Friday Book Design Blog: Book covers inspired by…
In search of something else entirely I was flicking through Alan Powers’s book Front Cover: Great Book Jacket and Cover Design and spotted something that made me stop. It was a cover by Alvin Lustig – for Kafka’s Amerika, in its 1948 New Directions American edition – that reminded me (more than reminded me!) of another cover: the 1994 Picador cover for Bret Easton Ellis’s The Informers.
(Googling further I notice that I’m not the first to spot the similarity – the enigmatic Zuhitsu mentions it here, and even s/he points to another reference, now gone from the web.)
More than a mere ‘inspired by’, it is a direct quotation of the work of a classic American designer who, though died young, revolutionised the look of American book covers, with his adoption of a European modernist sensibility. His covers for New Directions even have his signature on them, which is something most designers today could only dream of.
But it’s not just this one. Another cover on the same page of Powers’s book gave me pause. Surely the wobbly blue concentric almost circles of The Sheltering Sky influenced the Picador (again!) cover of James Salter’s All That Is – at least in its proof incarnation. The link is a little less obvious in the final hardback jacket.
But surely there are other such direct quotations going on all the time in book design – and no doubt largely unnoticed to the reading public, ignorant as they generally are of the history of the form, and hugely knowledgeable as most designers are of the same. Others of Lustig’s design certainly seem like they might have been used as illusions or starting points -the Baudelaire Illuminations or Flowers of Evil, for instance. Here are some more of Lustig’s designs (you can read about his work here and see the beautiful house he designed here)
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