Speak UpA Former Division of UnderConsideration
The Archives, August 2002 – April 2009
advertise @ underconsideration
---Click here for full archive list or browse below
Book Cover Reviews, Reviewed!

I get a kick out of reading Cheshire Dave’s monthly book cover reviews. The guy has good taste and a proper respect for the work of not only designers but editors, illustrators, and even authors. A designer himself (he’s the man responsible for “Cooper Black: Behind the Typeface”), his approach is to get inside the heads of the responsible parties to see if he can figure out how they arrived at the final design decisions. His writing is without exception smart, lively, and incisive. So why, as I read through the last couple months’ reviews, was I getting so freaking irritated?

I chafed at his criticism of Danielle Steele’s cover design dynasty—not because I like them, but because evaluating mass-market paperbacks alongside midlist fiction seems like a cheap shot. I sneered at his praise for the cover of The Dogs of Babel, which looks both lavish and lazy when compared with my own impoverished permissions budget. I got grumpy when he complained about a designer using Futura Condensed and Trade Gothic Bold on the same cover, even though I would never in a million years make that particular mistake. Why the antipathy? I kept asking myself. This guy’s on your side!

In the end, I don’t find it instructive to read a review of a cover that is patently bad…which might be because Chesh is at his best when discussing a cover that’s just okay. Why does the cover of Reefer Madness work, but not sing? I can imagine all too well being in the designer’s shoes on this project and hammering something out to make the publicized release date—or, more likely, mournfully eyeing a sheaf of rejected beauties before dispatching them to the paper shredder. My urge to critique is short-circuited by sympathy pains, but Chesh is able to examine these middling efforts with considerable sensitivity and nuance. I think it might be because he’s actually critiquing the designs instead of commisserating with his design geek readership, as he tends to do with the very bad covers—but which, to his credit, he seems to be rationing.

One other issue worth mentioning is Chesh’s apparent unfamiliarity with the current book design landscape: he seems genuinely surprised (and delighted) by the talents of none other than Carol Devine Carson, art director at Alfred A. Knopf. Who can blame him? For better or for worse, book designers enjoy relatively low profiles: few if any major designers maintain websites, and since not much has been written online about book design even names like Chip Kidd and Anita Walker Scott produce mostly false positives on Google. Thanks to writers like Chesh I’m hoping it will change for the better before long.

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON Oct.22.2003 BY rebecca