Design: Bleak House Revisited

Trying my hand at book cover design with a classic.

Revisiting the classic

This is a difficult one to capture with a cover. The tone, themes, and plot do not necessarily match the title, but the book is so full of life and characters that anything short of a parade fails to capture its vitality. With this design I am leaning into the title itself.

Other designers appear to have made the same choice with this one.

I’m much more fond of the Vintage and Penguin editions below, however. These are much more engaging and do a better job of capturing the story’s themes in a glance.

I still have a lot to learn about cover design, but I think this is a pretty OK first outing. Authors: if you’d like to work with me on a design for your book’s cover, get in touch!

Hole-Punch Punctum

I just stumbled across a post on Instagram highlighting a series of photos printed from negatives rejected by the US Farm Security Administration. These photos were “killed” by agency leadership, who punched a hole in the negative to avoid printing the image.

Roland Barthes argued that photographs possess two qualities: “studium” and “punctum.” Studium is an observational quality, the way a photo exists in social, cultural, and aesthetic context. Punctum is a quality which “wounds” the viewer, transcending context and piercing their spirit. These holes–literally puncta on the negatives–pierce the viewer’s spirit by subverting their expectations of the photographs, which were commissioned for strictly “studious” purposes.

These would not be nearly as effective if they did not include the entire film strip in addition to the photograph. This underlines the materiality of the film, the hole-punch, and, by extension, the subjects captured by the image–the flesh and blood existing at a moment in time.