Although there are literally hundreds of book publishing houses I thought I’d research a sample starting from books that I already have in my home.
I’m looking at:
Laurence King, Harper Collins, Chronicle Books, Penguin, Puffin and Big Picture Press.
1. Laurence King
The Laurence King logo, is easily recognisable, a large capital K with the name Laurence written underneath it. I have a number of their books, and enjoy that they seem to approach arts subject with the aim to make it more accessible to a wider audience. I took some photographs of a few books of theirs in my possession, just to look at layout.
The books in the first two photographs don’t initially seem to hold much in common in terms of layout or style. The front cover of ‘Textile Designers at the cutting edge by Bradley Quinn’ features large illustrations, which sit in the corners of the cover and allow the text to sit just off centre. I think the title is justified left. The cover makes use of white space/ a white background to draw the eye into the title and illustrated flowers. On the back cover the illustrations continue to remain mostly in the corners, in black and white or gold, simple but effective colours. The blurb sits centrally, aligned right.
The book ‘Type and Typography (2nd edition) By Phil Baines and Andrew Haslam’ features a photo of metal type/ a type tray which continues round to the back cover. The tile is justified right and makes a feature of typographic terminology/type itself. There is no white space, on the cover, but there is a sense of space between the photo and the text (which sits in the mid to right hand side). On the back cover the blurb sits in the bottom left hand side, leaving the photo as the dominant image.
So both book covers differ significantly in layout/style, what links them is their attention/skill in using visuals which link to the books content.
The two covers in the photos above are also books published by Laurence King. Again the covers are quite different. However both make use of space as part of their design. The cover to ‘Sketchbooks by Richard Brereton’ takes an illustrative feel, with hand drawn lettering for the title and decoration around the letters. The brown kraft paper of the cover, reminds the reader of the cover of certain sketchbooks, and the blue edge/fabric binding again nods to sketchbook finishes. The hand drawn/personalised element is continued on the back cover, with hand drawn names of each contributor and the title glimpsed on the edge of the cover.
The book ‘This means this, This means that: A user’s guide to semiotics (2nd edition) by Sean Hall’ looks more graphic. The central Image, a road sign, links to the theme of semiotics, and the title font, sits with the typography of road signs.
Laurence King Publishers were founded in 1991 by Laurence King, and are dedicated to publishing books on art, architecture, design, textiles etc. I found their website helped me find there is a style to some of their collections:
The sketchbook book design is actually an example of a recurring style. Namely in the coloured band running down the left hand side of the book, you can see that across books of different themes published by Laurence King. Here’s links to some examples:
I also read this article about the founder of Laurence King publishing Laurence King:
These books are part of a special edition of clothbound works of J.R.R.Tolkien published by Harper Collins. I’ve included them because they show the diversity of a large publishing house, and because I like their design.
I like the design for the spines of these books, the tree motif stretches across the three spines, connecting them visually. Then each book is marked by a star in the top centrally, the number of the star indicating the order of the book in the series. Then the images are sort of hemmed in by a bordering line, I guess this helps separate it from the front cover which has its own set of visuals.
Interestingly the border on the spine is mirrored in a border around the images/text of the front and back covers (see top photo & photo below).
HarperCollins is a long established, multi-faceted publishing house, founded in 1817, by brothers in New York City. Today it has a number of imprint publishers. I wasn’t sure what ‘Imprint’ meant in this context, but it looks like the division of a publisher into different departments. Imprints will have their own vision/set of books, authors and audience that they cater to but they still come under the banner of the parent company, HarperCollins. They’ve helpfully listed their imprint divisions on their website here:
They seem to be a massive publishing house with several global divisions across, Canada, America, India & the UK.
It’s quite hard to get a handle on a particular style given that each imprint through which books are published has a different aim. But from looking at the website, they come across as quite serious. Almost imposing to me, everything it clean, minimal, colour is used sparingly see screen shot below:
It’s a very small image but hopefully in the left hand side photo you can make out the HarperCollins website. The visible colour is clear even from a distance, held in bands or lines, they stand out but also seem cold and quite clinical. Personally the design is uninviting, but I guess it has a corporate/professional look which fits with a long standing, industry giant. Maybe to some it comes across as reassuring.
3. Chronicle Books
I was keen to get stuck into researching Chronicle books as the books which have been published by them all have a very unique, fun feel.
In the photo above you can see the Chronicle Books Logo, the glasses and name. In two of the books (see two on right) the design looks similar. Both have a band of colour with a strip to separate the logo from the rest of the spine.
From the front and back cover views (see two photos above) the designs don’t hold much similarity in layout but they do in style. Each book has a hand drawn or illustrative quality. The lettering looks hand rendered or has a loose/more free style, the lines aren’t always clean. There’s a specific colour palette to each which enhances that fun feel with complementary/contrasting elements. Even the paper the covers are printed on is notable, it’s matt or textured, not glossy, I think this adds to a more relaxed playful feel. I would consider a glossy cover to be more serious or more business like, I’m not sure how to fully explain that though.
I’m really excited by the design of their website, their vision/mission statement is:
“Inspired by the enduring magic and importance of books, our objective is to create and distribute exceptional publishing that’s instantly recognizable for its spirit, creativity, and value. This objective also informs our business relationships and endeavours, be they with customers, authors, vendors, or colleagues.”
Their website and book covers seem to strongly visually capture that statement. Below the statement on their website is a video about the publisher, then an infographic about it’s history. It’s bold, playful, colourful, visually packed, a vast contrast to the style offered by say HarperCollins.
A close up example would be to look at another cover, but from their website. Below is a link to a book called ‘The Meaning of Maggie’:
The story is about a young girl called Maggie, who dreams of being president, explores her school life and her home life. The cover could easily have been an image of a young girl, just a photo then some text. But they’ve created almost a visual story, you get the sense of the things that matter, the youth of the person. The cover speaks on its own but they’ve gone a step further and created a promotional video:
I have always associated Penguin books with serious books, literary classics, the books you were told you had to read at school. Interestingly, there’s much more to Penguin than that. Much like HarperCollins, they have several divisions dedicated to different audiences and genre’s. Their Imprints include: Pelican Books – for short stories, Puffin – children’s/young peoples literature, Ladybird – aimed at birth – nursery/reception school age children.
Each imprint has its own sort of style, but I will talk for now about Penguin before moving onto look at Puffin books close up.