One-Minute Book Reviews

May 13, 2007

What Makes a Book Well-Designed? Quote of the Day #24

Filed under: Book Covers,Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:00 pm
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Why are some books more visually attractive than others? Here’s a partial answer from book designer Carol Goldenberg.

” … book design and typography are at their most successful when not immediately apparent to the reader. It can even be said that book design is a kind of ‘invisible’ art.

“In her book The Crystal Goblet (1956) British typographer Beatrice Warde likened good book-making to a crystal goblet of wine: ‘Everything about it is calculated to reveal rather than to hide the beautiful thing it was meant to contain.’ As she further pointed out in her metaphor, to pour wine into a solid goblet would be to disguise the drink – one would appreciate the vessel itself perhaps, but that is all. And so it is with good book-making – good design provides the form or framework within which words and images can shine through.”

Carol Goldenberg in The Essential Guide to Children’s Books and Their Creators (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), edited by Anita Silvey, a former editor-in-chief of Horn Book Magazine.

Comment by Janice Harayda:

The Essential Guide to Children’s Books and Their Creators is an excellent reference book for anyone with a strong interest in children’s literature. As this quote suggests, the encyclopedic text also offers insights into other kinds of books.

Design and typography are greatly underestimated partly because, as Goldenberg notes, we often don’t notice them. But they can make or break a book. (This is one reason why you typically see the font identified on the last page.) The best-designed books I have reviewed on One-Minute Book Reviews include Fiona French’s picture books for children, Easter (March 17) and King of Another Country (March 30), and Eric Hodgins’s comic novel Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (April 9), which has brilliant illustrations by William Steig. An example of stellar design that I haven’t reviewed here is Nick Bantock’s “Griffin and Sabine” series that takes the form of the correspondence between Griffin Moss, a London card designer, and Sabine Strohem, who lives on a remote island and sends him a notes on his postcards.

I chose Chris Costello to do the site for my novels because he has designed beautiful books, in a great range of styles, for major publishers of titles for children and adults, including Random House and Simon & Schuster. You can see some of his covers by going to and clicking on “Typography” and then “Children’s Titles.” Chris has won many awards for his work.

What books have you read that are exceptionally well-designed?

(c ) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. The collective works of Michael Slade (the Special X series). The limited editions in particular. Also, the first few books of Jim Butcher.

    Comment by pohlse — May 13, 2007 @ 12:07 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks for bringing up limited editions, which are often exceptional. Any tips on how people can find these, if they’re interested in seeing them? Even professional critics tend to receive few of them.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — May 13, 2007 @ 2:25 pm | Reply

  3. Over on Michael Slade’s website ( there is a running discussion in the forums on the hard to find versions of his books, the methods are varied but all could be applied to any author’s works.

    Comment by pohlse — May 14, 2007 @ 5:40 pm | Reply

  4. Thanks. I didn’t know about but will check it out.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — May 14, 2007 @ 7:58 pm | Reply

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