Great ideas come from great inspiration, and finding good source material is an essential part to the design process. As we at Ooligan gear up to develop a cover for yet another great title, there is no better time to stop and take a look at some great reference books. Below you’ll find a list of some of my favorite go-tos for not just fresh ways of looking at things, but also a glimpse into the history and process of what I feel is the best part of working at Ooligan.
This book is an excellent place to start. Designing book covers, above all else, boils down to what you can do in a single frame (or wrap-around) with image and text; looking at old book covers for such usage is a solid reminder of what works well. By Its Cover walks you through the highlights of the last one hundred years of the evolution of American book design: from its early modernist roots, through the height of Pushpin Studios, and beyond.
It’s easy to dismiss George Salter covers as dated, but if you take a moment to look at his use of space, experimentations in texture and typography, and boldness for creating something new, it becomes clear why he is considered a true American design pioneer. Salter’s designs are rich in tactility and human experience and feel truly connected to the written word, approaching that feeling absolutely relevant to our current return to all things handmade.
Penguin by Design: A Cover Story 1935–2005 by Phil Baines (Penguin)
There is nothing more reassuring than a book about cover design with an amazing cover design. The cultural impact of Penguin is undisputed, but perhaps a bit ubiquitous; this book forces you to stop and take a look at all those innovations you have taken for granted for all these years. And the trip is glorious.
Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig by Steven Heller and Elaine Lustig Cohen (Chronicle Books)
Looking at the work of Alvin Lustig will inspire you to be better at whatever it is that you do. In his brief but illustrious career, he was responsible for some of the most radical innovations in book design, seamlessly incorporating modernist ideals into a new, emerging American design language. Lustig’s work is confident, powerful, and timeless, and the breadth and influence of his body of work is without parallel.
Along with Chip Kidd, Peter Mendelson is one of the most dominant forces in current book cover design in America. This book opens windows into his process, allowing us to see how he translates source text into the striking and evocative imagery that has infiltrated our literary psyche.