Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Kelly's TBP 1.15: Cover

[Long-post warning here: in the process of writing this, I found a bunch of cool links to articles and interviews. I know you're super busy right now, so don't read this one until you have a bit of time to relax and enjoy it...]

Dear Jenny,

Oooh! I'm doing it! It's February March (well, I started this in February...) and I have already perused one book from my TBP list! Interestingly, it's the most recent addition, Cover by Peter Mendelsund (thanks for the Christmas gift!) I guess it's gotta be fresh to grab my attention? Maybe.

The cover of Cover. Heh.
I tried to capture the coolness of this cover, but I'm not sure I got it -- the images of the red book are printed directly on the front, spine, and back and then the dustjacket is a clear overlay with the title and author name printed on it. It's a nice effect. (Which is good for a book cover of a book about... book covers!)

Sooo... when you gave this to me, I didn't realize/understand that it's a retrospective of one cover artist's work. (A mid-career retrospective, at that -- he's only been doing it for 11 years!) I guess I thought it was about different book covers by different people. But it's not -- it's one super prolific designer. Who... got into this gig as a second career after being a professional musician for over a decade. Whoa. ("What am I doing with my life?" is a quick flashing thought there, I gotta admit. And then I remember... paying bills. Oh yeah.)

Anywho... I really enjoyed this book. I especially loved the fact that it shows many "rejected" book cover designs and it really breaks down the process of book cover design in a way that makes me think even more about book covers than I did before (didn't think that was possible).

The first part of the design process is about reading, as shown in this pull quote from the introduction by Tom McCarthy, who's book, C is one of the covers in Cover:
I found this great interview with Mendelsund and McCarthy with a far more detailed explanation of the book cover design process (that's a good read, if you've got some time.) (And a good "scan," if you don't!) 

Arguably, Mendelsund's most well-known work is the cover of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo:
I really enjoyed seeing earlier/rejected versions of the book, including one with that original (super harsh!) title, before they decided to change it for an American audience:

I actually prefer the more subdued color in the bottom right version and it sort of sounds like Mendelsund did, as well, but... the bright colors won out.

He also designed the other two books in the series, including The Girl Who Played With Fire:

Which was created from an actual photocopy of his daughter's hair:

Cool, right? (Aaand... what a cool claim to fame for that girl.)

This double-page spread is fantastic -- showing all rejected covers for one book:

And here's a great demonstration of the iterative process -- look how many covers he goes through for this book:

Ultimately, he didn't use any of these and, most noticeably, changed from that serif font to a sans serif one: here's the final hardcover version. And the paperback, which is the same image, but with some color.

While I was looking for that final version (it's not in the book, which I found odd), I discovered a really cool five minute video interviewing a bunch of different cover designers who describe their process for design (including All That Is).

He's done a lot of covers I have never seen before. Outside of the Stieg Larsson books, I think this one is the most recognizable to me -- I've never read this book, but I really like this cover:

And finally... you do have a copy of this edition of Ulysses, right? Because this design is inspired -- love the YES:

And, in fact, he discusses that design it in this interview, as well as his dislike for The Great Gatsby cover, which I also dislike. Mostly because people say that the eyes are those of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, but I don't think they are -- where are the glasses, people?! Instead, I've always thought that the eyes were Daisy's, as described in this passage:
Unlike Gatsby and Tom Buchanan, I had no girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs, and so I drew up the girl beside me, tightening my arms. [81] [emphasis mine]
(Interested in this discussion? Here's an article about it.) Taken as Daisy's eyes -- not Eckleburg's -- I am fine with the design. But the Eckleburg interpretation is annoying to me. Just put a green light on the cover of the damned thing and be done with it.

Aaand... I gotta wrap this up! I could go on and on about this book, but the final verdict is: Good stuff! Thank you so much for giving it to me -- a worthy perusal.




    I actually wish is was a poster. I love it so much. Every once in a while I look for it, but I can't find it anywhere.

    Yeah, this book looked so interesting in the store because it's really about *how* book covers get designed and what works and doesn't. I'm glad you loved it!

    I have clicked all the links yet, but I will return to this one in a week and check it all out!

  2. 2 more quick things---that Ulysses version with that cover, as far as I know has never actually been on sale.

    And, I picked up another book by this guy but haven't read it yet. It's called What We See When We Read. I might have to TOB it for next year's list. Who knows if I'll get to it this year.

    1. First comment: Ulysses

      Okay. I just went spelunking on the Internet, and here's what I have found about that copy of Ulysses:

      It is shown on the Knopf site as being a book that they have published and sold.

      And if you click through to Barnes & Noble from there, that's the version they are picturing. However, I am suspicious because they claim that the copyright date on that is 1990 and, as far as I can tell, this version was published in 2013.

      So I went delving even deeper to find someone out there with an actual photo of this actual book -- and I found it! Check this blog here. So there it is. In the wild. The book exists and that guy even refers to that book cover directly as being one of his favorites.

      Unfortunately, I have not discovered a foolproof way of helping you secure that book, but hey -- at least we now know that it does exist in the world. Maybe contact some bookstores and see if they can get it for you? I haven't been able to find the ISBN for it -- the one on the Knopf site seems to be for that 1990 version.

      And, finally, you have got to check out the 90 versions of "Yes" that Mendelsund went through before deciding on the one on the cover. Nuts!

    2. Second comment: What We See When We Read

      When I was looking up Mendelsund for this post, I also found What We See When We Read mentioned quite a bit -- it was published at the same time as Cover and they're sort of supposed to "companion" books.

      Mendelsund has said, "WWSWWR is a little book to Cover’s large, art book trim-size. WWSWWR is mostly words, with some pictures; Cover is the opposite. WWSWWR describes what I see when I read; Cover shows what I saw when I read. They are siblings, these two books. And I hope they represent, together, a more holistic view of my professional interests.”

      The first time I saw it mentioned was in this review, which basically says, "Read Cover, but leave WWSWWR on the table." However, every other review I have seen for it has been terrific.

      Ready for some links? (If you're not, you can come back at any time and enjoy them at your leisure... heh...) He is super active online, so if you google him, you can find an overwhelming amount of info. Here are a few things I found particularly interesting:

      New Yorker interview about both books where he is pictured wearing a Ulysses t-shirt (not his own cool design, unfortunately).

      Here's his Twitter account and here's his blog -- both verrry easy to fall right into for a long time.

      Okay. I found about 100 other interesting links about this guy and I am not pretty much Mendelsunded out, so I'm going to stop now. Heh.