03 September 2012

Dust Jacket : Schild's Ladder

Schild's Ladder
Designed by: Emma Wallace

A star field. Motes of dust in a shaft of sunlight. Sugar on a table top. Aside from the pitch-perfection of a book about an accidental scientific catastrophe involving molecular replication, this cover by Emma Wallace serves as a void to pour your imagination into. That container for imagination is what a great cover should be. It should inform but not allow you to pre-judge what is going to happen inside.

This looks like a strange close-up and crop of the cover for Frank Bidart's Star Dust.

Which actually makes the cover even more interesting. It creates a strange connection in my brain that works for me.

I wish more cover designs were brave enough to go the no text route. The only real place the title needs to be is the spine. And even there it's only so it can sit on a shelf at a book store. A similar effect can occur with creative use of text.

This is the cover for the hard back edition of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware. It is disconcerting and confusing to the eye but it sets you up for the flow of the art to come inside, where the reader is asked to follow pages of art and story that look like this:


The paper back edition is similar:

It references the original cover but also manages to clarify the elements.

The art inside Ware's book also reminds me of the Wallace cover. The small dots of ink used to print comics, the multitude of panels on one page that make up the whole. They are like those little spots of white in the field of black.

It's a bit of a reach, but feels right.


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