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Typography Diary: Typography on Books

As part of my typography class enrichment, I am from now in the progress of collecting various typography examples to increase my understanding of the various kinds of type. As I work in a place where I am surrounded by books all day long, and having to look at them every minute I have found that books are about the greatest sources for outstanding examples of design and typographic choices. No matter what the saying says, EVERYONE judges a book by it’s cover and publishers know this.

Not all of my examples are going to be the best of the best, considering that I am really going to focus more on becoming acquainted with identifying the qualities of the typography, but I do want to try to make these book examples part of a series that will have some of both. That being said, my first entry will at least feature one of the best covers that ever gripped my eyes.

Below is the cover of The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky published by Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2002.  By pure chance  I happened upon this book because I was in my college library one day and bored and was wandering through the Russian Literature shelves. My eyes were just gliding along minding their own business when I saw this bright red book glowing amongst the row.  I wasn’t prepared for the commanding power of this cover as I pulled it out. Whew, it challenged you! Everything, in all capitals, says ” Are you strrrrong enough to survive this?” The blocky, nonserif wording was  like a no-joke confrontation that required you to merely say yes or no. The tiny “The” told you this wasn’t a “story”, this was a legend  (of what I wasn’t even too sure but who cared!).  This book actually changed my life literary wise! Up until then I enjoyed fiction and fantasy in all its generality, but this book suddenly demanded to know if I was competent enough to experience the intensity of Russian expression . It’s only because of this book that I anticipated reading Crime and Punishment; why I  finally read some of Anton Chekov’s plays; why I relished beginning Anna Karenina; and is the reason why I suddenly realized all of my favorite classical pieces were by Russian composers.   And all of this because of a book cover!

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Since then, I have come to realize capitalized titles are a popular part of book design. The three  examples that I happened to find today were all large. These are authors I have not read yet, but I thought they did a pretty good job of asking you to read it.

Below is Tom Wolfe’s Hooking Up. Ironically it was not my intention to have these books have the same publisher but looking up the information after the fact I was surprised to find this too is a Farrar Straus & Giroux book. Score two for them.

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This book cover doesn’t even have the title on the cover (though it says it on the side), because all it needs is the authors name in gigantic unbracketed, serif (I think), with carefully squashed “o” serving as the only visual reference you need.

My second example an all caps, The Golden Age by Gore Vidal (also screenplay writer of Ben-Hur the movie).

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Published by Double Day,  the cover is quite impressively equally concerned with the title and author. Well actually Vidal’s name seems to be slightly more significant but the kerning, and the type is exactly the same thin, geometric, sans-serif, conferring the importance of both the content and writer. I do have to note that the black inside is more pronounced on the bottom name. But the letting is percent wise the same. And of course, “A novel” is placed on the edge in small white serif against black strip. The type feels pretty 30’s or 20’s-ish, though I am not yet informed enough to say which, but it emits the essence which “The Golden Age” is usually associated with.

And lastly we have stories by Wallace Stegner. I really don’t know too much about him other than that he is an American writer.

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My idea to pick books actually originally came from this cover because I thought it provided a prime example of differing type for one cover design. I supposed for a title like “Collected Stories”, you would want a little variety.  I also wanted a chance to see how close I could come to identifying the top type as I see it often. From what I saw mentioned in the book Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton. It looks like a kind of fat face. Again all caps, this time we have a thick white serif in contrast with a thin, long serif. However I noticed both of them were bracketed serifs so I supposed they remained unified in their selection. Interestingly the “R” on Stegner does not stay on the base line but rather curls up in a somewhat dainty way. I am not yet familiar with what they call that but I would describe it like a tail.

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