–by Retail, Customer Relations & PR Manager Janey Thornton
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – but it’s safe to say we’re all guilty of it from time to time. Book cover design is an art often overlooked by the general public, but important in its own right. It requires clear understanding of a text and the ability to accurately represent that understanding, transferring it to imagery. For this week’s post, I’ve explored some of the most iconic book covers ever designed – and the people who created them.
The Bell Jar (Faber & Faber 1966) – designed by Shirley Tucker
Arguably one of the most distinctive book jackets ever made, the cover for Sylvia Plath’s dark novel The Bell Jar is a bold and simplistic representation of Plath’s main theme – the depression engulfing her novel’s protagonist Esther Greenwood.
The cover’s designer Shirley Tucker worked as a book jacket designer at the publishing company Faber from 1959 to her retirement in 1987. Before then, she had studied graphic art at the Royal College. You can hear her recollecting her time spent working on The Bell Jar in the video below.
IQ84 by Haruki Murakami (Knopf Doubleday 2010) – designed by Chipp Kidd
Simplicity strikes again in this cover by the wonderful New York city-based designer Chipp Kidd. Kidd is one of the most prolific book cover designers in American history, having first joined the Knopf design team in 1986. He averages 75 book covers a year and has previously designed covers for Bret Easton Ellis, Cormac McCarthy, John Updike, David Sedaris and Donna Tartt.
He discusses his work on IQ84 in the video below.
Jaws by Peter Benchley (Bantam Books 1974) – designed by Roger Kastel
Arguably one of the most famous images in popular culture to come out of the 20th century, Roger Kastel’s design for the novel Jaws was so eye-catching it was adopted for the film adaptation.
Kastel designed his first book covers for Simon Schuster in the 1960s, fresh off the back of serving in the Korean War. His career took off big time, however, in the 1970s after Jaws was published and he attracted the attention of every major publishing house in New York.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (Penguin 1972) – designed by David Pelham
David Pelham worked as Penguin’s Fiction Art Director from 1968 to 1979. He had not been expecting to design the cover for Anthony Burgess’ bizarre and shocking ninth novel, but found himself lumped with the project after the designer he had given the job to ‘submitted a very poor job very late.’
Forced to come up with a cover design literally overnight, Pelham chose to depict the novel’s protagonist Alex on the front cover with a cog for an eye – an allusion to the book’s title, and also a play on the fact Alex wears black mascara.
Agatha Christie Paperback Editions (Fontana 1962-1982 ) – by Tom Adams
Commissioned in 1962 to produce a cover for the paperback edition of Agatha Christie’s Murder is Announced, Tom Adams went on to design Christie covers for twenty years.
Unlike Christie’s more conservative publishers in the US, PocketBooks, her UK publisher Fontana encouraged Adams’ creativity when it came to his covers – resulting in some of the most wacky and weird book covers designed in that period.
The creative freedom given to him by Fontana resulted in one of the most impressive and iconic series of covers ever created by a single designer – iconic in their haunting and dramatic eeriness, and totally capturing the spirit of Christie’s writing.
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