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Monday, February 23, 2009

The Language of Things, US and UK

UK title designed by Simon Earith
US designer info to come

I was going through some bookmarks last night and rediscovered Penguin Books UK's great year-end post of their favorite designs of 2008. I love what Penguin art director Jim Stoddart says about the design of the UK edition (directly below): "It’s a perfect design for book about design. It’s classic, elegant and looks great in the shops."

Compare the wonderful stuffed-to-the-gills UK edition to the cleaner US design. Can we say the same thing about this that Stoddart says about the UK design?


Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, i feel that a melding of both would be strongest. I like all the stuff in the UK one, however, the black and red looks a little aggressive to me.
The US one is cleaner and has an awful lot of that white space we're always blathering on about. i think the simplest part is the speech bubble. i mean, it says 'language' and how 'a desirable object speaks to you better through good design'.

lets just say, the UK looks like a text book. the US one looks like a fun book.

all in all, i like the american one better.

Any differing opinions? :)

Anonymous said...

More often than not I like the UK versions more, but I agree with the above comment. The UK one seems very aggressive and though the US one isn't perfect, it's a much more inviting cover.

Anonymous said...

I vote for the US one. To me, the UK one isn't right at all and I thought I always preferred UK to the USA! :(

V. said...

Although the white title is a little lost within the black and red design, i can feel the UK design as a great old classic book I would like to own.

For me the US design only look like a stupid web design... they all look alike. Beside the title is much too small. The only good idea is the speech bubble... which is a rather obvious 2min-idea.

Maybe above people prefer the US cover because it (sadly) is more usual.

Substantial vs superficial

DK said...

The UK design looks like a 1950's textbook;dated. The US version is eyecatching and carries a contemporary message about less is better with a creative speech bubble touch that draws in the observer.

NKS said...

Hi I am a regular visitor of your blog and whenever I visit I think if someday you review my book cover designs also. Recently I have designed a book title "the apple of discord" different option and final cover design of the book is there on my blog. see if this is good enough to be reviewed. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

For me, the UK version is infinitely superior. It certainly benefits from being held - it has a great tactile quality to it - and it instantly brought to mind classic Penguins from the past such as Ways of Seeing and The Medium is the Massage.

The one thing which did amaze me about the book though was the huge number of typos in there. Perhaps not a design issue as such, but it suggested to me the book may have been rushed to market somewhat.

Unless of course it was just a loving tribute to McLuhan's aforementioned work and its accidental title?

Anonymous said...

"The title is much too small." Ha. Spoken like true Sales or Editorial type.

I love the US edition specifically because the title is tiny and at the bottom of the page. I can only imagine how the sales folks must have had their knickers in a twist about that.

The UK is a poor homage to the International Style if, indeed, its what they're going for. Not clever enough to be a true homage, too boring and text-booky to work on its own. It has that annoying Helvetica fetishistic feel to it, which, come ON, even the Helvetica revival has become passe.

T-Bone said...

there's minimalism and appropriate use of white space, and there's plain boring – i think the second cover falls under this category. the red cover is much more attractive and lush looking. each to their own though!

Anonymous said...

I must confess I'm tired of red-white-black covers. But I'm a little afraid of white (plain boring?) covers too. Maybe they work better in US.

I believe the size and position of the title in the US cover is ok, it looks like a tag, I like it! The speech bubble would look great with UV coating (or some king of glow on it).

I like the US cover better but I would ask for a few changes, maybe to fill all the cover with different colorful objects, like a pattern. Just wondering...

Adam said...

The thing is, the US design is boiler-plate design book cover design:
1. ubiquitous post-helevetica font
2. minimal color palette
3. incredibly flat
4. over-reliance on a simple grid system for layout

I feel like 90% of design books have covers like this. Check this canonical "must-have" text for designers and you'll see what I mean:

The UK one breaks from the mold. A designer looking at the two would have more of a "pop" from the UK design.

Tropolist said...

This reminds me of an interview with a designer I once read. He was complaining about how formulaic 'good design' had become. "When I see something that is primarily white space with some helvetica text pushed to one corner, I know the text says nothing of interest."

Anonymous said...

I don't know. I prefer the US cover. And it sounds like an interesting book, too. And it's $17 at Amazon - not bad for a design-y hardcover. (There's something about this cover that just screamed "trade paperback"...)

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frau said...

Oh God, these two covers embody the worst of "clutter" and "white space" respectively.

The UK version is plain mediocre, boring, unfocused (Helvetica! WHITE UNDERLINE! Ugh). I feel like the designer just randomly threw together some stuff, saturated everything in a non-appealing color, then slapped on a nondescript and almost amateurish title before turning back to his sixth beer for the day.

The US version, obviously, is far more aesthetically appealing: Yet it's so hyperstylized it comes off as EQUALLY lazy as the UK counterpart. I get it, white space, contrast, artsy. But it just doesn't grab me.

Worse: neither of the covers give me a feel for what the book is like or about. Especially the US version, actually, could be a boilerplate design for ANY "hip" book about "hip" things.