Alien, etc.

Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant is almost upon us. My response to Prometheus was tepid to say the least, but the presence of the A-word in the title offers a glimmer of hope for this prequel-sequel. And this got me thinking: the titles in this series don't make a whole lick of sense any more. Alien and Aliens worked when it was just those two films, but the series has grown forwards and backwards and now it's a bit all over the place.

Prometheus and Alien: Covenant suggest a new pattern though: both take their names from the ships in the films. Why not apply that logic to the whole series? So:

Alien: Prometheus
Alien: Covenant
Alien: Nostromo
Alien: Sulaco
Alien: Fury
Alien: Auriga

Renaming the films themselves may be considered sacrilege (a possible title for the next film/ship?), but what about the books? So I took it upon myself to retitle and redesign the films' novelisations. They're all great one-word titles, so I had a bit of fun with the type and steered the design away from the usual "let's just squeeze the poster on there somehow" approach. Books based on films rarely get published with any great fanfare or acclaim (not sure why – adapt in the other direction and you end up being showered with Oscars); I thought it'd be interesting to present these as respectable works of literature in their own right. 

Just to clarify, these aren't official covers for the books (published by Titan), simply a little personal project. Oh, and a note for the pedants: as is its nature, Alien³ proved to be problematic, given that it doesn't actually feature a ship. Still, Fury – the nickname of prison planet Fiorina 161 – was too good a title to pass up though, so that's what I went with.

Anyway, here they are. 

UPDATE: I've seen Covenant now – a few thoughts here.

Pinning architecture

Looking over the images in my Architecture board on Pinterest, it occurs to me that I don't really like curves. Or colour. Or people, apparently. Just plonk me in a big square white box devoid of human life, and I'm a happy bunny. 

Chris Ware / Chip Kidd

I love this 1994 Art Director's Club invitation, designed by Chris Ware (and found in Chip Kidd's excellent monograph Book One). From now on, my main  – heck, my only – objective for any book cover design is that it "snaps the crackers". 

Tales of Beatnik Glory

As part of the launch campaign for Monotype's Masqualero, I produced a number of book jackets to demonstrate the typeface in use. Mostly these were titles/authors I conjured up myself, but Ed Sanders' Tales of Beatnik Glory actually exists, and just so happens to be on David Bowie's list of 100 favourite books – a list that I've taken it upon myself to design covers for. This would be number eight (have a look at the others here). I'm particularly happy with this one – especially how the fluidity of the marbling and the curves of the letterforms seems to melt into each other. 

This Land

Photographer Peter Byrne visited 45 different ranches in twelve states to capture the life of the contemporary cowboy. This Land, designed by myself, is the result of this shooting adventure. The book is launched this weekend at Print Stuff, York's new independent print and publishing fair, and is available to buy from Peter's shop.

Impressions of the Wilderness Children

So this happened. It came about because lovely copywriter chap Jon Ryder noticed some weird wording on a sign, and then equally lovely copywriter chap Jonny Cullen suggested it would make a good title for a horror movie (starring Jenny Agutter and Bernard Cribbins), and then original lovely copywriter chap Jon Ryder threw down the gauntlet for me to turn it into a cover (see twitter for the whole chain of events). I don't normally do covers on request like this, but this immediately struck me as a damn fine excuse to play with the Marber grid and pay homage to one of my all-time favourite Penguin covers, Penelope Mortimer's The Pumpkin Eater. Making up old-style paperback covers is a pretty futile exercise in nostalgism (I resisted artificially ageing it with the usual dog-ears and rips) but it's also rather fun.


This week Monotype release Masqualero, the new typeface designed by Jim Ford. He can explain the design a lot better than I can, but in summary, it exists at the stonecutting/jazz intersection that you never knew existed. Art directing the launch, I've been able to play with Masqualero and it's various weights/styles well before anyone else gets their grubby mitts on it, and I can attest that it is quite, quite wonderful (especially for concocting identities, covers, sleeves and stationery for entirely imaginary clients, it turns out). I'm excited to see where and how it turns up in the next few months, now that it's out there for everyone else to enjoy. 

Good design

"Graphic design which fulfils aesthetic needs, complies with the laws of form and the exigencies of two-dimensional space; which speaks in semiotics, sans-serifs, and geometrics; which abstracts, transforms, translates, rotates, dilates, repeats, mirrors, groups, and regroups is not good design if it is irrelevant. Graphic design which evokes the symmetria of Vitruvius, the dynamic symmetry of Hambridge, the asymmetry of Mondrian; which  is a good gestalt, generated by intuition or by computer, by invention or by a system of coordinates is not good design if it does not communicate."

Paul Rand, A Designer's Art

Paul Rand: A Designer's Art

For some reason, Paul Rand's stunning monograph A Designer's Art was out of print for several years. Fortunately, Princeton Architectural Press have done the decent thing and published a new edition, with a new afterword by Steven Heller. Over 27 essays, Rand discusses a wide range of subjects still pertinent to design in 2017, all accompanied by numerous examples of his work (more of which can be found at Demonstrating Rand's ability to simplify shape and colour and space into the most striking form, it's surprising how contemporary much of it seems – there are posters and covers and identities in here from seventy years ago that could've been made yesterday. It's a stunning collection and valuable education from one of design's greatest teachers; open it on any page and there's something incredible or thought-provoking that will spark inspiration. An essential read.