Art of The Cover: Book Cover Design Inspiration
Shepard Fairey on George Orwell, where we live, 8 decades of iconic cover designs, and what Banksy and a tranny have in common. Oh my!
By Maria Popova
Covers. Quite the underappreciated art form. And if no one judged a book by its cover, why does so much creative gruntwork go into designing the truly best ones? After doing a piece on books by famous designers recently, we got inspired to hunt down broader tributes to the art of book and magazine cover design. And here’s what we came up with.
Ever since the very first issue of The New Yorker in the 1920’s, the peculiar Eustace Tilley character has been gracing its cover. Last week, The New Yorker wrapped up their second annual Your Eustace contest soliciting reader reimaginings of Eustace.
And as much as we like to think of New Yorker readers as unnecessarily self-righteous cultural elitists without so much as a smidgen of original thought, we have to admit they turned out to be a pretty creative crowd. At least that’s what the submissions, ranging from the bizarre to the brilliant, indicate.
As for the 12 winners, we can’t help appreciating the sheer audacity of the clever Banksy mock-up and the hopelessly hilarious trasvestite Eustace — after all, judgments of The New Yorker‘s merits aside, cultural relevance is the one thing this iconic publication has always stood for. And what more culturally relevant than Banksy and trannies?
Believe it or not, not every Esquire cover ever designed is a meticulously decorated storefront to Hollywood’s half-clad A-list. Back in the olden days, it was more about delightful Claymationeseque cartoonishness and less about Jessica Simpson’s plunging or altogether nonexistent neckline.
How do we know that? It has come to our attention that Esquire maintains a rich and extensive Cover Gallery, dating all the way back to 1933. And it’s quite extraordinary.
So spend a few minutes glimpsing back at 8 decades of cultural commentary by some of the 20th century’s most iconic artists, including illustrators like Abner Dean and George Petty, art directors like Jean-Paul Goude and Paul Rand, and even legendary adman George Lois.
They do book cover designs. No, really. And they do them well.
The Fwis Covers collection is as broad and eclectic as it is creatively marvelous. It spans the entire spectrum of design — from the gaudy manga kitsch of Tezuka, to the delightfully somber minimalism of Against Happiness, to the appropriate retro-geekiness of Game Feel, to the unmistakable Shepard Fairey take on Animal Farm.
Go ahead, explore the Fwis Collection — you’ll find yourself curious and intrigued and hungry for books…judged entirely by the covers. It’s okay.
Granted, this isn’t really about covers — although it kind of is, implicitly, by way of being about something covers couldn’t exist without: The wonderful world of books. Easily one of the most wonderful stop-motion films we’ve ever seen, this one comes from Apt and Asylum Films, celebrating 4th Estate Publishers‘ 25th Anniversary.
And now we want to live there, too.
Published February 12, 2009