Saturday, March 24, 2012

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

In Praise of Love

In Praise of Love
Alain Badiou, Serpents Tail  2012

Love without risk is an impossibility, like war without death. Caught between consumerism and casual sexual encounters devoid of passion, love today – without the key ingredient of chance – is in mortal danger. Alain Badiou proposes a vision of love as an adventure and an opportunity for re-invention of the individual. Liberal and libertine reductions of love to instant pleasure and non-commitment bite the dust as Badiou invokes a supporting cast of thinkers from Plato to Lacan via Karl Marx to create a new narrative of romance, relationships and sex – one that does not fear love.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Intern Nation

Intern Nation
Ross Perlin, Verso Books 2012

Millions of young people—and increasingly some not-so-young people—now work as interns. They famously shuttle coffee in a thousand magazine offices, legislative backrooms, and Hollywood studios, but they also deliver aid in Afghanistan, map the human genome, and pick up garbage. Intern Nation is the first exposé of the exploitative world of internships. In this witty, astonishing, and serious investigative work, Ross Perlin profiles fellow interns, talks to academics and professionals about what unleashed this phenomenon, and explains why the intern boom is perverting workplace practices around the world. The hardcover publication of this book precipitated a torrent of media coverage in the U.S. and U.K., and Perlin has added an entirely new afterword describing the growing focus on this woefully underreported story.

( Cover photograph: )

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Dickens Dictionary

The Dickens Dictionary
John Sutherland, Icon Books 2012

To celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Dickens in 2012, Victorian literature expert John Sutherland has created a gloriously wide-ranging alphabetical companion to Dickens’s novels, excavating the hidden links between his characters, themes, and preoccupations, and the minutiae of his endlessly inventive wordplay.
Covering Baby Farming, Bastards, Cannibalism, Christmas, Darwin, Fog, Gruel, London, Micawberomics, Murder, Pubs, Punishment, Smells, Spontaneous Combustion and Zoo Horrors, to name but a few, Sutherland gives us a uniquely personal guide to the greatest novelist England has ever produced.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Closure Limited

Closure Limited
Max Brooks, Duckworth 2012

A terrifying new collection of short stories from the master of zombie fiction, Max Brooks, bestselling author of World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide and Recorded Attacks.
‘Brooks infuses his writing with such detail and authenticity, one wonders if he knows something we don’t’ Simon Pegg
(That's me, striking a headshot-zombie pose on the cover...)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Written in Stone

Written in Stone
Brian Switek, Icon Books, 2012

For over 100 years Darwin’s theory of evolution was dogged by the lack of evidence connecting the main groups of organisms. By the 1970s, some paleontologists began to fear there was no trace of these ‘transitional fossils’ left.

However, recent discoveries of fossilized remains of walking whales in Pakistan, feathered dinosaurs in China, fish with feet in the Arctic Circle, ape-like humans in Africa and many more have revolutionized paleontologists’ understanding of life on Earth.

Switek’s book – a brilliant scientific history by a rising star of science writing – is the first account of the remarkable discovery of these gap fossils and the fascinating new stories they tell.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Earlier this year I was asked by Steve Marking – Art Director at Orion Publishing – if I would like to pitch some ideas alongside a handful of other designers and their in-house team for a relaunch of John Gardner's James Bond Novels. I bit his hand off of course. 

John Gardner was approached by the estate of Ian Fleming in late 1980 to see if he would consider writing a new James Bond story. After initial hesitation he accepted the challenge and went on to write sixteen 007 adventures between 1981 and 1996, including Goldeneye and Licence to Kill. Orion are reprinting the entire backlist over the next eighteen months to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Gardner's first 007 outing.

I came up with three quite different approaches to pitch to Orion, two of which were, in retrospect, fairly clichéd rehashings of familiar Bond themes – wealthy super-villains, silver, gold, a smudge of sex. Not something I normally design and almost certainly not something I would pick up in a bookshop. The third approach which had been vaguely forming in my head right up until the day before the deadline is what you see here – the kind of thing that I would be drawn to if browsing a bookstore and fortunately the exact thing Orion and Ian Fleming Publications were looking for in the redesign.

They'll be printed on uncoated stock with a clear foil 'varnish' to the key elements. I'll post the rest as and when they are approved.

