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Curved House Inspiration: Swooning over Series Cover Design

It’s all abuzz at The Curved House at the moment, with some serious (and for the moment, top secret) series cover designing going down. It’s given us pause for thought over series cover design inspirations, and looking at how the book cover works when it is part of a series.

When thinking about series cover design, you have to think about both the sum parts, and the total. Whether it’s making the classics collectable, tying together disparate books that happen to be united by a common genre, or exploring the oeuvre of an author or time period or subject matter – the sign of a cracking series design is to allow each book to have it’s own personality, but to uncover and develop that beautiful bit of thread that ties everything together. Sometimes, that even has to anticipate the future, with many series conceived as a non-finite run of books, with series planned ahead for books that have yet to be written or titles yet to be acquired.

It’s also not just about the cover. Spines are also a huge thinking point – and with a series, you have to find something that can be distinct and mark out a series, that can meet the number of different challenges with each book – the size of the book, where it is being printed, what it is being printed on – and also look good.

We’re feeling pretty inspired by what the book world already has to offer on these moot points, and so we figured what better time than now to share some of our all-time favourites.

Neversink Library, Melville House


Image from openlettersmonthly.com

Melville House’s Neversink Library is a joy and a perfect way to approach bringing together backlist and reissued titles, and create a strong brand for a smaller publisher. The silhouettes are inspired, the type is beautiful and the colour palette is super, allowing plenty of options to mark out each book, whilst keeping them all in line.

Penguin’s Great Food Series, designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith


Image from Lushlee.com

Both Penguin and Coralie Bickford Smith have produced multiple beautiful book series (especially when they team up together), and the way Coralie Bickford-Smith works with patterns (and indeed, textile patterms) is such a natural fit for series cover designs. There are so many we could have chosen – the most obvious being the Penguin Clothbound Classics, the glitziest being the beautiful F.Scott Fitzgerald hardbacks. But our fave is the Penguin Great Food series, which brings together short works of food writing, pared with some stunning textile style patterns that manage to nail the era of each individual writer – no mean feat when you consider the writing selected extends from 1700 to the present day.

Kafka Editions from Peter Mendelsund

image from jacketmechanical.blogspot.com

image from jacketmechanical.blogspot.com

I have such a cover design crush on Peter Mendelsund for very many reasons. But one of my all time favourite designs of his are the selection of Kafka titles he designed for Schocken. The introductory post he wrote shows so much about how to approach series design and how to think about books as a whole and a part, and also contains lots of lovely anecdotes about how the books came about. Kafka covers can often be on the darker side, but I love the use of colour as a uniting factor, particularly in the eyes (which are so bizarre and so paranoid and yet so funny…. bit like Kafka).

Radical Thinkers from Verso

Image from www.criticaltheory.com

Image from www.critical-theory.com

I love the simplicity of the Radical Thinkers series, which takes texts from a range of radical darlings and gives them some lovely, angular, sparse covers that still manage to have plenty of movement and elegance to them. Taking a leaf out of Penguin’s Great Ideas series, each set of Radical Thinkers is based around a limited series colour palette, with geometric patterns and shapes tailored to each title. Again, each book is allowed a life of it’s own, but when stacked together, they make critical theory look pretty damn sexy.

Clarice Lispector – Paul Sahre for New Directions

4_lispectorsLiterally taking the sum part and total theory to it’s logical endpoint, the covers for Clarice Lispector’s four novels could have been so gimmicky. But the tones, the type and the fact that they utilise a pretty awesome author photo for the background make these so beautiful.

Ler Melhor Book Cover Series


Designed for Portuguese high school and university students, the idea of this series is to encourage teenagers to appreciate some of the countries finest novelists and poets. And what better way to turn them into icons than to stick their face on the cover in super humorous way… proof that the classics are most certainly not boring.

Peter Carey Covers by Jenny Grigg

image from faceoutbooks.com

image from faceoutbooks.com

Developing a strong identity for an author from the past is one thing – but developing it for a current author, particularly one like Peter Carey who writes all manner of amazing stories about different subjects – is another. Jenny Grigg’s work for Random House Australia shows how well type can bring together a series, and there’s plenty of great insight into the process of designing a series in this post about the books over here.




Curved House Editor

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