Judging a Cover by Its Book

Posted by on March 26, 2008 at 11:39 am.

I am no stranger to book covers. Having designed the covers in two book series, this has sparked some fun discussions with my friend Kaz over the evolution of cover design, especially in theology and philosophy books.

Most book covers until recent times have been about careful text placement on usually a single-color background. To illustrate just a few examples, see, for instance, the bright red cover to the Krell-edited Basic Writings of Heidegger; the simple large text upon white of Charles Taylor’s Hegel and Modern Society; the original cover to Hauerwas’ The Peaceable Kingdom, which ups the ante a bit by applying a radial orange-yellow gradient; the highly recognizeable two-tone covers of Princeton’s Kierkegaard Writings series with SK’s portrait at the two-tone intersection. And from here, more multi-tone and pictures are introduced so that there really does not seem to be much of a limit in design any longer, outside of the usual printing costs.

Enter Continuum Press, namely, their Continuum Impacts series. These are reprints of well-known philosophical texts that have already established themselves in the history of philosophy, most of them being within the wider contintental tradition, with plenty of exceptions, theological and otherwise (Erasmus and Luther on Free Will, Barth, Schillebeeckx, Gandhi, et. al.). To see a slapdash view of all of the covers in this series, click here (after quickly extracting all the ISBN’s, I whipped up a short PHP script to display all the books in the series).

I’m curious, what do you think about the covers in this series? What say you?!

Update: Anthony has alerted me to a post he wrote three years ago on the same subject, with funny and appropriate commentary worth checking out.