Why aren’t all books designed like Alice Rawsthorn’s Hello World? Especially books from the same publisher
OMG literally stop everything everywhere.
Alice Rawsthorn’s new book, Hello World, is now officially in stores.
I got mine at the London Review Bookshop yesterday.
Here’s the cover, designed by Irma Boom.
Hello World is about the impact of design on life.
Not just how good design can improve it, but how bad design can actually hinder it.
The type used inside is a mix of Arial and Helvetica.
It’s also been set by Irma Boom.
The first chapter, What Is Design?, considers design before and after the word “design”.
Alice says “the first definition of design in the Oxford English Dictionary dates from 1548″.
Before which were many millennia of intuitive design, without needing a name for it.
Like these stones of Hagar Qim Temple in Malta, the first photo illustration in the book.
Or these limestone and drystone walls, on the left from Galway Bay in Ireland, on the right from Martha’s Vineyard.
The book is such a pleasure to read, both for its words used and ideas deployed, and also for how it is designed.
Compare it to the other book I bought yesterday – The Infatuations by Javier Marías.
i.e.my first equal favourite living author in the known universe.
Look at this disgrace of a cover.
A stock Magnum photo, used so often it is rendered meaningless.
So meaningless, it was used as the cover image of the 1988 debut album by Fairground Attraction.
(Ask your mother if you don’t know who I’m on about).
Then on the Marías cover there’s some boring quote from some journalist.
The need for a quote shows the publishers have no faith in the author’s name, or the book’s appearance.
The latter is understandable, since the design of the book is doing everything possible to make me not want to read it.
This is what it looks like inside.
Why’s there so much white space around the edges? It makes the book so big.
Marías writes as a flow, meaning there are often no paragraph breaks on the page.
His language has extraordinary inclusivity. You feel like you’re in conspiracy with him.
But this typesetting makes them look like an impenetrable block.
It makes me wish I’d bought it on Kindle.
The text in Alice’s book looks immediately more engaging, more alive.
Curiously, Marias and Rawsthorn share the same publisher, Hamish Hamilton.
It’s like Rawsthorn’s arguments in action: good design makes life pleasurable. Bad design becomes an obstacle.
I’ve not spoken with Alice about her book, but I bet she had to stipulate that she wanted an active approach to its design.
Not just book-design-by-rote.
Why aren’t all books designed with the same active desire to make the act of reading them an enjoyable process?
Especially books from the same publisher?