Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Failing on Purpose

As someone prone to making mistakes, I found a book about graphic design I was interested in: Design Disasters: Great Designers, Fabulous Failures and & Lessons Learned. When it came from the library, the type layout cracked me up. Very clever! Notice the picture of the Edsel at the bottom of the front cover. If you look on the back cover, you can see that the edsel has crashed into another car. Also on the top of the back cover, the title is upside down at the top and the copy is awkward and misaligned. What really works here, too, is that they don't overdo it. The Table of Contents head is off but the rest of the book is aligned just fine. If they had carried the humor too much throughout the book, I think the "gag" would have lost its punch.

The font used is Clarendon which was first introduced in 1845 and was generally used in combination with other faces in books like dictionaries. The font experienced a revival in the 50's. It's most commonly used in heading and display contexts. Clarendon is a bracketed slab serif font and, according to "can be regarded as a refined version of the Egyptian style." Egyptian is a general term referring to slab serif fonts. The term has an interesting history (to me, anyway!).

During Napoleon's Egyptian campaign, Europeans became obsessed with Egyptian style furnishings, wallpapers, etc. There is no relationship between slab serif styles and Egyptian writing but the fonts came out in the early 1800's at the time the European obsession was at its peak. So...the slab serif fonts that also came out at the time were associated with Egyptian styles.

I'm not sure what led the designer(s) of this book cover to choose Clarendon. It's definitely a good font for headlines and is clear and bold. It would be great if the cover designer chose the font because of the historical mistake of naming the general style Egyptian. I like it because the font isn't just a font, it's also part of the art of the cover.

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