Jon Gray/Gray 318

Jon Gray,or Gray 318, is one of my favourite typographic book designers, who is economical in design and has a wry sense of humour. Here are some of my favourites:

Everything is Illuminated

by Jonathan Safran Foer. Published by Penguin 2003

Hand-crafted lettering is used here to make a very bold statement. The title is almost bursting out of the confines of the cover. The unusual addition of the barcode looks out of place in my opinion, and gives the design an anchor-point of uniformity which serves no purpose.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

by Jonathan Safran Foer. Published by Hamish Hamilton 2005

The largest piece of type on this cover is the author’s name, which leads the reader’s eye up to the information about previously published works. The words ‘a novel’ are large and dominant – in fact the reader has to work quite hard to distinguish the title of this work, which is set at 90 degrees to accompanying text.

The Unabridged Pocket Book Of Lightning

by Jonathan Safran Foer. Published by Penguin 2005

Once again the reader has some visual work to do in deciphering the text, with the theme of lightning reinforced by a strong visual device.

The Mayor’s Tongue

by Nathanial Rich. Published by Riverhead Hardcover, 2008.

A good use of complementarity typefaces and colours, with a flowing design that leads the reader’s eye around the cover. I like the subtle placement of “a novel”  three times, and the curl of the tongue in the bottom right-hand corner.

The Secret Of Scent

by Luca Turin. Published by Faber and Faber, 2006.

The use of the Engravers Gothic typeface and overall design is used to good effect here to evoke the design of perfume house Chanel.


by George Orwell. Published by Penguin Classics; Anniversary edition 2009

The theme of bold, hand-drawn lettering and a lack of extraneous detail is taken to extremes with this cover. The front of the cover, with authoritarian lettering, supported and reinforced by pipework, signifies the solidity of the state. The rear cover, with broken pipes and scrawled lettering, signifies rebellion.

It is a brave move to leave the title and author information to the spine, with the front and back covers using themes from the novel to carry the responsibility of resonating with readers.

Gray describes the role of a cover as “to give a face and personality to a book. A book within the marketplace is like a face in a busy crowd.”1 You can see Jon talking about the cover in this BBC documentary:



  1. love all the covers; Gray is a good illustrator. I love the 1984 the most.

  2. Kim says:

    I’ve just stumbled across this work for the first time, but what a wonderful piece of cover design that 1984 cover is. Both playful and irreverent… inspiring! Thanks for that.

  3. chaddywest says:

    I’m a super big fan of Foer’s covers. Gray has really branded him well.

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