The German Genius
The German Genius
The German Genius

The German Genius

Christopher Sergio Design, New York, New York, 2010

Description

Project brief: Peter Watson’s The German Genius is a survey of German thinkers and thought spanning 250 years. The brief was not unusual in any way: design a jacket for a book. However, the book itself presented several problems that I thought needed to be specifically addressed through design.

Approach: With a long and abstract subtitle and a nearly thousand-page manuscript, I was worried that the book might scare off readers despite its engaging content. My solution was to design for the entire “object,” not just the front cover. Keeping the uncommon heft of the book in mind, I moved all of the information that was supposed to be on the cover (title, subtitle, author) onto the sizable spine. I then selected quotes about Germans and Germany from within the manuscript and created a kind of typographic “face” for the front cover. My goal/hope was to spark curiosity in the viewer while also reflecting the dizzying volume and variety of German thought contained within. The final jacket is two flat colors, printed on an uncoated paper stock.

Effectiveness: The publisher, editor and author all immediately loved this cover. They said that this design helped generate new excitement for the book within their own company. For me, it was a success in two regards. The first is due to the reaction of the client(s). As Milton Glaser has famously said, “There are three possible reactions from your client when you present a new idea/design: Yes, No and Wow. Of the three, Wow is the one you want to go for.” I got a big wow on this one from everyone at HarperCollins, so I was very pleased in that regard.

The second success has been something I observed in the marketplace itself. This book had a small print run. It is also a very long book on a topic that is relatively obscure (almost scholarly). Because of these reasons, Harper could not afford to pay for co-op on this title (when a publisher pays a chain like Barnes & Noble to feature its books prominently). Despite all this, I saw this book prominently featured in window displays and on front tables in bookstores across New York City. Book buyers and the people who stock the shelves simply responded to the cover and decided to put it front and center in their stores. As a result, the book got exposure in the marketplace that it would never have had without this unorthodox design.

Juror Notes

What AIGA book show would be complete without a front cover that entices but can only be “decoded” by reading the spine? This is a great example; very Germanic in its severity.

Collections: 50 Books/50 Covers of 2010
Discipline: Book design
Format: Book, Book cover
Loading...
Loading...