Peter Mendelsund Teaches Book Cover Design on Skillshare

Peter Mendelsund Teaches Book Cover Design on Skillshare

I don’t tend to post about many online classes but this Skillshare class certainly caught my attention. The extremely talented Peter Mendelsund is offering up his knowledge for an upcoming class on book cover design, teaching how to read as a graphic designer, iterate with imagination, and breaking the “rules” to make your message stand out.

Skillshare conducted an interview with Mendelsund on their blog, and I this question and answer in particular stood out to me.

Why is lifelong learning important to you?
PM: Lifelong learning is crucial. I had been one thing for most of my life [ed. note: a musician] and changed very late to a new career. I’m extremely aware of the twists and turns that life can take, and I think the key is really to maintain an open mind over a long period of time. Life is long: be open to the changes that present themselves to you.

You can sign up for the design class by clicking here.

Bobby Solomon

September 23, 2014 / By

A Thoughtful Essay On The Details of Design by Craig Mod

A Thoughtful Essay On The Details of Design by Craig Mod

I really hate the phrase “the devil’s in the details” but I certainly appreciate it’s intention. As a designer and someone who regards aesthetics in all forms, the details are the key. When an object, or even an experience, gets all the details right and it’s a transformative experience. Good details surprise you, they excite you, and they elevate the bar of your personal taste.

Writer Craig Mod recently posted a poetic piece on Medium titled Let’s talk about margins, which relates the importance of details to book making. Funny enough, my favorite part of his piece isn’t about books, it’s about buildings.

Consider buildings. Although you may not be an architect, you can be touched by a graceful space. The kind of space where you close your eyes and feel the gentle hand of the architect reveal itself in the way sound and air moves around you. Try it sometime. Go to your favorite space. Close your eyes and breathe slowly and intuit the goodness. Conversely, you can sense neglect or disregard the same way. There’s a building in Tokyo that feels like it hates the world. Standing in its shadow, the wind becomes portentous, howling, angry. It will swallow you if you close your eyes. It does not want you there. Its rotating doors even killed a child the first week it opened. It is not a nice building. You are not an architect but you know this: The building is bad. There are no George Nakashima chairs inside.

Bobby Solomon

August 19, 2014 / By

Torsten Lindsø Andersen Creates Vibrant Covers for Jack Kerouac’s Best Novels

Torsten Lindsø Andersen Creates Glowing Empty Pages for Jack Kerouac's Best Novels

“I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.” – Jack Kerouac

Torsten Lindsø Andersen (who’s name is quite amazing) is currently studying at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts – School of Design. For a recent school project he created a series of book covers for classic Jack Kerouac novels, each featuring a phantasmal, brightly hued gradient with simple blocks of black sans serif text. The effect is quite lovely, and it certainly creates a contemporary feeling to the covers. Kerouac has over 20 books to his name though, so I’m not certain how this could apply to his whole catalog, but I’m certain someone creative enough could figure it out. I also quite like the simple typographic back covers which contrast the front really nicely.

Torsten Lindsø Andersen Creates Glowing Empty Pages for Jack Kerouac's Best Novels

Torsten Lindsø Andersen Creates Glowing Empty Pages for Jack Kerouac's Best Novels

View more of Torsten’s work by clicking here.

Bobby Solomon

August 15, 2014 / By

An Animated Book Trailer for the Italian Release of Haruki Murakami’s Upcoming Novel

An Animated Book Trailer for the Italian Release of Haruki Murakami's Upcoming Novel

Following up on Nick’s fantastic piece on Haruki Murakami’s new novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, reader Fabio Valesini sent me a link to a trailer he animated for the Italian release of the book. It’s interesting to see such a different take on the material compared to the Knopf/Harvill Secker that Penguin Random House is putting out.

An Animated Book Trailer for the Italian Release of Haruki Murakami's Upcoming Novel

Though I haven’t read the book yet it feels like Fabio has certainly captured that ethereal, kinda weird Murakami feeling. When I read his work I always get this sense of alien mystery, that you’re never sure what might happen next, which is reflected in the trailer. Really nice work.

Bobby Solomon

August 7, 2014 / By

Haruki Murakami’s New Novel and its Delightfully Designed Cover

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Talking cats? Strange moons? Brooding teenagers? Yep, it’s time for a new Haruki Murakami novel. Next week the English-speaking world will be treated to the Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, the long-awaited novel of Japan’s critically acclaimed author. Published by Knopf and Harvill Secker of the Penguin Random House Company, it’s been eagerly anticipated since the release of Murakami’s best selling epic, 1Q84, in 2011. In preparation of the launch, we’re treated to an excerpt of the new book, as well as a look at the cover’s design—in which there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.

