Monday, February 26, 2007

Gollancz is another publisher whose covers are, collectively at least, something of a masterpiece in the intersection between design, marketing and typography. Yellow is just such a ridiculous colour. Today yellow is the colour of things that are cheap. Yellow and black is what the pound-stores use to advertise their discounts. And yet, no one else would dare use it and when it comes with this playful approach to typography and colour there is room for a series which, when looked at together are something of a time capsule of typographical ideas as well absolutely unmissably on the shelves. Gollancz has always had an eye to its design and sometimes still produces some really clean and appropriate designs - the paperback Science Fiction Masterworks series being a case in point but nothing really exceeds the original yellow back nonsense. So popular in fact that in a recent series of paperback 'collectors' editions of vintage science fiction, the original yellow was duplicated. Watching the development of the Gollancz cover over time is also an object lesson in the change from the functional to decorative purpose of the dustjacket. Compare the Gollancz cover of Finistere (above) to the earliest of the yellows shown here (Sturgeon, Starshine) and despite the lack of newspaper-style text I'm sure that one rolls into the other quite nicely.

1 comment:

John C said...

I've never seen an explanation of why yellow was chosen for the original Gollancz editions. Is there one? It certainly made those titles stand out on library shelves, which may have been the point. The trouble with that approach today is it brings to mind the packaging of cheap supermarket goods!

That aside, let's not forget the associations of yellow with the 1890s, not least The Yellow Book itself.

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