Tuesday, August 17, 2010


David Pearson
Great Ideas Vol. 1, Penguin Books

I really struggle with the idea that book covers should have a distinct voice. In many ways I think a book cover should do no more than titillate, leaving the blurb — and reader — to do the rest. I don’t think it should be down to me to reveal what the chief protagonist looks like, nor to imbue a piece of photography with a meaning for which it was never intended. Typographic or pattern-led covers challenge the reader to project meaning onto them, which feels entirely more sympathetic and — luckily for me — the French publishing industry seems to embrace quietly suggestive cover designs.

Text Designer David Pearson, interviewed by Peter Terzian in Print: Design for Curious Minds

It's not clear to me how I missed Penguin's reissue of the Great Ideas series, in four volumes no less with a fifth imminent, designed exquisitely by David Pearson. My only excuse is that, perhaps, the releases with their extraordinary book design didn't make it to the US, and we all know I've had my own difficulties leaving these shores of late.

Although I fear the reason may be that I don't spend enough time in bookstores anymore, browsing the tables with the latest releases; that I rely too much on the Internet for information and insights; that I buy too frequently from Amazon; that I've neglected my first, my truest, my dearest friends: books.

How curious that I would discover what I've missed through a random Flickr photostream encounter.

Whatever the reason, Mr. Pearson's work is exquisite and makes me want to toss off my responsibilities and spend a good solid series of weeks catching up with the great ideas books, and then weeks more discovering new books that his covers tease out for me.


Great Ideas Vol. 1 »
Great Ideas Vol. 2 »
Great Ideas Vol. 3 »

Internally, illustrative endpapers and a decorative title page are joined by a rather unusual text setting method rarely seen in the last hundred years. Each right-hand page sports what is known as a catchword: a hanging word that provides the opening of the following page. We believe that this aids the flow of reading, especially when using a larger, heavy page with a slow turning rate.

From the same interview cited above.

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