Thursday, October 04, 2007

Judging a Book by Its Cover Only

While I’ve sometimes been critical here of mediocre and copycat book design, I also delight in a well-conceived and well-executed novel jacket. So when I read, in Joseph Sullivan’s terrific Book Design Review blog, about the AIGA’s (American Institute of Graphic Arts) selection of the top 100 book covers from 2006, I clicked right over to see what was on display. As it turns out, pitifully few crime-fiction works managed to make the cut. However, there are three among the 100 that fit easily within this genre:

Darkness at Noon (#29), by Arthur Koestler. Originally published in 1940, this espionage tale by a Hungarian novelist focuses on the downfall of a Bolshevik loyalist and veteran of the 1917 Russian Revolution. About Simon & Schuster’s 2006 edition of Koestler’s novel, the AIGA says: “This cover is a redesign of the granddaddy of all novels about the Stalinist purges in the Soviet Union. The design references a late­1930s Russian aesthetic while still feeling like it could have been designed in 2006. The cover also reflects the fate of the jailed main character, Nicholas Rubashov, an aging revolutionary who is imprisoned and psychologically tortured by the party to which he has devoted his life.”

• L.A. Rex (#54), by Will Beall. Penned by a Los Angeles cop who has spent most of his lengthy career working that city’s South Central district, L.A. Rex follows a demon-pestered young policeman most familiar with the city’s softer side, who has pulled duty in one of L.A.’s more corrupt and violent neighborhoods. Of its cover, created by New York-based Hsu and Associates for Riverhead Books, the AIGA judges remark: “City crime, grime and great type--a fresh approach to the crime genre.”

Next (#66), by Michael Crichton. Going back to the well of genetic engineering (from which he pulled his best-known novel, Jurassic Park), the author here presents a speculative thriller involving intelligent hybrid creatures and ambitious scientists trying to patent fragments of human genomes that they hope to use in curing diseases. “Tasteful, compelling cover design for popular fiction--something not often found,” the AIGA judges say of this HarperCollins novel. “Economical but effective.” I couldn’t agree more.

You can look through all of the AIGA’s Year in Design picks here.

1 comment:

circuitmouse said...

Maybe I'm just now becoming aware of it, but there does seem to be a plethora of book cover design-related tomes out this season. Some appear to be more for the coffee table than, say, the practicing art director or art student.

I do know that I didn't need yet another obsession to become fixated on --anything that will keep me away from working on what goes between the covers!