You can read more about John Gardner and his Bond days at the official site run by his son Simon:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Etymologicon

The Etymologicon
Mark Forsyth, Icon Books 2011

What is the actual connection between disgruntled and gruntled? What links church organs to organised crime, California to the Caliphate, or brackets to codpieces?

The Etymologicon springs from Mark Forsyth’s Inky Fool blog on the strange connections between words.

It’s an occasionally ribald, frequently witty and unerringly erudite guided tour of the secret labyrinth that lurks beneath the English language, taking in monks and monkeys, film buffs and buffaloes, and explaining precisely what the Rolling Stones have to do with gardening.

(Production spec: Gold foil blocking on Wibalin Buckram cloth)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


John Bertram and Marco Sonzogni are publishing a book called The Lolita Cover Project:
"A collection of ‘conceptual’ book covers and essays about Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita to addresses the challenges and limits of representation (and mis-representation), and the relationship of a book to its cover. The Lolita Cover Project will feature 50 new ‘conceptual’ covers by leading graphic designers specifically commissioned for the book; critical essays on design and representation by Nabokov scholars, artists, art theorists, and designers."
They kindly asked me to participate, this is my response:

The spiky eye graphic is intended to convey the twisted morals and distorted view of the world of both Humbert and Lolita. The title type is from a 1950s French shop signage catalogue – a nod to the books' first publication.

• More information about the project can be found here

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I'm With the Bears

I'm With The Bears:
Short Stories from a Damaged Planet

The size and severity of the global climate crisis is such that even the most committed environmentalists can drift into a state of denial. The award-winning writers collected here have made it their task to shake off this nagging disbelief, bringing the incomprehensible within our grasp and shaping an emotional response to the deterioration of our global habitat. From T. C. Boyle’s account of early eco-activists, to Nathaniel Rich’s comic fantasy about a marine biologist haunted by his youth, and David Mitchell’s vision of a near future where oil sells for $800 a barrel – these ten provocative, occasionally chilling, sometimes satirical stories bring a human reality to disasters of inhuman proportions. 

Contributors include:
  • T. C. BOYLE 
  • WU MING 1
Royalties from the sale of this book will go to, an international grassroots movement working to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Cover Image: Antti Laitinen, “It’s My Island”

Thursday, June 09, 2011

All Over the Map

All Over the Map
Michael Sorkin, Verso Books 2011

All Over the Map
is an urgent response to the radical changes in contemporary architecture and the built environment witnessed in the twenty-first century. Characteristically polemic, incisive and energetic, these essays explore pressing questions of architectural and urban design, and critical issues of public space and participation. From New York to New Orleans, the Amazon to Jerusalem, Sorkin brings a critical eye to bear on a sweeping range of subjects.

Whether castigating the sorry performance of the architectural avant-garde, considering the nature of place in globalized culture, or providing mock instructions for entering a high-security environment, these writings make a powerful and provocative case for architecture and urban design to re-engage with the lives and societies from which they have become increasingly detached. 

Friday, June 03, 2011


CHAVS, The Demonisation of the Working Class
Owen Jones, Verso 2011
The British working class has become an object of fear and ridicule. From Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard to the demonization of Jade Goody, media and politicians alike dismiss as feckless, criminalized and ignorant a vast, underprivileged swathe of society that has become stereotyped by one hate-filled word: chavs. In this groundbreaking investigation, Owen Jones explores how the working class has gone from ‘salt of the earth’ to ‘scum of the earth’. Moving through Westminster’s lobbies and working-class communities from Dagenham to Dewsbury Moor, Jones lays bare the ignorance and prejudice at the heart of the chav caricature, and reveals a far more complex reality: the increasing poverty and desperation of people left abandoned by the aspirational, society-fragmenting policies of both the Tories and New Labour. A damning indictment of the media and political establishment, Chavs is an illuminating, disturbing portrait of inequality and class hatred in modern Britain.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rainbow Pie

Rainbow Pie: A Memoir of Redneck America
Jo Bageant,
Portobello Books 2011

While Obama’s triumphant ‘Yes we can’ continued to reverberate, it was tempting to believe that a new era of opportunity had dawned. But for several million dirt-poor, disgruntled Americans the possibility of change is as far away as ever. These are the gun-owning, donut dunkin’, uninsured, underemployed rednecks who occupy America’s heartland: the ones who never got a slice of the pie during the good times, and the ones who have been hit hardest by the economic slump. Theirs is a hard-luck story that goes back generations and Joe Bageant tells it here with poignancy, indignation, and tinder-dry wit. Through the tale of his own rambunctious Scots-Irish family, starting with his grandparents Maw and Pap, Bageant traces the post-war migration of the rural poor to the sprawling suburbs where they found not the affluence they’d dreamed of, but isolation and deprivation, and the bitter futility of hope. What do the white working poor of America want, and what does America want for them?

