Shop Indie Bookstores

Monday, August 31, 2009

The F Word

The F Word designed by Lisa Force

The design for The F Word (fuck; not feminism) reiterates the academic design treatment seen on On Bullshit. A slightly more provocative design was done by Faber about 10 years ago (bottom image).

(PS: Cunning linguists rejoice: MILF made in the 3rd edition of Sheidlower's book. The Book Bench previews some others.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Five for Friday, 8.28.09

The second "Five for Friday," a commentary-free* post featuring 5 covers that have recently caught my eye.

*That is, no commentary from me. You, of course, should comment. 9 comments last week? C'mon...start typing :-)

The Gone-Away World, design by Evan Gaffney:
(check out the entire spread here)

Ripped designed by Paul Sahre:

Timbuktu, designer name to come:

The Nightingales of Troy, design by Kelly Blair:

The Theatricality of Greek Tragedy, design by Isaac Tobin:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Jackie Under My Skin

Design by Henry Sene Yee

Check out the crop of Warhol's "Red Jackie" on Jackie Under My Skin. What word comes to your mind? I can't get past sinister.


(Wow, weird timing. RIP, Sen. Kennedy)

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Design credit to come
Buy this book from

Web applications company 37 Signals posted the design of their forthcoming book Rework on their blog Signal vs. Noise a few days ago. There's a pretty lively discussion going on, with a number of readers addressing the design. Folks are showing a little more love for the back cover than the front, a sentiment with which I agree, but perhaps that's because I'm still held in the sway of Gray318's towering, slogan-driven redesign for Nineteen Eighty-Four. The back of Rework would have made for a ballsy front cover, especially for a business title.

Front cover:

Back cover:

There's an interesting tangential discussion in the Signals thread about the absence and eventual placement of a bar code on the back cover. Removable stickers are mentioned, which immediately had me scurrying to my bookshelves to see if any books I own have a bar code sticker (in lieu of a printed-on-the-jacket bar code). I didn't find any, but I do have to ask two possibly ignorant questions:

1) Bar code stickers: if not, why not? Yes, someone can pull the switcheroo in a bookstore, but couldn't the person working the register be on the lookout for this?

2) Are bar codes ever placed on the inside front or back flap? If not, why not? (It's been awhile since I've bought a book that's shrink-wrapped; maybe shrink wrap is the reason. But that brings us back to the sticker...)

(Full disclosure, BTW: The Book Design Review is a 37 Signals affiliate program member.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Five for Friday, 8.21.09

A new, fairly regular (?) feature here at The BDR: Five for Friday, a commentary-free* posting of 5 covers that have recently caught my eye.

*That is, no commentary from me. You, of course, should comment as we here in Chicago vote: early and often.

The Confessions of Edward Day, design by Emily Mahon:

The Prince, design by Jaya Miceli:

The Time It Takes to Fall, design by Catherine Casalino:

The Act of Love, design by Catherine Casalino:

Marx's General, design by Charles Brock:

(PS: All these images come from portfolios on design:related. Got a portfolio there? Join The Book Design Review network so I can see it.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Natural History of Unicorns

Design by Clare Skeats

Now this is smart. Would you want to be seen reading a book on the subway with a picture of a unicorn on the jacket? Publisher William Morrow Designer Clare Skeats wisely says no, you wouldn't.

Via The Book Bench's Well-Covered feature.

UPDATE: Designer Clare Skeats wrote in and provided some background: "I designed this originally for Granta here in the UK, and it was adopted by William Morrow for the US edition...The 3 illustrations that went into the ‘unicorn’ are from the London Natural History Museum collection and feature animals that the writer claims may have created the unicorn mythology. The brief was to avoid anything kitsch and mystical – for obvious reasons of taste!"

(PS: number of search results for "unicorn" in the books section of 44,419 (!))

(PPS: Veer tweeted this today. Unicorns!)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Everything Matters!

Painting by Amy Bennett
Design by Paul Buckley

"Do you read all the books you blog about?" is the question I'm most often asked about The BDR. It's also the most frequently-leveled criticism (yes, I get hate mail).

The obvious answer is no. I don't read all the books whose covers we discuss here, nor do I think I need to. But certainly there are times when the choices made in the design of a book cover only make sense with the understanding and perspective that comes with reading.

