There is often a chance to use a typographic cover in order to inject some humour into the design process, by the breaking of typographical conventions. This can make the reader question and assess exactly what message the cover is trying to portray, and what concepts may be contained within the book.

Here are some of my favourite distorted covers:

The Trouble with Physics

by Lee Smolin. Published by Penguin, 2008.

An obvious but clever visual pun on the ‘physics’ of the typeface being broken. I especially like the fact that as well as the title, the Penguin is also upside down. This type of cover gives the bookshop the choice of which way up to display the book!


by Ross Hamilton. Published by University of Chicago Press, 2008. Designed by Isaac Tobin.

This theme of the visual pun is repeated here, along with a supporting image.

Change The Way You See Everything

by Hank Wasiak and Kathryn D Cramer. Published by Running Press, 2006.

However, I think that when too many words are reversed, as with this design, the effect loses some of its humour and starts to become annoying. The different weight of the type doesn’t seem to help, with the reader’s eye drawn to the word ‘see’.


by Raj Kamal Jha. Published by Picador, 2007.

Here is an example that works better, with fewer characters, but in this case it is not the title of the book that is distorted, but the central image.

Ace of Spades

by David Matthews. Published by Henry Holt & Company, 2007.

In a rather extreme case of playing with the structure of typography, this design asks the eye and the brain to make a leap of connection in order to ‘read’ the cover. If displayed in the right way, on a shelf or a dump-bin, the effect could be impressive.

The Secret Life of Words

by Henry Hitchings. Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008.

This is another good example of making the reader do the work in deciphering the cover. It’s a concept that has probably been used a number of times before, but the choice of lettering and colours makes this cover stand out.

The image above shows the hardback edition. For the paperback edition, the publishers decided to change the cover entirely, bombarding the reader with words:

  1. Samantha Rayner says:

    Oh, these are clever! I really like the Ace of Spades and the Secret Life of Words…

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