (and a link to the official press release to come). And many thanks to Creativity Magazine managing editor Ann-Christine Diaz for keeping me in the loop.

WINNER: Design by Matt Taylor:

FIRST RUNNER-UP: Design by Pillow Fort:

SECOND RUNNER-UP: Design by Ryan Doggendorf:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Dharma Bums

50th Anniversary Edition designed by Greg Mollica
Penguin Graphic Classics edition designed by Jason

Kerouac's The Dharma Bums was published 50 years ago, and Greg Mollica's design for the Anniversary Edition reaches respectfully back to 1958. The type is magenta and red/orange foil-stamped; someone with better knowledge of book production history will have to tell us when that became practical.

This follows the recent reissue (from 2006) of The Dharma Bums in the Penguin Graphic Classics Series, which we took a quick look at two years ago:

Buy the 50th Anniversary Edition from
Buy the Graphic Classics Edition from

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Glamour: A History

Designer info to come

I'm the last person to say anything about glamour -- trust me on this one. So I'm wondering what you think about the photo selection here. I'm thinking funereal and glamorous aren't mutually exclusive, but again, you tell me.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Creativity and Penguin Books Contest Finalists

UPDATE: Winners here.

Creativity and Penguin Books sponsored a contest to design the cover of The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor, author of The Amnesiac. Thanks to reader Tanya for bringing it to my attention.

Here's a synopsis of the book from the Creativity Online site:

A chilling novel about the near future, where most of the world has been destroyed by catastrophic floods. As a father and his three children begin to rebuild their lives alone on an island, his youngest son Finn begins to question how they arrived there and why they alone have been spared. Finn's search for understanding takes an unexpected turn when a strange man named Will swims ashore, and he appears to know quite a bit about this family and the circumstances that surrounded the floods. But Finn's father is determined to keep him silent and is willing to do anything to prevent Will from disturbing his family's idyllic life on the island. Sam Taylor's The Island at the End of the World is a riveting post-apocalyptic tale that explores the darkness that lies within the hearts of men.

There's some pretty nice work here; out of the 25 final designs, these are the four that caught my eye. See all of them here. Winner announced September 25; I'll try to post the winning design shortly afterwards.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Shatnerica: An A to Z Guide to the Man and His Universe

The fantastic LA Times Jacket Copy blog discusses "an admiring, amusing, perhaps disturbingly well-researched catalog of all things Shatner," recently released in a "millenium edition:"

This is delightfully cheesy and exactly what it should be -- what, you expected a picture of him from the TJ Hooker days? The 1998 original edition takes a stab at humor that gets tired very quickly:

Monday, September 15, 2008

I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage

Design by Amy C. King

I hereby announce that The Book Design Review will bestow its first annual "This Takes Balls" award in 2008, and that we've got a clear frontrunner:

Bloomsbury USA, take a friggin' bow.

UPDATE: My new favorite reader James points us to an article discussing the use of this image on more than one jacket. Hey, it happens:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

David Foster Wallace on Charlie Rose

An interview with David Foster Wallace (around the time of A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again).

A conversation with David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen and Mark Leyner.


Design by Milton Glaser

"It is 1951 in America..." Does anything else need to be said?

Friday, September 05, 2008

An Interview with Lisa Fyfe, designer of Paul Auster's Man in the Dark

In what is hopefully the first of many interviews here at The Book Design Review, I asked Lisa Fyfe, Art Director at Henry Holt to talk about the amazing art and design she did for Paul Auster's new novel Man in the Dark. Many thanks to Lisa for her graciousness and a stunning cover.

For those who want some background on the book, check out the Henry Holt site and these reviews in the Village Voice and the San Francisco Chronicle.

TheBDR: So I saw this jacket on the Henry Holt Web site before it came out, and I was immediately drawn to it. Before I read any previews or blurbs, the first thing that came to mind was the myth of the Golem, the mythical Jewish being created from inanimate matter, often made to protect the Jews from persecution. Of course, there's no Golem running around in Man in the Dark, but there are several characters is this book who go through hell and are in desperate need of protection. But I'm probably not even close, am I?

