Category Archives: Design

Design Your Own Cover!

Penguin. "Books by the Greats, Covers by You."

Penguin. “Books by the Greats, Covers by You.”

What’s happening here conceptually?
Something happened that threatened the cover.
Something bleached or nuked the cover.
The blind spot of the marketplace is consuming the objects of the marketplace.
The book needs you, reader.
Reader, they know you are a “maker.”
They know you don’t trust the cover anymore.
They know you cannot be fooled by embossed glazes, or the husky tooth of paper without coating.
They know that the reader is writing the book, too.
A blank cover is an existential margin around the book to represent this.
The publisher’s business card is this whitespace.
There is no more ink left.
The blank cover is a space for something that hasn’t happened yet.
The book is unfinished.
The book is unbounded by the cover.
It is an open parenthesis.
Like broken type, there is a mechanical gap in the book now, some process failure.
The blank cover is the reader’s halo.
The author doesn’t mind.


The Understated Ebook Cover

The bookshelf for an ebook is a screen: a smaller world where design elements, images, and small type are lost. Here are some striking, text-only covers, as well as one wild card, with only an image and a logo. Click-through for the book in its marketplace.

Lemon-lime, with a dash of blue agave.

Seen, Written by Klaus Kertess (Gregory R. Miller & Co.)

n+1’s Kindle Singles look. This one intimates some kind of scrolling canvas.

Argentinidad by Benjamin Kunkel (n+1 singles)

The series look for all 5 “Hybrid” books titled “The Duel,” from Melville House.

The Duel, Giacomo Casanova (Melville House "Hybrid" Books)

The series look chosen by Hatje Cantz for their list of Documenta Notebooks, showing only the author’s name and a title-specific color.

Reading, Rewriting Poe's "The Oval Portrait" - Angelically, by Jalal Toufic (Hatje Cantz)

The Domino Project series look, with one exception, consists only of an image and a logo.

Zarrella's Hierarchy of Contagiousness (Domino Project)

Store Lighting

Is the light changing this summer?

What kind of fantasy/cultural narrative can be spun to explain why the book jacket and its subjects are being flashed out with a blinding light that bleaches out their colors, their words?

Glenn Carle, The Interrogator: An Education, Nation Books, 2011

Bob Mould, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, Little, Brown, 2011

Phrase Scanner 7/14/11

cultural diabetes: idea that media production and consumption behaviors are out of equilibrium. I don’t know if the headliner came up with that phrase, but the article is in New Scientist by Peter Lunenfeld.

sensorium: Total sense environment. Word is from the 17th century. Also the title of an MIT Press book on the “techno-human interface.” Book is from the 2006 century, which feels just as long ago.

Feltron: “Nicholas Felton is a leader in the field of information visualization and personal data-tracking.” The Feltron, then, is like his own personal data presence/pseudonym.

bitcoin: a person-to-person digital currency.


Impressed by gutsy covers that don’t always accommodate the viewer.1 Lightning struck twice when I saw two this week.

The first is by the Dutch designer Irma Boom for a monograph on Sheila Hicks. (I’ll tweet a Boom-related video later in the week.)

Sheila Hicks: Weaving as Metaphor

The second is the US release of a Metallica bio that has the cover image printed in grey, on a black background. It’s a little harder to read on the actual cover than in this .jpg. (Homage to Metallica’s 1991 black album. I remember the CDs looking like this.

Metallica: Enter Night

Gratuitous, media-related contextual footnote. 1 This is related to my attraction to three biting-the-hand-that-feeds-’em pop songs about record companies (NSFW): Song One, Song Two, Song Three.

Little Premonitions

A waking dream, fantasia: shopping as a kind of hunting, with bookstore as forest. Thousands of trees. Behind which one is the big game animal you were hoping to bring down? Small game? Or did you want it to hunt you down?

Thousands of book jackets, fetishized as yet another indispensible ad that needs “designing,” lavished with time, holograms, and expensive shiny regions. Frozen marquees for the next read, stuck with immovable type that holds a promise often more interesting than the book itself…and worthy of their own books about themselves…

For the hunter/browser, all it can take is a glimpse of recognition. The book jacket hunts you down with a little premonition. Here is the arrow that will smite me next.

One conspicuous group of hunters/hunted: millenial data sharks, expert researchers, info architects, savvy students, code surfers. How well you have tuned your overabundance radar to find the next right thing so quickly.

A digital forest, perhaps, where there is nothing quite like the book jacket. A different idea about what the book is, what hunting is, where the harbingers are.

In Place of Erudite

Not a book review, but something noticed after Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. Or, What Reading a Book Does, Chapter 35: The Tangential.

Taking too much from the blurbs, I found an obtuse take on what “relentlessly erudite” means (Vanity Fair). The novel’s characters are precocious Greek students at fictional Hampden College, and they are conversant in the classics. Literally – Greek, however sloppily inflected, allows them to wonder aloud to each other when in mixed company: “Always, previously, in an emergency we could throw out something in Greek, under the guise of an aphorism or quotation.” (501) Like this:

I did not understand what he meant. The form of “dishonor” (ατιμία) that he used also meant “loss of civil rights.” “Atimia?” I repeated.

“But rights are for living men, not for the dead.”
“Oιμoι,” he said, shaking his head. “Oh, dear. No. No.”

Erudite: Having or showing great knowledge or learning.

In fiction, I’m now looking for something else, something far more valuable, examples of emotional erudition:
How do characters validate, or invalidate, one another’s feelings?
Are the characters reading each other’s (fictional) expressions?
Are they self-aware, or mindful?
How important is it to an author to describe a character’s emotional kaleidoscope?
Et cetera.

Kinds of reading are given such short shrift. This one helps to avoid reading about Elaborate Architectures of Things That are Probably Beside the Point.

P.S. The Secret History of the Book Jacket of The Secret History.