I started reading Ron Currie, Jr.'s Everything Matters! based on the strength of early reviews and my own literary predilection for pretty much anything with equal measure of doom and humor (yes, Harry Crews is a favorite). Long story short: while still in his mother's womb, Junior Thibodeau receives a prophecy that the world will be annihilated by a comet in a little more than 36 years. Currie's writing is glorious -- in one scene, after the space shuttle Challenger has blown up, the booster rockets "fly wildly away from the initial breakup, still under their own power, tracing slow, chunky vapor trails like illiterate skywriters" -- and there is more than enough sadness and ruin to keep someone with my tastes reading (I'm about halfway through the book).

But what of the cover? It's designed by the insanely talented Paul Buckley (great interview from '06 here), and clearly its greatest strength is its use of Amy Bennett's painting "Sleeping Separately." The painting is from a series called Neighbors, and Amy was kind enough to let me reproduce the painting in full (click the image for a slightly larger view):

Amy's process is amazing: she builds miniature 3D models that serves as still lifes which she then paints. Again, Amy was kind enough to give me permission to quote from her Web site:

"I constructed a fictional model neighborhood. I considered who lived in each home, their family dramas, and the way their private lives might spill into view of their neighbors. The model became a stage on which to develop the psychological implications of belonging to a particular family, with all of its dramas, struggles and familiar routines. I thought: this tree will be taken down after an old man crashes into it; a father will transform this lawn into an ice skating rink; this house will be abandoned after its residents are scandalized on the evening news."

There's an initial peacefulness and traquility to this painting that's ultimately betrayed by loneliness and isolation and, ultimately, by the terror of the night sky and the destruction that it will bring. It's a staggeringly appropriate image for the cover of this book. Does the painting lose a little bit of its power with the crop and the title placement? Sure. But these are the realities of book cover design. Kudos to Paul Buckley for finding and using this wonderful image, and to Amy Bennett for painting it. It makes a lot of sense if you read the book :-)

See Amy Bennett's Neighbors series here, and Paul Buckley's Flickr stream here.

Buy this book from, or from Indie Bound.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Slippery Year

Design by Barbara de Wilde

I admit it: I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, if only because I wonder how many kegs one has to deliver to the marketing department to get this approved and out the door.

A unique twist on the cover-on-cover idea we've discussed before. I wonder what this would look like with stronger, bigger type and without the chair, letting the slipped cover do all of the work. I betcha the evolution of this one was pretty interesting. Who's got the comps? :-)

UPDATE: Reader Christopher King pointed this out (design by Post Typography):

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Five Spice Street

Cover painting by Yue Minjun

Five Spice Street's cover is notable because it features a portion of a painting called Look at the World by Chinese artist Yue Minjun. (Here's the whole thing, which is about 9 x 7 feet). I don't recall ever seeing one of his paintings used to illustrate a book cover. Anyone know of other examples?

Check out Flickr and the artist's site for lots more images of his work. But whatever you do, don't miss this one.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Design credit to come

Robert Olen Butler has been tweeting as the Devil (hat tip to Jacket Copy), and there's some good stuff: "He once sold the Britannica door to door & betrayed a hundred fragile hearts & now he eternally reads lies about his sins on Wikipedia."

I love the Robert Goulet meets Bob Dobbs illustration (especially the horns & hair), and Hail Satan! for the restrained, non-combustible type.

But will the use of Twitter to promote books mean "illustration must scale down to 73 x 73 pixels" will become a design spec? 'Cause this looks pretty sweet:

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Nineteen Eighty-Four Penguin UK Anniversary Edition

Design by Gray318

Australian reader Mick sent this in. Orwell's books have gotten a good amount of coverage on The BDR; I think this could well be my favorite.

UPDATE: Check out the back, inside front and inside back covers. Wow. Hat tip to Alan Trotter.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Designing for Cultural Influence

The Big Rewind designed by Jason Heuer
Everything Bad Is Good for You designed by Keenan

I post these next to each other -- or rather, on top of each other -- with no snarky intention. Jason Heuer is a friggin' rock star. But in both cases, and with very different books (Rabin's is a funny/sad memoir; Johnson's is sociological analysis), TV is the go-to design trope for popular culture. Should it be?

According to Homer, it's an uphill battle:

Monday, August 03, 2009

God Says No

Art (belly band and casing) by Kevin Christy

Cover art that depicts Tinkerbell, Jesus, someone in Mickey Mouse ears, a dude in chaps and a cross is sure to grab my attention. I'll let you parse what's going on here; this review will help. Funny and quirky and referential and sacrilegious to some: this is how I like my art. More from Kevin Christy here.

And here's what's under the band: