Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The reductive distillation process that is Design.

John Gall is the vice president and art director at Vintage/Anchor Books and designer of the latest cover of Vladimir Nobokov's Lolita.

John's work never fails to impress me. His book covers consistently strike me as emotional and profound. Everything he does deals with plurality of meaning, which to me is one of the essential elements in the creation of interesting, thought-provoking design.

I am familiar with his design for the cover of Lolita, but I am also familiar with the design that was abandoned. I am not in the know as to why, in fact, Mr. Gall is the Art Director so perhaps the decision was his alone to turn the lips on their correct side, horizontal and void of any deeper secondary meaning. To me, it is a dead idea. The lips as they currently sit are nothing but lips. Face lips, that is.

I find this so often in design. When an idea so ingenious and simple as John Gall's initial Lolita design is boiled down and rendered into something that we hope is palatable for the general public. Something that will not offend. I respect the fact that the initial idea was where his heart was, but it disappoints me to find another stroke of genius fall victim to the societal rules of what is and what is not acceptable.

You be the judge.

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  1. The regular lips just make me look past it...the vertical lips make me think of a female vagina in all its glory and makes my mind think a little, not just skim past. Once again, my non-artistic mind giving its thoughts.

  2. Great cover idea, indeed. My thesis was on book covers and this obviously was one example that I made sure was in my final book!

    An article by Fwis (and their book cover blog) with John Gall can be found below, which breifly talks about his Lolita cover and why it was changed. It's roughly half way down:


  3. Very interesting. I'm actually surprised the "vertical lips" idea was shelved. Obviously, nothing about the image itself is inherently offensive, only its potential interpretation; the concept is so abstract I think it would have floated past most casual observers. Perhaps a case of the designer/art director over-estimating the audience's reaction.