[Production: 4 colour, laser foil]

The cover photograph was shot in Salton Sea, California - here's a great short film that tells some of the story of this eerie place:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tony & Susan

Tony & Susan
Publisher: Atlantic Books, 2011

Many years after their divorce, Susan Morrow receives a strange gift from her ex-husband. A manuscript that tells the story of a terrible crime: an ambush on the highway... a secluded cabin in the woods... a chilling thriller of death and corruption. How could such a harrowing story live within the man she once loved? And why, after such a long time, has he sent her such a disturbing and personal message? 

A brilliant, brilliant novel - shamefully overlooked on first publication despite rave reviews including from Saul Bellow "Marvellously written – the last thing you would expect in a story of blood and revenge. Beautiful." Recently rediscovered and the subject of some intense rights bidding by international publishing houses, hopefully a lot more people will get to enjoy this great story.

A few alternative (rejected!) designs:

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Breaking of Eggs

The Breaking of Eggs • Jim Powell, Orion Books, 2011

The Breaking of Eggs tells the story of Feliks, a communist sympathiser who has spent his life editing a travel guide to Eastern Europe. But change is in the air… As he is reunited with his long-lost brother and comes face-to-face with the love he let slip through his fingers, Feliks has to face up to the possibility that the convictions he has based his life upon were nothing but smoke and mirrors.

Jim Powell has been selected by the BBC Culture Show as one of the UK's best new novelists. 

This was a hefty photoshop comping job - combining 4 separate period photographs into this final composition, matching texture and lighting across the whole image.

Friday, December 03, 2010

I N C O M I N G !

INCOMING! Or, Why We Should Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Meteorite
Ted Neild, Granta Books 2011

Astonishing new research suggests that 470 million years ago, a stupendous collision in the Asteroid Belt bombarded the Earth with meteorites of all sizes and that the resulting ecological disturbance may have been responsible for the greatest increase in biological diversity since the origin of complex life – the hitherto unexplained Great Ordovician Biodiversity Event. 

Introducing these fresh discoveries to a wider public for the first time, Ted Nield challenges the orthodox view that major meteorite strikes are always bad news for life on Earth. He argues that one of the most widely known scientific theories – that dinosaurs were wiped out by a meteorite strike 65 million years ago – isn’t the whole picture, and that the causes of this mass extinction were much more varied and complex. 

Meteorites have been the stuff of legend throughout human history, interpreted as omens of doom or objects of power. But only in the late 18th century, when the study of falling space debris became a science, were meteorites used to unlock the mysteries of our planet and our universe. In a wonderfully lively and entertaining style, Incoming! traces the history of meteorites from the first recorded strike to the video recordings made routinely today, showing how our interpretations of meteorites have varied according to the age in which they fall, and how meteorite impacts were given fresh urgency with the advent of the atom bomb and the anxieties of the Cold War. Featuring a wealth of fascinating characters alongside new research, this is the perfect guide to the science of the ‘falling sky’.

Production specs: 5 colour jacket with supermatte lamination and spot UV varnish to type, die-cut circle revealing portion of printed paper case beneath. Printed case featuring wraparound, B-movie disaster illustration!

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain

A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain
by Owen Hatherley • Verso Books, 2010

‘In this angry, fiercely-funny book, Owen Hatherley steps forward as the Pevsner of the PFI generation. He’s an erudite, urbane guide to the Ballardian wreckage of millennial Britain and the tangle of speculation and social engineering that brought it about. Essential reading for anyone who ever feels their blood start to boil when they hear the word “regeneration”.’
Hari Kunzru, author of My Revolutions

Back in 1997, New Labour came to power amid much talk of regenerating the inner cities left to rot under successive Conservative governments. Over the next decade, British cities became the laboratories of the new enterprise economy: glowing monuments to finance, property speculation, and the service industry – until the crash.

