Do you judge books by their covers? What makes you pick up a book or magazine? A successful cover design might allude to the content within its pages, invoke feelings, or communicate a powerful message. Designers make distinct choices to create this dynamic first impression and invite people to open the book. Join us for a virtual panel discussion in celebration of Cooper Hewitt’s current exhibition, Underground Modernist: E. McKnight Kauffer, offering perspectives on Kauffer’s book covers and exploring how they have influenced book cover design today. Moderated by Caitlin Condell, Head of Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design at Cooper Hewitt, panelists include Gail Anderson, designer, writer, and educator, and Steven Heller, author and editor.

E. McKnight Kauffer (American, 1890–1954) was a pioneer of commercial art—the profession known today as graphic design. Hailed in his lifetime as “the poster king,” Kauffer made modernism accessible by applying cutting-edge styles to designs for advertising, literature, theater, transportation, and more. He was particularly prolific as a designer of book covers, producing over 200 published designs for everything from royal biographies and classics to mysteries and manifestos.