Friday Book Design Blog: Gone, by Michael Grant

Jonathan Gibbs

gone UK Friday Book Design Blog: Gone, by Michael GrantThis is the YA book series that is currently going through our house, and the kids’ primary school, and probably, everywhere like, er, a plague: Gone, and its sequels, by Michael Grant. I haven’t so much as glanced at any of them, but I’ve picked up a certain amount from excited dinner table chit-chat: it’s sci-fi, it’s gruesome, it’s about a group of kids with supernatural powers. One of them has got a whip for an arm. There are nuclear power stations that might be to blame.

A quick look online tells me that the main premise of the books is that everyone over the age of 15 disappears – which I don’t think my boys have mentioned as yet, but then I don’t suppose that’s much of a worry when you’re still only ten.

What caught my eye about the books is their design: matt black paperback covers, bare but for the title picked out in large, sometimes distressed capitals (font: Impact), the letters black against a neon radioactive glow, and with a minimal graphic element, usually the silhouette of one the characters, built into a letter.

The author’s name, near the bottom, is invisible until you hold the book at a certain angle (though you won’t get that from the image here, alas). The page edges are coloured, too, the same bright colour as the cover glow. All in all, it’s a brilliant package – minimal, forceful, establishing a powerful brand identity without quite fixing on anything as naff as a logo.

fear cover  196x300 Friday Book Design Blog: Gone, by Michael GrantBut things have changed. Newer editions of the paperbacks have made Grant’s name bigger, and coloured it grey, so it’s more clearly visible, and – worse still – there’s now  an introductory blurb slapped in the middle of the blank space (“It’s a world without adults, and normal has crashed and burned”). Meanwhile, the original design stays for the latest (and last) hardback in the series – Light. It’s as if the publishers have lost confidence in their own design.

In any case, it’s a whole lot more impressive than the US covers (and Grant is American, so I assume that’s his primary market) which go all out for the Twilight/Hunger Games look, with each of them boasting a pouting boy/girl couple. That seems much more of a pitch for a cross-gender readership, whereas the British ones seem designed not so much not to appeal to girls as not to put boys off, if you see what I mean.

Girls are not immune to good design, though boys may well be allergic to book covers with images of girls on them – there’s a strong argument that the massive success of The Hunger Games was helped, in part, by the fact that the covers disdained to portray the books’ heroine, Katniss.

gone US covers 203x300 Friday Book Design Blog: Gone, by Michael Grant

The US covers for some of the 'Gone' series.

  • Wodgin

    We were just ordering the next in the series and my son recoiled in horror when he saw the US covers on Amazon. I doubt he’d have been keen to read a book that looked like a teen romance novel. He already said those covers spoilt the books and the characters looked wrong. The British covers are pretty genderless and I like that they don’t inflict a specific visual image of the characters on the reader. I’d be curious to know how well the books are selling in the US and the UK and whether there is a difference in proportion of male / female readers related to the different covers.

  • David N Atkinson

    I’m pretty sure that font’s not Impact; it looks like something squarer such as Compacta Bold to me.

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