In A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain, Owen Hatherley sets out to explore the wreckage – the buildings that epitomized an age of greed and selfish aspiration. From Greenwich to Glasgow, Milton Keynes to Manchester, Hatherley maps the derelict Britain of the 2010s: from riverside apartment complexes, art galleries, and amorphous interactive ‘centres’, to shopping malls and factory conversion lofts. In doing so, he provides a mordant commentary on the urban environment in which we live, work and consume.

By turns scathing, forensic, and bleakly humorous, A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain is a coruscating autopsy of a get-rich-quick, aspirational politics, a brilliant, architectural ‘state we’re in’.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Good Soldiers

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel
Publisher: Atlantic Books, 2010

‘A dozen vehicles were on fire. Burning fuel was everywhere. There had been no siren, no warning at all, just a sudden explosion that felt like the end of the world had arrived...’

For fifteen months, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Finkel toured with the soldiers of the 2-16 battalion. During 2007,they were deployed to enforce the most dangerous areas of Baghdad. The Good Soldiers is the searing account of that time; a shattering portrait of the heroes and the ruined, and a classic chronicle of modern warfare.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Love, Sex, Death & Words

Love, Sex, Death & Words
John Sutherland & Stephen Fender, Icon Books, 2010

Love, sex, death, boredom, ecstasy, existential angst, political upheaval – the history of literature offers a rich and varied exploration of the human condition across the centuries.

In this absorbing companion to literature’s rich past, arranged by days of the year, acclaimed critics and friends John Sutherland and Stephen Fender turn up the most inspiring, enlightening, surprising and curious artefacts literature has to offer.

The authors reveal a new calendar of book-lovers’ dates – such as 9 September 1471, on which William Caxton completes his translation of The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye, which he will later produce as the first printed book in English; 25 April 1719, when Daniel Defoe invents the English novel with Robinson Crusoe, but has no word to describe his invention; and 8 May 1962, when Dick Francis delivers his first racing thriller to his publisher, having begun writing it on New Year’s Day, creating a timetable he will stick to religiously for 39 years.

Why did 16 June 1904 matter so much to James Joyce? Which great literary love affair was brought to a tragic end on 11 February 1963? And why did Roy Campbell punch Stephen Spender on the nose on 14 April 1949? 

Jacket embossed with gold foil and spot UV varnish

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A Preparation for Death

A Preparation for Death
Greg Baxter, Penguin, 2010

In his early thirties, Greg Baxter found himself in a strange place. He hated his job, he was drinking excessively, he was sabotaging his most important relationships, and he was no longer doing the thing he cared about most: writing. Strangest of all, at this time he started teaching evening classes in creative writing – and his life changed utterly. A Preparation for Death is a document of the chaos and discovery of that time and of the experiences that led Greg Baxter to that strange place – an extraordinarily intimate account of literary failure (and its consequences), sexual abandon and personal decay. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Return of the Public

The Return of the Public
By Dan Hind • Verso Books, 2010
Cover photograph: Dan Mogford
Our politicians have ever-decreasing legitimacy. Even as they amass ever more riches our financiers are now morally and intellectually bankrupt. In their different ways politicians and those who control the private economy system claim to be acting in the public interest. Yet we, the public, have little say in decision-making and almost no power to change the terms of a series of increasingly absurd debates about economic and foreign policy. How have we been excluded from so many discussions about the public interest?

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Sixties

The Sixties
Jenny Diski, Profile Books, 2010

Much has been written about the Sixties: tributes to music and fashion, sex, drugs and revolution. Diski’s memoir, The Sixties, breaks the mould, wryly dismantling the big ideas that dominated the era – permissiveness, liberation and self-invention – to consider what Diski and her generation were really up to. Did they take drugs to get by, or to see the world differently? How responsible were they for the self-interest and greed of the Eighties? Diski takes a witty, incisive look at the radical beliefs to which her generation subscribed, little realising they were often old ideas dressed up in new forms. She considers whether she and her peers were as serious as they thought about changing the world; if the hedonistic Sixties were funded by the baby-boomers’ parents; and if the decade’s big idea was that it really meant something to be young.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Case for Withdrawal From Afghanistan

