Monday, April 26, 2010

Book Covers: The Next Generation

In honour of Penguin's 75th Anniversary, Canadian author and artist Douglas Coupland started "Speaking to the Past," a project to show just how important book covers are.

Classic Penguin book covers are ubiquitous in used bookstores and well-stocked bookshelves. The old orange and white covers are simple in design, with clear titles and and little in the way of illustration. To celebrate these classic covers, Coupland decided to use their aesthetic to explain the world at 2010 to someone living in 1935.

"The Moon: We stopped going there 30 years ago" one cover announces (there are a lot of space-related ones). "1989 Communism Ends: An Anticlimax" proclaims another (politics is another popular topic, as is technology). Coupland's project site offers 30 examples of how simple language written in Gill Sans is all you need to explain the future to the past. He also gives anyone interested blank versions of Penguin covers so they can create their own (that can be subsequently posted to his Flickr pool).

Although we're frequently admonished not to judge books by their covers, most people do. What Coupland's project does is take that one step farther, simultaneously giving one-line history lessons and illustrating just how hard it is to capture important events and/or facts on a book cover. There's more to history than headlines, he seems to say; similarly, there are more to books than covers (although good ones don't hurt).

Image shown by Douglas Coupland as part of his "Speaking to the Past: A Penguin 75th Anniversary Project"

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