Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Book jacket typography

There are many forms of type involved in a book, but the most creative kind is on the jacket. Louise Fili was art director at Pantheon Books for 11 years starting in the late 1970s during which time she designed hundreds of book jackets. (See the Web site for Pantheon Books here.) One interesting thing about Fili is that she believes there is only one typeface that is right for every jacket. She has used faces from the early part of the 20th century and come up with creative uses for them. She is also a collector of antique faces, many of which she found at European flea markets and used book shops (Aldrich-Ruenzel 72). She finds much of her inspiration from European poster design of the 1930s and early ‘40s.

Fili was interested in calligraphy since she was very young. She eventually became a designer and then an art director. When she’s designing the cover for a fiction book, she’ll usually read the whole thing and for non-fiction, she’ll usually read a synopsis and first couple chapters. She does this to get an idea about the message and tone of the book. “I don’t want to use a typeface that anybody can use. I feel I have to go a step further to make it unique and, of course, appropriate to the subject matter, which is also something that is very important to me” (Aldrich-Ruenzel 73).

In her super old typefaces in her collection, sometimes the whole alphabet does not exist or there are letters missing. In those cases, she has someone hand draw the rest of the letters. She emphasizes good communication with illustrators, designers, and letterers in order to have a successful project. “With art direction, it’s a communication game and there is always something that gets lost along the way” (Aldrich-Ruenzel 74).

Image source: Aldrich-Ruenzel, Nancy, and John Fennell. Designer's Guide to Typography. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1991.

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