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May 14th, 2009 - click opera — LiveJournal
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May 14th, 2009
Thu, May. 14th, 2009 08:12 am

When I blogged about graphic designer Zak Kyes a year ago ("graphic energy: a new graphic designer has popped into my ken") I had no idea that within a year he'd have designed the cover of my first published book.

I've just received the design for The Book of Scotlands, due in a month or so from Sternberg Press, and really love what Zak has done with the cover. We'd talked about doing the kind of Rorschach map idea you can see on a rough cover mock-up I did myself last year. (That map idea survives on an inside spread of the finished book.) Then Zak thought about a purely typographic solution in which the first of my texts would start right on the cover, and there'd be no empty space or blank pages at all.

Finally, Zak has come up with a design that fits with other titles in the Solutions series (for instance, his fingers-crossed design for Umbauland by series editor Ingo Niermann, the book that really started this whole "speculative visions about countries" ball rolling), one that has its own "graphic energy".

The red cross, in Pantone 1655, is a colour reversal and rotation of the Scottish flag. The typeface is Johnston by Edward Johnston (1872-1944), who taught Eric Gill, and is best known for designing the sans-serif alphabet used for London Underground.



The slogan "every lie creates a parallel world; the world in which it is true" was originally going to go on the back of the book as a kind of motto (I've always liked that Leonard Cohen live album that just says: "They arrested a man who wanted to rule the world. The fools -- they arrested the wrong man!"), but Zak has promoted it to the front cover. He's also put it into two sentences, which makes it sound, to me, like advertising or propaganda.

In fact, the typeface and this rather amoral slogan evokes, for me, the world of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (perhaps an early Penguin edition). It's a great reference to make, because the Orwell novel is a sustained parallel England in the same way my texts are sustained parallel Scotlands. I can almost imagine my slogan about lies being plastered by Minilove (the Ministry of Love) all over the dowdy tube stations of Ingsoc, alongside slogans like "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength." Mine, of course, would be reduced to: "Lies are truth."

And here we come full circle to Solutions series editor Ingo Niermann, who wrote in Umbauland of his plan to "redesign German" into a language called Rededeutsch -- a kind of German version of Orwell's Newspeak. It's an idea I found exciting enough to blog about for Design Observer back in 2005, long before I'd met Ingo and been commissioned by him to write The Book of Scotlands.

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