Murakami is a contemporary Japanese writer—born in Kyoto in 1949, he currently resides in Tokyo. His works have been translated into 50 languages and his best-selling books have been published in millions of copies. His most notable works include Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and Kafka on the Shore. The Guardian praises Murakami as “among the world’s greatest living novelists.” He’s kind of a big deal and happens to be one of my favorite authors.

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the story of Tsukuru Tazaki, a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. Newly released in Germany, Spain, and Holland, it has already topped the bestsellers in all three countries, and it sold over one million copies within its first week when originally released in Japan of April last year. You can read Slate’s excerpt from the new book, “Haida’s Story,” which is a story within a story that touches upon the nature of narration and how stories change the more we retell them.

“A return to the mood and subject matter of the acclaimed writer’s earlier work… A vintage Murakami struggle of coming to terms with buried emotions and missed opportunities, in which intentions and pent up desires can seemingly transcend time and space to bring both solace and desolation.” —Publishers Weekly

As with every Murakami release, I’m quite excited about the book cover’s design. If you’re also a fan of Murakami’s work then you’re familiar with the designs of either John Gall or Chip Kidd—who’ve been primarily responsible for the classic covers of previous Murakami western releases. Always beautiful and ever evoking the abstract, these works never fail to catch my eye, draw me into the novel, or give new meaning to the words on page.

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Unfortunately, neither designer was involved with Murakami’s newest release. But fret not; handling the new cover was Random House’s creative director, Suzanne Dean. She’s responsible for the fantastic work coming out of the publishing house’s Vintage Classics line, who previously commissioned the talented Noma Bar to redesign Murakami’s backlist. They’re some of the best-looking book covers in recent years. Under Dean’s guidance, the designs featured a circle motif, accompanied by a three-colored palette—in order to reflect the “seen and unseen” often portrayed in Murakami’s work. These covers were screen printed by hand to give a personal, softer edge, demonstrating the care that Dean puts into every piece under her guidance.

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A circular motif reappears for Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Dean states that the new cover is “an elegant abstract design, representing the five main characters.” The process began with her, as she recounts, “I cut out five circles and played with the position of each of them as physical elements away from the confines of a computer. I experimented with overlapping the circles to represent the interactions within the close friendship of the main characters. Gradually the design came together in a congruent and meaningful form.” Following the physical preliminaries, Dean transferred the design to Photoshop, where she could refine the color interactions and land on a look that quickly fell into place.

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Accompanying Dean’s cover is a set of stickers. Dean explains, “Tsukuru’s name means to make or build and this was a gift, a completely perfect match for an idea to include adult stickers for the book buyer to decorate the novel.” As a result, Dean commissioned five Japanese illustrators, who brought a uniquely Japanese style and knowledge of Japanese detail to the project. Each illustrator was given a character, and therefore a color, and asked to read the novel with that character in mind. They were then asked to create images reflecting their character, using their specific color.

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Mio Matsumoto: Colorless
“My drawing style here is very sharp and clean…Tsukuru is colour-less. But I thought he is influenced by the others so, based on the strong drawing line, I wanted to add all the other colours in his related objects.” Matsumoto graduated from the Royal College of Art and is currently living and working in Tokyo.

Fumio Obata: Blue
“I chose certain objects to illustrate from the text because of their noise, for instance Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas” was an inspiration for the first image I did.” Obata studied at the Glasgow School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London, where he worked in animation for some years before deciding to concentrate on comic books and illustration.

Ryu Itadani: Red
“In all my images I carefully chose other colors to highlight red, so (hopefully) viewers can imagine that the images have something to do with red.” Itadani currently lives and works in Berlin.

Natsko Seki: White
“All the items had to be beautiful as she was, and show fragility and sensitivity.” Seki lives and works in London.

Shinko Okuhara: Black
“I worked with the colour by considering how to express the difference between the image of her full name “Eri Kurono” and her nickname “black” and her character.” Okuhara lives and works in Tokyo.

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As you can see, what at first looks like a very simple and basic book cover turns out to be a well-thought and involved process between many artists. The result is an exceptionally designed cover that readers can customize, turning the book into an interactive experience. Its design harkens day’s past and evokes nostalgia, something that I hope will only further my attachment to Murakami’s newest work. You start putting stickers on your own copy next week, August 12th, which you can purchase here (or here if you want the stickers and Dean’s design). Check out Murakami’s Facebook for release events near you.