Lisa Fyfe: I can see the reference, though I was not thinking of Golem when I created this art: I was thinking of the men in the story. Their intense emotional journey, worlds/lives running parallel to one another, different and the same. One man, a soldier, caught in a bizarre war; another man, recovering from an accident, alone in bed, dealing with his own inner demons. Their stories of love, passion, war, anguish and loneliness are so compelling. Definitely men in need of a little protection.

The BDR: Auster has got to be a difficult writer to design for. Some of Auster's books have particularly strong visual images: I'm thinking primarily of Leviathan and the Statue of Liberty. But Man in the Dark doesn't really have one image that really pops out, at least in the sense of being the thing that you would have to try out as the designer. So how did you get where you eventually wound up with this? Was something purely typographic ever an option you considered?

LF: I did try a few other ideas, a clean, all-type version and a photographic treatment. You're right, there wasn’t one image that stuck out. I came to this concept because it was this scene early in the book that really resonated for me. One night, a man suddenly wakes to find himself at the bottom of a dark hole in the middle of a field, he hears the sounds of war, he is alone and scared. The last thing he remembers is being in bed at home, and now he is looking up a the night’s sky from an alternate universe.

TheBDR: Tell us more about the art itself.

LF: I wanted to create my interpretation of that scene: a view at night of this parallel world. I started by setting up a shoot in my living room using tons of dirt on cardboard. First, I created all of the type carved in dirt, a version I did show. Then, I worked on the idea of the man’s silhouette. It was a combination of carving the impression out in dirt, and layering it with an illustrated shape. This enabled me to create definition and depth. It needed to really look like a man walking, and not just a hole in the ground. It was a lot of trial and error. I think I took 50 pictures of men in dirt.

TheBDR: Auster's name and the title of the book are handled very conservatively. They pop because of the black text on the white bars, but they're small, and the illustration is really given room to breathe. Did you have to fight hard for this layout?

LF: It was great because everyone gravitated to this cover right away. We all agreed that the figure should be prominent. If the type was “designed” too much, it would have taken away from the figure. We even toyed with the idea of the man alone with no type (yeah, not this time). In the end, I made the type as small as they would let me, and let the silhouette do the work.

TheBDR: The production for this jacket is wonderful: there's embossing, there's debossing, there's spot varnish, and all of it creates a really nicely textured cover. I don't think it would be nearly as strong a cover without the production flourishes. How important are they to you?

LF: Effects were important. The idea of debossing was decided very early in the process. The figure should literally look as if it were sunken into the ground. Making the art matte also gave it texture and even more depth.

TheBDR: Was Auster involved at all?

LF: Auster did not get involved in the initial designing process; however, he had to approve and love it. I was lucky, when he saw the cover, he liked it right away. We made minor adjustments to the type, but the final was very close to the first version showed.

TheBDR: Last question: was the American flag there from the beginning?

LF: Yes, the flag was always there. I had buried a toy flag in the dirt, a hint to the political turmoil in the story. When working on the man’s shape, I placed the flag in his hand.

Buy Man in the Dark from

Friday Miscellany, September 5

Marginal Revolution wants to know about your favorite book(s) of the 80s and 90s. Via Jacket Copy, the excellent LA Times Books blog.

The Book Design Review is on design:related. You should be too: I get (at least) one question each week from folks looking for freelance designers. I'd love to be able to point them to the BDR's design:related page and to members of the BDR's creative network to get started finding a designer.

Evolutionists flock to Darwin-shaped wall stain. "Forgive me, O Charles, for ever doubting your Divine Evolution. After seeing this miracle of limestone pigmentation with my own eyes, my faith in empirical reasoning will never again be tested." Darwin bless The Onion.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

In Search of Bill Clinton: A Psychological Biography

Design by Steve Snider

No words on the front of the jacket. So what does this say to you?

Interesting that Amazon scanned it with the spine:

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Heads of State: More Books, Please! :-)

A wonderful illustration by Heads of State for the NY Times review of The Bible Salesman, which we looked at just a short time ago.

Man, I wish they did more book covers. All the Sad Young Literary Men, one of this year's favorites so far, is theirs too.

See more of their book jackets and covers at their Web site.