Keeping you covered

More booky goodness from Nick’s collection! This time three German titles with interesting cover papers and neat tipped-in titles. If the internet translation tools are correct, this first one is entitled “Curriculum Vitae of St. Wonnebald Pück”, a light-hearted satire apparently…

Originally published in 1905, this edition is dated 1953 and is printed in the traditional heavy fraktur blackletter, with an insert promoting other titles in roman.

The second is entitled “Mozart on the Way to Prague” and appears to have been in print since it was first published in 1855. There is no date in this book so I would assume this too is from the 1950’s.

The type is a lighter fraktur, and much more elegant to my non-germanic eyes.

The last, in its elegant muted green cover is entitled “The Meadow Book” and appears to be some sort of philosophical musings upon nature…

The title also notes ‘with 16 scissor-cuts by the author’ which are these beautiful silhouettes of meadow herbs:

Two of these books are marked with the name of William Forward of Berlin. I love the evidence of past ownership in books.

And as I mentioned at the start, each cover has a separate title frame stuck to the front. Nice.

Thanks Nick – I’m sure you’ll find more gems as you sort through your collection!


Patterns of Poetry

There was a time when most serious readers had a poetry section on their bookshelves but alas, no more I fear. These few gems were rediscovered by my friend Nick recently and I thought they were beautiful; elegantly understated but playful.

Penguin led in the design of these collections, but other publishers soon caught on and developed their own. A recent visit to a major High Street bookstore showed me that there were precious few poetry books on the shelves, and those that were used banal stock imagery.

So take a deep breath and settle into a moment of calm and let the patterns do their work…

The Browning, Chinese Verse and e.e. cummings each have patterns credited to Stephen Russ, who I assume probably created the rest.

The Jack Newton Radio

After some fine tuning, the cover for ‘The Jack Newton Radio’ is complete, all the chapter headings have been inserted and I think it looks great! It has the right feeling of nostalgia and location, and with its limited colour palette. has a distinctive visual impact.

The full cover wraparound artworks looks like this:

The Jack Newton Radio can be purchased here. Go buy it now…

Judging a book by it’s cover

I recently mentioned a design project that required some research into vintage radiogram dials and I though I would share some images of the work in progress.

The book is by the author Jon Lawrence (I also designed the cover for his last book Bisha) and the official back cover blurb describes the novel thusly:

“Spirited septuagenarian Anwyn Jones, has left London for the tranquility of St David’s following the death of her husband. Coming to terms with her grief, Anwyn begins to notice issues with her memory and fears that dementia will rob her of the only thing that matters to her – her husband. However, Anwyn forms an unlikely friendship with a broken family, including a lonely wife, a guilty husband and a distant young boy. As she tries to rebuild her life Anwyn becomes obsessed with the poems of Jack Newton, whose verses she hears on the radio each night. Within sight of the lighthouse friendships are made and secrets are revealed in a poignant, funny and thought-provoking novel from the acclaimed author of Playing Beneath the Havelock House, Albatross Bay and Bisha.”

For my brief, Jon laid out some important elements that could serve as visual reference – the radiogram obviously, a lighthouse; Smalls lighthouse at St.Davids, Puffins and poetry.

After researching old radiogram dials I began to explore graphic treatments that echoed the reproduction qualities of these old screen-printed images on plastic; slightly rounded corners and a loss of the overall sharpness of the line, due to the spread of the ink, and the fact that these things were often quite small, so when enlarged their defects become more apparent.

I began with a simple keyline drawing of Smalls Lighthouse in Adobe Illustrator – I drew the earlier wooden version because I knew that it was particularly distinctive (I first learned of Smalls Lighthouse through the music of John Tanner\Plinth – check it out) and I omitted the ugly helicopter landing pad that has been built on top of the modern one!

At this point I was just experimenting with the idea and technique so didn’t dwell too much on fine detail or quality of line,  everything was left basic

The next few stages were as follows:

Stage 1. Basic line for reference.
Stage 2. Apply a light blur to soften the edges.
Stage 3. Rasterise the vectors (converting vectors to pixels – effectively making a photo)
Stage 4. Converting the pixels back to vectors. This creates a more definite edge from the blurred version, filling in corners,rounding corners and subtly softening the quality of the lines.

I did the same with the larger text in the title, using Adrian Frutigers’ often overlooked typeface Avenir:


I made versions using both lighthouses, but found the asymmetry of the old lighthouse wasn’t working within my compositions and focussed on the more traditional ‘classic’ lighthouse shape.

Colours were sampled from photographs of old dials – the aged/yellowed white plastic that has that authentic vintage ivory tone, washed out reds and bakelite brown. The cover that uses this colour also has a subtle glow to give the appearance of being backlit:

I went through each of the designs with Jon and discussed all these details, along with one or two other points which had arisen during the process. A decision was then made and I moved on to develop the chosen design. Which one? You’ll find out next time. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts, opinions and preferences?

On a separate note, Jon is trying to raise funds to promote the book through his crowdfunding page. Find out how you can support the project.