A Darker Shade of Magic, Angela Readman, Benjamin Wood, Best Book Design, Book Cover Design, Coralie Bickford-Smith, Don't Try This at Home, Everything is Teeth, Evie Wyld, Graphic Design, Joe Sumner, Jonathan Gibbs, Mahesh Rao, Margaret Atwood, Miranda July, One Point Two Billion, Paul McVeigh, Randall, The Ecliptic, The First Bad Man, The Fox and the Star, The GoodSon, The Heart Goes Last, VE Schwab
It is always interesting to see book cover design themes that recur in any particular year—last year was all about bright print process colours: cyan and magenta in particular, and correspondingly bright coloured page edges. This year the palettes are a bit subtler, but there are loads of interesting textures and a continued referencing of the design and printing process itself—a celebration of the medium as well as the message. Long live beautiful books.
These are some of my favourite cover designs of 2015—in particular, designs that are attractive but also appropriate to the content. I have credited the illustrator/designer where I have been able to find out who they are.
The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood, designed by Pei Loi Koay (Bloomsbury)
Margaret Atwood’s dystopian societies are always grimly neon bright and plastic, and the colour scheme reflects this perfectly. The orange outfits and white bars also make reference to the penitentiary-orientated society of this book. There are a few things about this cover that seem maliciously intended to annoy graphic designers: the descender on the ‘g’ of Margaret Atwood that just dips below the white bars, and the white bars themselves that are not evenly spaced and are just slightly off the perpendicular—subtle enough that you don’t notice immediately but still creates a sense of unease, a sense that there is something not quite right. Perhaps, like the deliberate flaw in a Persian carpet, these ‘mistakes’ are meant to remind us to distrust the appearance of a perfect society when created by fallible human beings.
A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab (Tor Books – US, Titan Books – UK)
Most of these are UK editions, but I have to mention this stunning US edition of A Darker Shade of Magic. There is something so compelling about the overhead perspective of the main character travelling between different versions of London: perhaps it is the way the cloak forms a V that echoes the author’s initial, the balance of geometric shapes, the bold red and black colour scheme, the subtly elegant typeface, or just the pitch-perfect harmony of the whole design.
The Ecliptic by Benjamin Wood (Scribner)
The title of Benjamin Wood’s second novel is beautifully constructed, with sketched renderings of the mathematical structure of the font just visible. The disorientating interaction between island and the sky, in hypnotic concentric circles, tells you immediately that all is not as it seems on this island.
Don’t Try This at Home by Angela Readman (And Other Stories)
Kudos to And Other Stories who have broken away from their initial signature look of bold geometric shapes and created another brand that is just as striking and distinctive. I particularly love the Jackalope motif on Angela Readman’s debut short story collection. These book covers would make gorgeous wallpaper or upholstery—I quite fancy a Jackalope cushion. (This is meant as a compliment, just to clarify.)
One Point Two Billion by Mahesh Rao, designed by Jonny Pelham (Daunt Books)
The retro matchbox design cover of Mahesh Rao’s short story collection, a riot of colour and variation, immediately tells you that these stories will be anything but monotonous.
The Good Son by Paul McVeigh (Salt)
Another great retro-style design, the slightly distressed rendering of a wholesome image and the sinister addition of the gun suggests that the protagonist of Paul McVeigh’s debut novel will have some challenges to overcome. And there are those concentric circles again, in this case a target perhaps.
The First Bad Man by Miranda July (Canongate)
A minimalist typographic approach always makes a bold statement, particularly with a book that is difficult to categorise like Miranda July’s The First Bad Man (I shudder to imagine an illustrative representation of some of the scenes from this book.) The bright yellow stripe highlights a quote from AM Holmes—one of the few authors you could possibly compare Miranda July to.
Randall by Jonathan Gibbs (Galley Beggar)
Another striking monochrome and yellow cover, Randall is a book about art and artists but the designer makes a wise decision to eschew any illustration other than blotches of the artist’s signature yellow paint.
Everything is Teeth by Evie Wyld & Joe Sumner (Jonathan Cape)
Every single page of this graphic memoir is worth savouring and I particularly enjoyed the contrast of Joe Sumner’s Tim Burtonesque caricatures of Evie and her family, with his more lifelike sketches of the sharks drifting surreally through Evie’s recollections.
The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith (Penguin)
It is the Waterstones Book of the Year so it hardly needs mentioning, but The Fox and the Star is just so beautiful I can’t resist. Inspired by the designs of William Morris and the stories of William Blake, every page is exquisitely rendered.