Hilariously bad book covers paraded for the amusement of jaded designers. Shooting fish in a barrel, but nonetheless compelling entertainment. Misguided typeface selections, bizarre image use and juxtapositions, and primitive Photoshop skills abound, often on the same cover.
Ideological fervour was not the only thing that glowed brightly behind the Iron Curtain – the Communist-era Poles had a surprising love of neon signs. Neglected since the breakup of the Eastern Bloc, a museum has been set up to preserve what is left.
If one really squints, this motorbike (ridden by the intrepid Allan Roberts) sports the title type for his book The Hard Way Home (Jo Jo Publishing), courtesy of Chameleon Print Design. So the design at least has braved Andean precipes, forded terrifying rapids and generally defied death for several adrenalin soaked weeks.
Have you ever wondered where some of the more obscure keyboard symbols or UI elements got their start? @ goes back to late antiquity, but others (power on, sleep, firewire, etc are decidedly more contemporary. A modest little site-let here has the low-down. If you have a taste for punctuation rather than icons, try Keith Houston's Shady Characters, the secret life of punctuation.
Three variations on the same cover for a publishing client.
A restrained take on a very difficult, sensitive topic.
We were commissioned to produce an information graphic / poster for railway staff on the topic of fatigue management. With so much text on one poster, the background needed to be very muted and the relationships between different pieces of information as clear as possible.
Watch your favourite types of music duke it out in the ring of public taste. Google has made a brave attempt to quantify the relative popularity of various strands of music since 1950 using objective criteria/data. Witness the massive displacement of previously dominant jazz by pop, rock and others. Watch the slow relative decline of rock as music contines to diversify and fragment. This article has some doubts about the methodology, but even if the results are not 100 percent reliable, imagine how many other axes/areas of human endeavour might fruitfully be subjected to this kind of approach.
What the web is best at: marshalling complex data on interesting topics and making it accessible to everyone. A 'live' map depicting the cost of forgoing vaccination for diseases of childhood. Published by the US based Council on Foreign Relations.
A handy page giving the Pantone > CMYK > Hex values for all standard Pantone swatches. Of course, the match between colours represented in each colour gamut is often rather approximate (for very good and intractable reasons), but it beats rank guesswork.
One of a series of four textbook covers. Bold, simple, picking up on the tool theme without going too far over the top.
Some recent cover design work...
Writing in the New Yorker, Tim Kreider explains why he thinks that high end book cover designs are in aesthetic decline. He suggests that the field is afflicted by a degree of conformity probably exacerbated by the Internet. "There’s clearly some brutally efficient Darwinian process at work here, because certain images—half-faces, napes, piers stretching into the water—spread like successful evolutionary adaptations and quickly become ubiquitous". He gives examples and harks back to the inventiveness and frequent weirdness of covers designed for pulp science fiction. Other culprits include the decreasing popularity of hand lettered titles (making something of a comeback, in my opinion). Children's and young adult titles are lauded as an exception to the general malaise.
Younity offers an unusual twist on file synchronisation/cloud computing -- the service allows you to bring all of your online file and image storage accounts under the one umbrella. While not storing files online, it means you can access any of your files on any of your devices -- mobile, PC or tablet. Great for accessing music libraries, movies, all of your documents, etc. If a particular file resides only a PC, users will need to take care that the PC in question is on, or the file will be unavailable.
Now that science agrees that sitting all day is a bad idea, chair-bound folks need alternatives. My own move to a standing desk involved stacking an IKEA coffee table atop my original desk, but others may desire something a little more stylish. Ergotron manufactures seriously minimalist workstations for ambulatory officeworkers. A colleague purchased one of their products and was happy with the functionality and build quality. Transitioning to all-day standing is difficult at first, but eventually gets easier, and any return to sitting feels quite strange.
The urge to design typefaces is a universal one, not just the province of traditionally design oriented cultures. Some of the most interesting recent work is coming out of Latin America and Spain. The surge of interest in type design has led to increased demand for type design tools, many of which are relatively expensive. Font Forge is free and quite capable, and supports all of the major font formats. The author of the program is continually improving and updating the source code.
fonts.com has put together an excellent resource for those interested in learning more about type design and typographers. An exacting, precise craft, high-level type design requires extreme attention to detail and the ability to slog through endless iterations, individual kerning pairs, multiple weights, extended character sets and nowadays, the promotion of one's work. The best type families combine beauty and workaday functionality, and if admired and appreciated, will often enjoy a life far longer those that of their creators.
Self-interest and ingenuity combine to game almost any system, and Amazon's book review system is no different. Services exist to supply authors with paid reviews and hopefully bump them to a more visible position with Amazon's search algorithms. Amazon officially bans the practice, but it is difficult to see how such a ban could be effectively policed. On a more ad hoc basis, individual authors have been accused of ginning up support from family and friends and planting huge numbers of non-authentic reviews.
hat tip: Rhys Tate.
Author John Hickman has produced a video to accompany his book "Reluctant Hero". Well composed, with layering of audio effects and use of historical footage, this kind of promotional project is well worth considering. Video links are easily emailed and shared and give potential readers a quick and accessible summary.
John is also the author of "Tripping Over", discussed here.