A design for life

I recently read what is likely to be the best designed book that I’ll read this year. Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix is designed to look like an IKEA catalogue, complete with product descriptions and illustrations. It’s a nice concept that complements the story, which is set in a not-quite-IKEA store, and uses our familiarity with the format to help set the scene. While perhaps slightly generic as a story, it’s elevated by the relationship between the design and the story, which even manages to use it to reinforce it’s social commentary aspects. Most importantly, despite the existence of a kindle version, it’s a book that works best in print form.

I’ve always been a sucker for a well designed book. It may come from my love of comics, and I only have to look at my shelves to see the likes of the beautiful hardcovers of Tales From Beyond Science of Steve Ditko’s Monsters: Gorgo to see that, but I think it goes a bit further. I ‘ve always loved the old school Michael Moorcock paperbacks, and get excited when I see reissues of classic works with new and interesting cover designs. I can even remember getting excited about Jeff Noon’s use of fonts. I like nice looking things, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

It may be down to the rise of e-books that we’re seeing a bit of a resurgence of interestingly designed books in recent years, since the design aspect is one of the few things that e-readers can’t replicate, at least not yet. While particularly true of comics, where nicely printed pages and a good cover design go a long way to selling me on a particular book, it’s good to see it in prose fiction too. A good design can swing me towards buying a book that I’m on the fence about.

It’s something that may well enter the digital market as technology develops. Comics have already started to embrace the possibilities that come with interactive pages, and I’ve seen a few interesting e-book versions of classic adventure game books. There are a lot of possibilities at the moment, which makes it a great time to be a reader.


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