I recently discovered a mini treasure trove of book covers designed by Ben Wiseman (view his portfolio). He seems to be best known for bold, simple graphic illustrations, but I was completely bowled over by his typographic book covers. These covers focus on the creative design of the letterforms, and imbue the titles themselves with subtle significance and a sense of visual delight.
I was impressed with his creativity and the range of styles that he was able to bring to this collection of book covers. From clean, vector san-serifs for The Shallows to rough, textured, hand-painted letterforms for The Melting Season, Wiseman brings rich visual detail and attention-grabbing graphics that are appropriate to each title. I also love his bright color palettes—a skill he no doubt honed as an illustrator, Wiseman’s color combinations bring a fun energy to the typography. These six are some of my favorites:
I came across a fun interview with Ben Wiseman talking about his career and design process. It was interesting to read his thoughts on what makes a good cover, and his favorite examples of this artform:
“A great book jacket is one that makes you pick it up. It can be a great photo or a great illustration or just a great concept. But the best ones are the ones that stop you in the store and make you look. As for favourites, I love Paul Rand’s cover for HL Menken’s Prejudices and Alvin Lustig’s Lorca.”
You can how these two covers, with their hand-drawn type and bold, arresting style, have influenced Wiseman’s work.
Another part of the interview that I enjoyed was about his process. Wiseman is thorough and reads the whole book to brainstorm ideas, but he also places an admirable faith in “happy accidents”to get to his final design:
“I always read the book, and spend the whole time bouncing ideas around in my head. Usually I might have a couple of ideas halfway through the book, and usually those won’t go anywhere. But once I’ve sat with the book for a while, and thought about it for a few days, things usually start coming together. And after I start working, there are hopefully some happy accidents that occur.”
Looking at Wiseman’s book covers I was also interested to note that he submitted a cover for John Bertram’s Recovering Lolita project that I wrote about in a previous post, Lo. Lee. Ta. A Collection of Covers. This cover is a combination of an obsessive, hand-written “Lolita” over and over, censored and hidden by black marks and a clean, white ripped paper with the author’s name. Appropriately intriguing, foreboding and an unsettling combination of innocent and dark that hints at the themes of the book without revealing too much. And, once again, very much type-centric.
While I think Wiseman has made a name for himself mostly through his illustration, I will certainly be keeping my eye out for more of his great typographic covers in the future.
More Information about the Book Covers:
The Melting Season: paperideas.it/paperzine/news/4140-Ben_Wiseman,_book_jacket_designer,_New_York
The Shallows: bookcoverarchive.com/book/the_shallows
The Collective: flickr.com/photos/wwnorton/7296881744
The Tragedy of Arthur: isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?368149
And Then There’s This: bookcoverarchive.com/book/and_then_theres_this