Almost without realising it our book buying is influenced many times by the design. Without knowing the contents, we select or reject a book often simply by the cover.
Gerald Cinamon, Jerry, is a past master at this. A recent publication, coinciding with an exhibition of his work at the Institute of Contemporary Arts this year, Gerald Cinamon: Collected Works Since 1958, and the accompanying video: Close Not Touching, shows some of the breadth of his work, and it is simply stunning! Sadly the exhibition has now closed, but his book is still available. The cover of the book, right, is in his favourite bold red, used in a number of other of his designs, too.
Jerry, born in the US, started his career well before there were computers, when type and image could be shifted around simply by a click of a mouse. His were the days of Cow Gum and Letraset letters. The title of the video Close Not Touching was taken from the use of Letraset, where letters were pressed from a transparent sheet on to paper, and were – close, but not touching. How very much easier it is for designers now. This design for Architecture and Art, made for Penguin books in 1967, shows just what an eye for really strong design, and a sense of humour, can achieve.
This is a real favourite – a design for a family restaurant in Devon. The use of the wine glass distorting the letters, although they remain completely legible, suggests not only the movement of the tide coming in and out of the shore, but also the possible effects on someone’s vision of too much strong drink!
A simply stunning design is this for the BBC, used both for posters and recital programmes. It is so simple but so effective in the way that the bowl of the letter b has been reversed to make the c, and any heaviness in letter-form has been avoided by truncating the downstroke. The letters are all very readable and clear, even though they are reduced in form so much. Jerry writes that he really enjoyed seeing his posters displayed at the Royal Festival Hall when he went there for a concert.
Simple and ingenious – this cover is for the Fifty Penguin Years exhibition catalogue in 1985. Here is that wonderfully vibrant red again, but the 25th penguin is in silver, and the 50th in gold. Penguin book covers were renowned for their limited use of colour, usually just one colour and black, so special permission had to be granted to do a silver and a gold run in addition!
This book is a real visual delight, each page, with its informative captions, shows another stunning design. There is a foreword by Ken Garland, a biography of Jerry and an interview with him and David Pearson (who is also in the video).
The book is available from Jerry’s website and costs £20 plus postage. I cannot recommend it more highly for anyone interested in lettering, design, and a really great man.