Last year, I started CR’s roundup of the year’s best book covers by asking publishers to credit their designers when sharing newly created work for upcoming books. One of the issues raised by Penguin studio director Ebyan Egal at the time was more about the importance of being seen and appreciated for someone’s work than actually being a simple enough request from publishers. “Visibility is an important consideration, especially when looking at the barriers to creatives from marginal backgrounds,” Egal wrote, “so even a mere word will make an impact.”
With that in mind, in September Egal launched Design Publishing & Inclusivity (DPI), a mentoring program by Donna Payne of Faber and Steve Panton of Profile Books to match successful applicants (from the UK) for underrepresented creative. ) was good news. and Ireland) with leading designers from the publishing industry.
“Design in publishing suffers from the failures of the majority of publishing when it comes to staff diversity,” Panton told Bookseller’s Danny Arter. The article also pointed to the potential start-up and relocation costs for new designers looking to enter the industry, as well as the amount of still capital-centric opportunities.
Design within publishing suffers from the same failures that the majority of broadcasting experiences when it comes to staff diversity.
Interestingly, Arter suggested that despite previous attempts by publishers to increase diversity within the workforce, art departments, and especially design leadership, are often overlooked. Visibility is vital, but ultimately, reach and opportunity are just as important. More at dpi.org.uk.
Regardless of whether book publishers listen to and credit their designers more often, designers and book design enthusiasts have continued to advance and do it themselves, advocating for great work through growing social accounts.
Instagram now has the elaborate @SheDesignsBooks, @BookCoverGallery and @Spine_Magazine_Official, while casualoptimist.com is one of the must-visit places. Needless to say, they’re all worth following if you want to stay up to date with some of the best work in this field.
And as new headlines pop up long before their release dates, social media has been flooded with more covers than ever before. However, taking a leisurely stroll at my local Waterstones can confirm that diversity remains strong in real life as well. While trends can be spotted on their own, if you look for them – look for the ‘brushed type’ for example – surprises and delights continue to be found in every part of a well-stocked store, from fiction to nonfiction, philosophy to poetry. . Similarly, after what feels like a digitally managed print media experience via one’s smartphone, nothing makes the final product look like a well-organized bookshelf.
Social media has been flooded with more covers than ever before, as new headlines emerge long before their release dates.
In fact, as of August, Waterstones has posed several questions from Twitter users wondering where their books and display paintings are going. There were apparently stock issues with a change in warehouse systems, but according to images shared from inside the stores, it looked like a cover designer had sneaked into as many branches as he could and turned all the books over.
Before we move on to this year’s favorite covers, tradition makes a small note of featured series designs. First up are the glossy covers for Peter Mendelsund’s Storybook ND, New Directions’ ND series of thin-bound books “aimed to give the pleasure one feels as a child” while reading a book in an afternoon. The series is very rich and very strange.
There was also a great hardcover book series. Haruki Murakami’s novelsIt includes artwork by different Japanese artists under the direction of Suzanne Dean, and an equally bold-looking series of covers illustrated by We Are Out of Office (Felix van Dam and Winneke de Groot) for Ernest Hemingway’s backlist – both from Vintage Classics.
While there isn’t a series like this, I’d also like to pick Granta Poetry, who continues to do some great covers under David Pearson’s design direction. Her latest pair – one a beautiful full-page root system for Sylvia Legris’ Garden Physic collection, the other a fantastic glyph arrangement for Anthony Anaxagorou’s Heritage Aesthetics – underscore her breadth of approach, as well as Granta’s willingness to explore a range of variety. styles in the poetry spectrum.
In terms of single caps though, here are my ten personal favorites for 2022:
Colony by Audrey Magee; Design: Jack Smyth; Publisher: Faber
It’s no accident that Jack Smyth’s cover of a novel set on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland has a sense of sparseness. That one of the main characters is a painter may be implied by the blue swirling brush of a seascape taking up most of the cover, but overall it’s a beautifully rendered and evocative piece of design. Art director: Jonathan Pelham.
Valleyesque by Fernando A Flores; Design: Na Kim; Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
An almost readable book cover (correct term ‘akimbo’? Probably), with a series of symbols gathered together in a dreamlike pattern and framed by a pair of feet. The tangled objects among the desert clouds, painted by Na Kim himself, are a delight and well suited to the various stories it contains.
Chéri and the End of Chéri, Colette; Design: Sarahmay Wilkinson; Publisher: W. W. Norton
Everything on this cover is hand-painted and with petals and rose heads flying around, effectively an animated interpretation of a still life, perhaps hinting at the tumultuous content of Colette’s tales of 1920s Paris. Objects in the foreground allow a dark wall of shadows to house the writing behind them.
Aliens from SE Hinton; Design: Rasmus Pettersson; Publisher: Modernista
SE Hinton’s 1967 classic about two rival gangs has suffered from fairly standard cover designs over the years (teens/skins/fight), but print from Swedish publisher Modernista eschews these more obvious symbols. Instead, it alludes to rough and tumble through irregularly cut letters and a single visual cue of the ‘lubricants’ in the book. Cleverly, the ‘O’ and ‘D’ counters are used for quotes.
Losing the Conspiracy, Derek Owusu; Design: Emma Ewbank; Publisher: Canongate
Stencil-like letters swirl around a picture of a mother and child on this cover of Derek Owusu’s latest poetry collection. Emma Ewbank’s design and illustration work somehow manages to feel both conscious and spontaneous – centered around a bold printed image – and with a loose, almost put-together quality. Art director: Rafi Romaya.
Situation Game by Will Storr; Design: Steve Leard; Publisher: William Collins
Some book covers make you look beautiful, while others make you look up and say to yourself, “Oh that’s so clever.” I hadn’t seen this audacious approach before – a nice reversal of traditional text hierarchies, where the author’s embellishments take center stage in front of the title – and it’s a fitting joke to the book’s plot. Art director: Julian Humphries.
Doloriad by Missouri Williams; Design: Luke Bird; Publisher: Dead Ink
The power of ultra-close clipping is illustrated here using a small section of Gerrit van Honthorst’s 1634 painting Woman Tuning a Lute. But what a rich element. Saying that he was fascinated by the eyes in the painting, Bird’s reuse of the portrait of the female face in this way sticks to the disturbing themes of the book.
Joan from Katherine J Chen; Design: Holly Ovenden; Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Every once in a while, a cover designer gets a book title that offers the way to a complete design based solely on letters. Here, he adds a fleur-de-lis to the quartered pattern of the four letters of ‘Joan’, transforming the whole into a kind of coat of arms. Add in some contrasting color schemes and you get a stunning, gorgeous drape that stands out from a mile.
You Fooled Death With Your Beauty, Akwaeke Emezi; Design: Anna Morrison; Publisher: Faber
How to deal with a book title that is too long, exhibition A. Anna Morrison’s vibrant design subverts the traditional image of text by reading down the cover and across an elegantly illustrated hand. It’s a simple structure and small touches do just that: the chain of the loop hanging over the text; Painted nails with pictures of palm trees, sun loungers and birds of paradise.
Bliss Montage by Ling Ma; Design: Rodrigo Corral; Publisher: Text Publishing
With its beautiful play of surfaces, light and colour, this cover makes you want to reach out and touch it. It’s the kind of idea that could be presented in so many different ways, but this iteration filled with bright oranges feels just right. Full of flavor! Photographer: Michael Schmelling.