Bad Design

Design is subjective. What I call bad design, another may call good design.  Therefore the following collection of typographical covers, in my subjective opinion, are bad design, but that, of course, is only my opinion…

Vivid!: The Allure of Color in Design

by Sandu Cultural Media. Published by Gingko Press, 2010.

The choice of a typeface that is made up of dots of different shades of colour does not make for a vivid or readable cover. A sign that the publisher has little faith in the typography is the fact that they have repeated the title on a high contrast black and white sticker.

Suzy, Led Zeppelin, and Me

by Martin Millar. Published by Soft Skull Press 2008.

This design tries to mix up typefaces in an effort at a retro aesthetic, but I don’t think the eye knows where to look first, and overall this cover is rather a mess.

Who Will Run The Frog Hospital?

by Lorrie Moore. Published by Alfred a Knopf, 1994. Designed by Barbara DeWilde.

This is what happens when a deceptively simple design takes the leap into too simple, edging into boring and forgettable.

Varieties of Disturbance

by Lydia Davis. Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007. Designed by Charlotte Strick.

The Bell Gothic typeface is here used in a counter-intuitive light-handed way, and although the picture of the fly lends visual interest, the letters themselves lack definition and presence.

The Coast of Akron

by Adrienne Miller. Published by Hutchinson, 2005.

What starts off here as nice typography seems to get carried away with itself about half-way down the page. The bold ‘AKRON’ is fighting for attention with the author’s name, leaving ‘A Novel’ stranded from the typographical similar ‘The Coast’.

All the Pretty Horses

by Cormac McCarthy. Published by Picador, 2010. Designed by David Pearson.

Here is a cover design that doesn’t know which element is most important, with the author, the title and the newspaper quote  all fighting for attention, and none of them winning. A less important element of the design, ‘Guardian’, is given as much prominence as any other text.

However, this typographic design is repeated for many of Cormac MaCarthy’s titles, and on mass they create a recognisable, if not totally original theme.


Perhaps the design works better when all of the titles are viewed together in a bookshop to form a coherent look and feel.

Diary of a Shropshire Lass

by Janet Baines. Published by Loose Chippings Books, 2008.

A bad choice of typeface, justification, leading, and colour combine to produce a cover that just doesn’t work in my view. With a little more effort this could have been a much better design.

  1. Samantha Rayner says:

    Love the examples chosen here, Bob – and the personal reflections. The Lorrie Moore one, in particular, makes me completely (but actively! – I suppose that’s some reaction, at least!) averse to reading the book, or finding out anything more about it…..

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