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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Me Don't Write Too Good

Yesterday an anonymous commenter noted the similarity between the designs for Chronic City and the anniversary edition of Bonfire of the Vanities.



I've seen the Bonfire cover previously but didn't think about it as I posted the design for Chronic City. A reader or two was quick to point out the similarities.

This (similar, contemporaneous design solutions) happens. It just does. But the following comment about Chronic City was posted: "It looks like a blatant rip-off of Henry Sene Yee's earlier design (for Bonfire)."

Here's where the "I suck at writing" part comes in. I replied:

"It might be unfortunate, but it's not a ripoff. I doubt very much Rodrigo Corral rips anyone off. Quite the opposite, I would suspect."

"Quite the opposite" was in no way meant to be a comment directed at Henry or at the design for Chronic City. Rather, it was a ham-fisted and poorly-worded attempt to say that it's designers like Yee and Corral whose work inspires others and, occasionally I'm sure, is "ripped off."

Apologies to all for the sloppy writing.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can't even count the number of times I've heard "Make it look like [insert name of bestseller]." But if a publisher/author/editor is really forcing the design to the point where it looks like the second book of a series, I always take my credit off it. Or at least show them the similar cover to try and convince them of another course of action.

Although the Lethem cover is beautiful, the fact that it comes on the heels of Bonfire of the Vanities should have given everyone pause regarding the design. Tom Wolfe is a big author, so it's impossible that someone involved in working on Chronic City did not see it.

Jason Gabbert said...

This is probably somewhat unrelated. But I do think that those in the design community are always influenced to some degree by one another… no matter how big their name is. I know that I have designed a cover before, and then I'll look a week later and another designer has posted a cover that looks almost exactly the same… but we didn't see one another's design.

When you work in a similar industry and see similar things, sometimes… you have similar designs.

Charles Brock said...

Blatant rip-off seems like a stretch. Similar images completely different typography. Henry's type is what makes the Bonfire cover for me. This kind of stuff is always going to happen. The problem is when it is obvious that something was a blatant rip-off, but I guess that will always be a matter of opinion.

Joseph, I understood what you were saying.

Anonymous said...

OMG!!! RODRIGO CORRAL IS A GOD.

Blah blah blah blah.

Even the best rip people off from time to time.

Who cares either way? I seriously doubt Corral didn't see the Vanities reboot before designing Chronic. Either way, your criticisms/comments, either positive or negative, prove you have no grasp on the process of designing a book cover. Get off your high horse Joseph.

Anonymous said...

Get off your "high horse"?!? Are we reading the same blog?

C'mon.

Anonymous said...

Yeah… don't think Joseph was on a high horse…

Anonymous said...

It was really a comment about his overall attitude on the blog. I can't stand it when he's like "This one is just not doing it for me" as if there were no factors contributing to the design other than the artists ability to design a good cover.

Pagani said...

When I worked for a corporation in the previous century, I'd sometimes hear from my boss something to the effect of, "Hey this looks good, see if you can do something like that." But it wasn't an invitation to copy - more like an invitation to change or expand creative direction. Nevertheless, sometimes designs end up with similarities just because we all operate within the same limitations.

That said, as a freelancer today, I've turned down jobs and given-up good money when it was clear that the customer was pushing me to copy someone else's work.

To me, these designs have coincidental similarity and nothing more.

Joseph said...

"When you work in a similar industry and see similar things, sometimes… you have similar designs." Exactly.

Ian Shimkoviak said...

I like horses that are high...

Joseph said...

"Those in the design community are always influenced to some degree by one another… no matter how big their name is." Yes. Thanks for that.

Joseph said...

We know you do, Ian :-)

Joseph said...

Now this is a high horse.

Heather Lane said...

Joseph-- I like how you bring the funny after being attacked. That takes maturity (and humor).

Joseph said...

Heather: Thanks. It's hard to get too worked up about anonymous comments that don't cite examples.

shorty said...

Joseph,
of all the book cover design web site/blog hosts, I think you are the MOST modest, least persnickety (unlike some others I could mention but I won't).

The jerk that left that earlier comment needs to get some perspective.

I'm a book designer myself, and I always go to your blog first.

Thanks for creating and maintaining it!

Joseph said...

Thanks, Shorty. I know you're a BDR old-timer, so that means a lot :-)

Gould said...

Rip off or not, it's clearly an editor's mistake to publish a book that is so close in design with such unfortunate timing.

Sene's design, in my view, stays first thanks to perfect execution : photo and typo match beautifully.