The Case for Withdrawal From Afghanistan
Edited by Nick Turse • Verso Books, 2010

Known as the graveyard of empires, Afghanistan has now been singled out as Obama’s “just war,” the destination for an additional thirty thousand US troops in an effort to shore up an increasingly desperate occupation. Nick Turse brings together a range of leading commentators, politicians, and military strategists to analyze America’s real motives and likely prospects. Through on-the-spot reporting, clear-headed analysis and historical comparisons with Afghanistan’s previous occupiers—Britain and the Soviet Union, who also argued that they were fighting a just and winnable war—The Case for Withdrawal From Afghanistan carefully examines the current US strategy and offers sobering conclusions. This timely and focused collection aims at the heart of Obama’s foreign policy and shows why it is so unlikely to succeed.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Nothing to Envy

Nothing to Envy
Barbara Demick, Granta Books, 2010

North Korea is one of the most repressive and secretive states on earth. Spying is encouraged, the media is government controlled, Gone with the Wind is a dangerous, banned book. In the 1990s, famine descended. Millions of people died, but the regime remained in power. Through extensive interviews, Barbara Demick has created the first portrait of life in this extraordinary country, weaving together the stories of six ordinary citizens in a gripping and vivid account of adversity and survival in the land of ‘Our Dear Leader’. 

‘Many scholars have pored over North Korea’s atrocious history, its fearful politics, abysmal economics and blood-curdling propaganda. No writer I know has done a better job of clothing these academic concerns with the rich detail of the lives of ordinary people – explaining, simply, what it feels like to be a citizen of the cruellest, most repressive and most retrograde country in the world’ The Times 

Monday, June 07, 2010

None of Us Were Like This Before

None of Us Were Like This Before
Joshua E.S. Phillips • Verso Books, 2010

Sergeant Adam Gray made it home from Iraq only to die in his barracks. For more than three years, reporter Joshua E.S. Phillips—with the support of Adam’s mother and several of his Army buddies—investigated Adam’s death. What Phillips uncovered was a story of American veterans psychologically scarred by the abuse they had meted out to Iraqi prisoners.

How did US forces turn to torture? Phillips’s narrative recounts the journey of a tank battalion—trained for conventional combat—as its focus switches to guerrilla war and prisoner detention. It tells of how a group of ordinary soldiers, ill trained for the responsibilities foisted upon them, descended into the degradation of abuse. The location is far from CIA prisons and Guantanamo, but the story captures the widespread use and nature of torture in the US armed forces.

Based on firsthand reporting from the Middle East, as well as interviews with soldiers, their families and friends, military officials, and the victims of torture, None of Us Were Like This Before reveals how soldiers, senior officials, and the US public came to believe that torture was both effective and necessary. The book illustrates that the damaging legacy of torture is not only borne by the detainees, but also by American soldiers and the country to which they’ve returned.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Filthy English

Filthy English
The How, What & Why of Everyday Swearing
Peter Silverton, Portobello Books 2010

I love swearing I really bloody do. Lots of people don't of course – at least not in public – so I was amazed when my "this is what it should look like but nobody is ever going to sign that off" design for this book was snapped up and approved with barely a tweak. I couldn't quite believe that a publisher was happy to plaster a book's front cover with profanity (albeit barely censored profanity). Not only is the front cover a dirty collage of typographical swears but it makes no reference to either the book's actual title or author. Much respect then to Portobello Books, editor Philip Gwyn Jones and author Peter Silverton for going with this rather bold/crude/rude design. The finished product is printed on lovely uncoated card stock and the filth is debossed to reinforce the vintage letterpress style typography.

The last word on the subject though should probably go to Stephen Fry:

Or perhaps Malcolm Tucker: "Fuckity-bye!"

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Plot

The Plot
Madeleine Bunting, Granta Books 2010

‘Grippingly readable . . . among the very best non-fiction to have been published in a long while about what it means to be English’
Simon Schama

My design for the paperback outing of this 'biography of an English acre' features the rolling, green dales of Yorkshire, furrowed with the fingerprints of history...

Top: front cover, spine and back;
Bottom: inside of the front and back covers

Friday, March 19, 2010