Worst Bookjacket design?

jasonc's picture

(I should preface this by saying that the book mentioned below is fantastic, and I'd recommend it to everyone. However...)
Here's a book jacket design that's so bad, it's comical:

"The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century", by Paul R. Krugman

Look at the little "foldover" triangle at the top right of the red rectangle. What's up with that? Is it a piece of Rubylith that started to peel off the board? (for those old enough to remember.)
No, I think it's actually supposed to be a visual reminder of the title, "...Unraveling". Besides the fact that the idea is lame, cliche'd and obvious, it doesn't even make sense! That's not a picture of unraveling, for that you'd need something woven. That might work if the book was titled, "The Great Dog-Eared-ness"!

Jason C

Ehague's picture

Besides which, "unravel" is a tricky word. Like "moot," it's gradually shifted in meaning over time to sort of mean its opposite.

In any case, the key idea the word is intended to evoke in this context is the movement from an ordered state to a disordered state. The logic might have been that if a firmly affixed sticker somehow represents order, then peeling it off achieves a kind of disorder. Still kind of lame.

What do other books in this genre typically look like, though? Perhaps this sort of book's ideal reader prefers sober, flag colors to a clever interpretation of the book's content/title.

MHSmith's picture

Clever idea, printing GREAT in very large caps: conveys all the greatness of the unraveling, don't you think? Who cares what unraveling means, you just need to know it's BIG.

Ehague's picture

Good point, "great" is another multistable word. "The Favorable Resolution" or "The Large-Scale Fraying" — you decide!

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Four years ago, when the book was new, there was a bit of a ruckus over the very different UK cover treatment...

Jackie Frant's picture

In large publishing houses in NY - this book would be considered a low-budget book. No money alloted for art or freelance design. Just someone in the "bullpen" asked to put together a type cover... and well, with their inexperience or lack of knowledge of type of fonts out there - this is a typical effort for the project.

It is not alone - there are many out there just like this.

Do you remember in the 1980s when Jove Books put out "Generic Covers"? They were white backgrounds with black slab face fonts -- just like the generic toilet tissue, lotions, etc. that the supermarkets were selling at the time. The first book was a huge success - however, the company decided to launch a series based on the first one - generic mystery, generic romance, etc. and it failed - big time!

So I guess W.W. Norton just didn't have the money to do anything to help Paul Krugman have an attractive cover. Maybe they thought his name alone would help sell the book?

Don McCahill's picture

Thanks for that, Richardo. Something tells me that the UK cover sold more copies there than the US cover would have. I don't know if it would have worked in the US, especially four years ago.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

I don’t know if it would have worked in the US, especially four years ago.

Well, Don, that particular link is something I found now, but back then I remember reading about the British cover elsewhere... perhaps in a print magazine. That article said pretty much the same thing you're saying. :-)


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