« | Home | »

Uniformity

Tags:

In an interview with Back Cover earlier this year, Richard Hollis, the graphic designer, writer, teacher and now publisher, said that when he was starting out fifty years ago,

Designers were more like doctors then. A client would consult them, and say: ‘My problem is, I’ve got to tell these people about this and that.’

Looking at books in British bookshops for the first time in a while, I began to wonder what symptoms the patients, four different publishers in this case, complained of to get these cures:

The writers have nothing in common when it comes to style or sensibility but these covers say otherwise. The partly obscured figure of a woman against a plain, usually blue, background has been a staple of British publishing for some years now. Depending on where you are and how you feel about Amazon, the American equivalents are either cheering (there’s something else out there) or depressing – why, given the choice, would anyone ever buy these editions? The bland, close-to-chicklit uniformity of the British design doesn’t say good things about the long-term health of the patient.

In the meantime, here is a collection of what are billed as the worst book covers of all time but don’t seem like any such thing. For a start, the jackets seem to bear some relation to the contents of the books. If British publishers were to adopt a new standard book cover, they could do a lot worse than lifting the template from Andre Norton’s Breed to Come.

Comments on “Uniformity”

  1. Chris Larkin says:

    I would also like to put forward Crabs’ Moon by Guy N Smith as a possible best/worst cover jacket of all time – if only for the wanton destruction of a red pillar box. It can be viewed here; http://vaultofevil.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=crabsontherampage&action=display&thread=1361 if the fancy takes you.

  2. Joe Morison says:

    Alan Coren’s ‘Golfing for Cats’ offers an ironic comment. (The cover, he said, ticked all the boxes that make books sell.)

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Golfing-Cats-Alan-Coren/dp/0903895544/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1282241462&sr=8-2

  3. pinhut says:

    May I also volunteer every middlebrow literary novel with a view of some bare trees on the cover.

  4. pinhut says:

    The Andre Norton cover is terrific entertainment. It features a preposterous blue cat. So?

  5. A.J.P. Crown says:

    British publishers could do a lot worse than Andre Norton.
    It’s just illustrating the plot of the story. I hate that. The graphics should add something that’s in the spirit of the writing, not merely faithfully copy the text. For example, look at Roz Chast’s cover for The Possessed, or the Tony Stone cover for Straw Dogs (they’re not “the best”, just two books currently on my desk).

    • pinhut says:

      As an aesthetic scheme, this is about as advanced as:

      “I hate cheese because I always want egg.”

      • A.J.P. Crown says:

        Yes, the jacket’s related to the contents, but there’s no idea in the graphics except to tie the book to 1940s & 50s Sci-Fi movies. Otherwise, it’s just narration of the written story. It’s better than everything else up there, but it’s only telling me the highlights of this book are the green-suited spacemen (green men = SF) and talking cats (cats have uncanny powers) — well, they could have just written that and left the rest to my imagination. The designer is missing a great opportunity to set the scene, as does anyone who deals in nostalgia.

  6. KabulBlue says:

    I would like to suggest this website: http://killercoversoftheweek.blogspot.com/. No genre does/did covers as brilliantly as pulp fiction.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • andymartinink on Reacher v. Parker: Slayground definitely next on my agenda. But to be fair to Lee Child, as per the Forbes analysis, there is clearly a massive collective reader-writer ...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: And in Breakout, Parker, in prison, teams up with a black guy to escape; another white con dislikes it but accepts the necessity; Parker is absolutely...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: Parker may not have the integrity and honesty of Marlowe, but I'd argue that Richard Stark writes with far more of both than Raymond Chandler does: Ch...
    • Christopher Tayler on Reacher v. Parker: Good to see someone holding up standards. The explanation is that I had thoughts - or words - left over from writing about Lee Child. (For Chandler se...
    • Geoff Roberts on Reacher v. Parker: ..."praised in the London Review of Books" Just read the article on Lee Child in a certain literary review and was surprised to find this rave notice...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement