27 February 2012

Dust Jacket : The Orphan Master's Son

The Orphan Master's Son (2012)
Design by : Lynn Buckley

Finding information on the designers who create book covers is not easy. Most book listings on sites like Amazon don't list the designer. Typing names into Google only works if the artist has a website or is very well known. Usually you find a link to another Amazon page.

In the case of Lynn Buckley I found nothing on who she is. What I did find was a list of the books she has designed:

Gilead, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, The Corrections, The River Wife, Star Dust, The Time of Our Singing, Big Machine

What can be seen from these covers is Buckley's clear style. Bright and bold. She uses a bold text-based focal point and brings in an image that supports it. She also tends to have the text interact with the image in some way. And she is clearly in demand; most of these books are best-sellers.


What caught my eye with The Orphan Master's Son was the bold text that fades in and out of the rich orange image of a tiger face. The animal seems to be eating the title while also being consumed by it. In person, the text has a slightly different texture and is glossy. It draws the eye and is memorable.

In publishing there has been a trend towards text-based covers. Jonathan Safran Foer, Toni Morrison, and Zadie Smith books come to mind immediately. Good text design can be just as beautiful and as image-based design. One just needs to look at illuminated texts to see this.

It also calls to mind the work of Glenn Ligon. Specifically his work Mirror from 2002 that recently appeared in the controversial show hide/seek at the Brooklyn Museum. That work contains a long quote of James Baldwin's:

What I like about Buckley's work is that it combines the current trend of text heavy design with a bold sense of image. This is more up my alley, personally. There are a few other recent covers that pop to mind when I think of this blend of text and image:

No One Is Here Except All of Us is my favorite cover so far in 2012. The cover of Hope  is evocative and makes you want to know the story inside.


Sometimes, Buckley's text takes a back seat (Star Dust, The Time of Our Singing) other times it is the center pull (The Orphan Master's Son, Big Machine). There is a great balance and the covers catch your eye. While I don't particularly think The Thousand Autumns is a beautiful cover, it certainly is memorable and one of the few from last year that I looked at each time I saw it in the store.

I wish that artists like Lynn Buckley, even if they are 'just' designers, got a little more attention. For no other reason that I could see/hear what they have to say about working on these covers and how the process unfolds.


Dust Jacket is a sometime article about the design and artwork of book covers. The idea is to shine a spotlight on the work of the designer separated from the work of the author. It is literally judging a book by its cover.