Friday Book Design Blog: Gone, by Michael Grant
This 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.
But 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.
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