A few weeks ago now Penguin published a new series of George Orwell’s books with covers designed by David Pearson. We’d had a talk by Pearson last year at Uni so I was already aware, and a huge fan, of his work but one cover really stood out from the set. This was the redesign of Nineteen Eighty-Four which brilliantly reflects the key concept of the book by censoring the title and author:

1984 person's new coverFor me this is pretty much perfect design – it’s simple, clever and stands out from a distance but has another element of interest when inspected.

It’s been done by black foiling which means the title can be read at certain angles:

1984 new cover The title is also printed on the spine which is often what’s on display in book shops and libraries, making the design practical in context. Interestingly, the redesign has received criticism that it wouldn’t work with the trend towards online shopping but actually I disagree and think it might actually be where it works best. Very rarely, in my experience, do you ‘browse’ books online I think often you browse in store and then type a specific title into an online store to see if it’s any cheaper – in which case it doesn’t matter what the cover looks like on screen!

For me a cover should intrigue and let a small insight into the book’s narrative without giving away too much. With a classic this balance might be easier to find as often any ‘twists’ are known before you read the book, but I think it’s something that Pearson has perfected on this cover.

However, all this might be a load of garbage as yesterday my Mum came home with a copy given to her from a book club. I was very excited to see the design in the flesh and was quick to sing its praises. My mum, who is quite design savvy and is interested (to an extent!) in design, looked confused for a minute and then admitted she had thought it was a ‘duff’ copy and the book club had got them cheap because of the printing error!

Perhaps this scenario would have been different had she seen the book on shelf and known the design was intentional but it did make me question how effective design is, if no-one ever realises it is design!

That all being said I still think the cover is complete genius and continue to love Pearson’s work. The full collection can be seen on Creative Review.




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