A book cover must quickly capture a viewer’s attention and provoke curiosity about the content within, contributing an enduring element to the reader’s experience. The covers designed by Alvin Lustig in the 1940s and 1950s employ abstracted iconography and simple typography and lettering to create emotionally compelling representations of a book’s themes. Lustig, who died at 40, is remembered as one of America’s greatest modern designers. These hand-lettered, hand-illustrated book covers, which were highly unusual in the publishing world at that time, remain startling today.

Book Cover, Season in Hell by Arthur Rimbaud, 1947. Designed by Alvin Lustig for New Directions Books (New York, New York, USA).  Offset lithograph. Gift of Tamar Cohen and Dave Slatoff, 1993-31-165-3.

Book Cover, Season in Hell by Arthur Rimbaud, 1947. Designed by Alvin Lustig for New Directions Books (New York, New York, USA). Offset lithograph. Gift of Tamar Cohen and Dave Slatoff, 1993-31-165-3.

 

Ellen Lupton is Senior Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and Director of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art.

The exhibition How Posters Work is currently on view at Cooper Hewitt through November 15, 2015.  You can learn more at the exhibition homepage  and find the book How Posters Work at SHOP Cooper Hewitt. #HowPostersWork

Leave a Reply