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Kafka Gets a Shiny, Happy Redesign

If people really did judge books by their covers, Franz Kafka never would’ve sold a single copy. Ever. The design is always terribly bleak or dark or just skin-crawlingly weird. In some cases, it’s even — dare we say? — Kafkaesque.

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That’ll change come June when Pantheon releases a clutch of Kafka books with impossibly fresh covers. Designed by imprint art director Peter Mendelsund, the new look is conceived to, as he tells it, “let some of the sunlight back in.”

Sunlight? Kafka? Say wha? Well yeah, sure, sort of, if a dad throwing apples at his son-turned-bug is your idea of amusement. (And here, we defer to the great, dearly departed David Foster Wallace, who explained the humor of Kafka better than we ever could.)

But back to the design: Gone are the serious-man portraits and the Stalinist red and black and the vomit-worthy drawings of giant insects. In their stead, you’ve got all-seeing eyes variously set against monochromatic backdrops in Easter-egg colors — Purple! Yellow! Blue! Green! The script, meanwhile, is a cursive that looks more like an artiste’s whimsical signature than a typeface someone actually designed. Sure enough, it’s a mashup of Kafka’s handwriting and a typeface based on Kafka’s handwriting (and designed by Edenspiekermann) called “Mister K.” Meta.

You can read Mendelsund’s rather long-winded exposition on why he chose the covers he did. Or not and save yourself from feeling like a passenger at this airport. Suffice it to say the design looks cool — the work of someone who knows the difference (through images, if not words) between anxious dreams and dreary ones.

[Hat tip to Creative Review]

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