Doctor Zhivago
Doctor Zhivago
Doctor Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago

Pantheon Books, New York, New York, 2010


Project brief: A jacket for Doctor Zhivago.

Approach: For better or worse (definitely for worse), Americans tend to associate the book with the David Lean film and, more specifically, with Julie Christie and Omar Sharif. It seemed, cynically, like the best way to sell the thing was to subtly reference the matinee-idol aspects of the movie without giving it a strictly Hollywood treatment. In other words, it had to look big and character driven rather than the usual “kulaks in the snow” kind of deal. It sounds idiotic but the book had to look like the visual equivalent of “Lara’s Theme,” the well-known “leitmotif” written by Maurice Jarre for the film.

The main illustration is from a Soviet propaganda poster that was deployed in the implementation of the Five-Year Plan, and it is oddly very filmic. I suppose selling a film is in some ways like selling a monumental and ultimately catastrophic agrarian reform. In fact, the similarity between Soviet socialist realist propaganda and Hollywood publicity probably constitute the subject of someone’s doctoral dissertation somewhere. If it doesn’t, it should.

Effectiveness: It looks better than the other out there.

Juror Notes

Bold and dynamic; of the period yet contemporary.

Collections: 50 Books | 50 Covers of 2010
Repository: Denver Art Museum
Discipline: Book design
Format: Book, Book cover


Design firm
Pantheon Books
Peter Mendelsund