20 Jun, 2010

Covering Revolutionary Writing

Posted by: admin In: Creative Review

As is increasingly the way with mainstream book publishers, repackaging readers’ ‘favourite’ novels is a way of bringing back attention (and sales) to popular works. Each of the titles in Faber’s new Revolutionary Writing series, however, feature covers that adhere to the spirit of independence contained within each book…

Often, in order to relaunch several editions, whole sets of books are united by a particular subject, though the books themselves may have little in common other than an arbitrary thematic connection.

Faber and Faber‘s Revolutionary Writing series, out in July, includes eight novels linked by the theme of revolution and reflects a diverse range of countries in which political upheaval has taken place: from Uganda and the Dominican Republic, to the US and UK.

Thus the diversity of the writing is also reflected in the new Faber covers. Other than sporting “Revolutionary Writing” on each, they have all been tackled by a different designer, in a different style.

For inspiration, the Faber design team – under the art direction of senior designer Eleanor Crow – looked to the low production values and vibrancy of revolutionary posters, banners and fly posters from each country featured in the series. Five of the covers were designed in-house, with the other three created by designers Wallzo (who produced the cover for The Children of Men), Alex Williamson (Snow) and Letman (The Last King of Scotland).

So, here’s the complete set, with some details on the design of each cover from the designers themselves.

The Last King of Scotland

Front cover design: Letman/Big Active

The artwork is inspired by African bead-patterns. For the original drawing (approximately A3 size) I used paint-markers on black paper. The colours refer to the flag of Uganda, where the story is set.


The Children of Men
Front cover design: Wallzo

The cover is a tongue-in-cheek imagining of how a home office document might look like in the near future. Specifically, a science report on why the human race can no longer reproduce. The typeface was developed especially for the cover, with the modular components also forming the sets of disintegrating chromosomes that populate the background.


Front cover illustration: Alex Williamson

I took the idea of two-tone printed material, mass-produced on fading cheap copiers. Red and black seemed obvious revolutionary colour choices. I wanted to use a lot of white around the images as the heavily snow covered town is a big part of the story. The book is set in Turkey and is slow-paced and contemplative. The main character is a poet and I wanted to get across the idea of people observing events unfold in the snow; hence the watchers on the steps. The social and political tussle is between Islam and the secular state, hence the mosques casting their shadow over the watching figures. Reading the book you get the feeling everyone in the Turkish town of Kars (where the book is set) is watching events unfold in mysterious and tension-filled silence. The revolutionary violence and passions arise from somewhere deep inside this silence, it feels dreamlike in places.


A Fine Balance
Front cover design: Eleanor Crow

Educational and political posters in India in the 1970s often featured an easily recognisable graphic and a short punchy message visible from a distance, frequently in two languages or scripts. This idea formed the basis of the design. All four of the main characters are linked directly or indirectly to a tailoring business and its fortunes, against a political backdrop of change, and the four threads represent their lives.


The Black Album
Front cover design: Alex Kirby

I was inspired by the techniques used on rave flyers and posters from 1989 – typically cheaply produced using one or two colours, fractal-like patterns and simple typography. I then applied these techniques to an Islamic ceiling pattern to represent both the fundamentalist and hedonistic movements that clash within the book.


The Feast of the Goat
Front cover design: Donna Payne

Inspired by posters and graphics from the Dominican Republic in the era of Trujillo. Political posters were most commonly type-led, often using an open sans serif with abstract and naive graphics to form a colourful backdrop to the message itself.


Front cover design: Donna Payne

The cover is designed to reflect the densely set political posters and home made placards commonly seen in Great Britain during the 1984 Miners Strike. Anti-Thatcher graffiti was often daubed across printed Militant Worker posters to striking effect.


Front cover design: Miriam Rosenbloom

An integral part of the book is set during the Vietnam War, so for this project I looked at a lot of anti-war and political protest posters. Fire escapes and ladders are also an important recurring motif in the book that I wanted to incorporate with the 1960s poster style.

Paperbacks are £7.99 each and will be available in July. More info at faber.co.uk.


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