January 13, 2011

Notes on Design: Spelling a trend


When Simon and Schuster dropped a few clues this week to the mystery surrounding O: A Presidential Novela mystery the publisher seems desperate to keep alive—commentators immediately took up sleuthing to determine the identity of the book’s author, with Primary Colors author Joe Klein widely considered a prime suspect.

But the newly unveiled cover suggested another mystery: where have I seen this before?

The bold colors, understated layout, and face sprouting from the title led me to the cover of 2010’s Exley, by British book designer Jamie Keenan (perhaps best known in the US for his post-it note cover for Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End). While this is likely a case of two designers independently coming to the same solution, the covers are both striking as well as strikingly similar. They also call to mind the work of former HarperCollins creative director Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich, whose book Men of Letters and People of Substance features typographic illustrations of famous writers and thinkers.

Whether or not this is the start of a trend, it’s refreshing to see such smart, fresh takes on typographic covers.

Christopher King is the former Art Director of Melville House.