Nick Partyka

August 5, 2014 / By

Leanne Shapton Illustrates Beautiful Covers For The Jane Austen Vintage Classics Series

Leanne Shapton Illustrates Wonderful Patterns for Jane Austen's Vintage Classsics

Print will never die despite what some people say. The tactility of printed matter is a joy that that will always have a place, and the beauty of seeing a lovely cover in your local book store or in an airport will never fail to captivate the mind. That’s the feeling I get when I look at these covers for The Jane Austen Vintage Classics Series, featuring lovely patterns illustrated by Leanne Shapton.

Leanne Shapton Illustrates Wonderful Patterns for Jane Austen's Vintage Classsics

Shapton’s illustrations give the covers a more contemporary feeling while still feel appropriate to Austen’s work. My personal favorite is the image at top with the black and creme, though the teal with emerald dots are a pretty stunning color combination. CMYK spoke to Leanne about her covers, which to her read as neutral to the stories.

“The nice thing about patterns is that they can evoke a certain mood or tone, but also be neutral. I loved creating a consistent handwritten label style for the six books and then thinking of which patterns might obliquely suit the titles. I think the patterns we chose quietly compliment and correspond to the stories. My favorite is Mansfield Park.”

Leanne Shapton Illustrates Wonderful Patterns for Jane Austen's Vintage Classsics

Currently there are covers for Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion. Hopefully we see Amazon releasing more works like this.

Bobby Solomon

July 14, 2014 / By

‘Yesterday’, A Short Story by Haruki Murakami

'Yesterday', A Short Story by Haruki Murakami

About a month ago Haruki Murakami released a short story titled Yesterday, a tale about two college aged men who work in a coffee shop near a university in Tokyo. One of them, the narrator, moved to Tokyo to start anew, embarrassed by his old life. The other, Kitaru, has failed the college entrance exam and is cramming to retake it while ignoring his beautiful girlfriend Erika.

Again, Murakami is so great at capturing the mundane parts of life and making them exciting. His style reminds me of the films of Richard Linklater and his Before Sunset series. They’re both able to take the world we know and bring an interesting dimension to it. Below is my favorite snippet from the story, enjoy.

“But another part of me is, like—relieved? If we’d just kept going like we were, with no problems or anything, a nice couple smoothly sailing through life, it’s like . . . we graduate from college, get married, we’re this wonderful married couple everybody’s happy about, we have the typical two kids, put ’em in the good old Denenchofu elementary school, go out to the Tama River banks on Sundays, Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da . . . I’m not saying that kinda life’s bad. But I wonder, y’know, if life should really be that easy, that comfortable. It might be better to go our separate ways for a while, and if we find out that we really can’t get along without each other, then we get back together.”

“So you’re saying that things being smooth and comfortable is a problem. Is that it?”

“Yeah, that’s about the size of it.”

Bobby Solomon

July 11, 2014 / By

‘Strange Plants’ Looks At Plants and Their Relationship To Contemporary Art

'Strange Plants' Looks At Artists and Their Lives With Plants

I happen to love plants. I have a giant shelf of them in my apartment, I love visiting nurseries on the weekends, and you’ll often find me Instagram’ing beautiful flowers and palm trees in my day-to-day. Thus a book like Strange Plants is right up my alley. Editor Zio Baritaux has put together three groups of creatives to give their takes on plants: artists who primarily work with plants as a medium, those who don’t normally work with plants who created new works, as well as a group of tattoo artists who’ve created works with plants in mind.

“The artists in this book were challenged to think about their work in new ways and ruminate on their unique experiences with plants,” editor Zio Baritaux says. “I hope this book will inspire others, and challenge the way people look at both plants and art.”

'Strange Plants' Looks At Artists and Their Lives With Plants

Strange Plants was designed by Folch Studio, an award-winning design house in Barcelona, which also developed Apartamento magazine. Folch was engaged in all aspects of the design and production of Strange Plants, and created a delicate and tactile cover inspired by the interactive nature of pressing flowers inside a book. Each book comes with a blank stamped surface with three adhesives inside, so that readers can make their own covers.

Buy it here for $30

'Strange Plants' Looks At Artists and Their Lives With Plants

'Strange Plants' Looks At Artists and Their Lives With Plants

'Strange Plants' Looks At Artists and Their Lives With Plants

Bobby Solomon

July 9, 2014 / By

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