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Archive for April, 2009:

Europa Knows: It’s a Branding Thing

posted April 29, 2009

Posted by Erin Brown in book design books publishing world literature

One last thing about Europa Editionsand I won’t be the first to mention itis that they’ve done a terrific job of creating brand identity. First off, the name Europa is well-chosen, I think. It carries a certain sophistication and seems to lend the allure of travel to their books. Somehow, it makes literature in translation seem a bit sexy.

But the most distinguishing thing about Europa is the books themselveswhich is to say that you can spot one from a mile away. All of their titles are released in trade paperback (common among many European publishers) with handsome French flaps, which give the books a sleek and elegant feel. And every cover bears Europa’s signature stork logo. Many of their covers feature bold images that are cut out against brightly colored backgrounds.

dettaglio_50-timeskipper2 dettaglio_28-wolf dettaglio_60-hedgehog

A recent discussion on The Book Design Review suggests that there is little consensus about the cover designs themselves. While some who commented appreciated the spareness and eyecatching images on many of the covers, others found them boring and somehow dated looking. In spite of people’s aesthetic differences on this point, however, there seems to be no dispute about the fact that Europa’s books are immediately recognizable.

“They attract me because I know they’re Europa titles,” one commenter confessed. That pretty much says it all.

Éditions du Panama Book Covers

posted April 28, 2009

Posted by Anne Healey in book design books publishing

The covers of these novels, published by Les éditions du Panama, are by Pierre di Sciullo, French graphic designer and typographer.

panama_boite panama-braslavsky

panama-mallarme panama_ne-plus

panama_autre-ile panama_chien1

panama_shoot1 panama_route1

I’m sure it’s a coincidence, but the last one is uncannily similar to the cover of Gale’s Contemporary Theatre, Film & Television, which we work on as book developers. I’m guessing they both reference the same kind of mid-century design, but I don’t have much knowledge of design history. Any theories?

Europa’s “Retro” Model

posted April 24, 2009

Posted by Erin Brown in books publishing world literature

In light of all that has happened in publishing in recent decades, it seems that the essence of the “retro” publishing model at Europa Editions is its focus on the quality of the text itself—language, characters, and story—and a staunch belief in the inherent salability of good literature.


Some hallmarks of Europa’s retro style:

  • A decorated industry veteran at the helm. Europa is headed by Kent Carroll, who served for 12 years as editor-in-chief at the legendary Grove Press (which had transformed the American literary consciousness during the 1950s and 1960s with authors like Samuel Beckett, Henry Miller, and William Burroughs) before establishing his own highly esteemed company, Carroll & Graf.
  • A commitment to building their readership from the ground up. Whereas the “new” (post-conglomerate takeover) publishing model is predicated on the expectation that a book should have a built-in market of thousands before it’s even released, Europa is committed to capturing the attention of reviewers and winning the respect and loyalty of independent booksellers.
  • Low overhead. In the wake of the conglomerate takeovers, many publishers—who used to behave like college professors—came down with a kind of corporate fever. Midtown offices got big and glitzy, salaries and expense accounts followed suit. At Europa Mr. Carroll is the only full-time employee. He operates out of a modest office in Union Square, New York, with one freelance assistant and a couple of unpaid interns.
  • Maximizing value. Another feature of the “new” publishing era is the practice of paying exorbitant advances to authors whose books are expected to sell big. A great many of these books do not reap the returns, and publishers lose out in the deal. By all comparisons, translation rights are cheap, even for some of the most acclaimed international authors. The less Europa has to spend on acquiring rights to foreign works that have already proven successful in their original languages, the more they can invest in publicity and marketing in the United States.

Next time I’ll look at another thing Europa’s doing right—not necessarily retro, just good business sense.

Six Pink Poetry Books

posted April 23, 2009

Posted by Anne Healey in book design

halleluja_blackout2 peet_nines_6

  • Chuck Stebelton, Circulation Flowers (Tougher Disguises, 2005), designed by James Meetze, the founder of Tougher Disguises. See this interview with the poet at Kicking Wind, which touches upon the book design.
  • Chelsey Minnis, Poemland (Wave Books, 2009). Pink fur! I don’t know who designed this — if you do, please comment! [Update: another one by Quemadura, according to commenter Narnia Hamilton!] It’s too small to see in this photo, but if you click here you can see that the book title is in the bar code label.
  • Janet Holmes, F2F (University of Notre Dame Press, 2006), designed by Jeff Clark

Basecamp: A Simple, Elegant Virtual Office for Basic Needs

posted April 21, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in technology virtual offices

Picking an appropriate virtual office—a place where you can collaborate with coworkers online and share files, calendars, and contacts—is not easy. You need to understand your company’s present and future needs. But equally important is understanding your company’s collective personality. If only there were a Myers-Briggs test for virtual office users.

Lacking that, I created a quiz to see if you’re a potential user of one of my favorite collaborative web tools on the Internet.

  1. Do you love Macs?
  2. When you don’t like software, do you find yourself saying, “It’s not intuitive”?
  3. Do you tend to avoid manuals, wanting things to be obvious?
  4. Do computers scare you or are you someone who finds it challenging or enervating to set up software?
  5. Do you generally prefer fewer options but find it important that the options you have are simple, elegant, and function well?

If the answer to most or all of the questions is yes, go straight to the Basecamp website and watch the demo videos, narrated by the founder of 37signals, which makes the online software. Each demo begins, “Hi, I’m Jason,” and shows you how you can set up a basic, useful virtual office in no time.

There are many reviews of Basecamp already, some glowing, some nitpicking, but if imitation is a sign of success, Basecamp has been an overwhelming winner, spawning numerous competitors in the “simple, well functioning, but with limited features” niche. For many companies, especially those with ten employees or fewer, Basecamp is a gift from the gods, transforming them from disorganized collectors of papers and sticky notes to smoothly operating organizations, companies where each employee is only a few clicks from any file or important information. Basecamp is also an extremely likable service, as displayed in this testimonial video from its website.

But if Basecamp is so great—and I really think it is—then why shouldn’t everyone use it? Simply put, Basecamp’s strengths are its weaknesses. Basecamp is so simple that you won’t get confused, but it’s also so simple that you won’t have many options. Companies that have more than ten employees or those that are looking for more comprehensive ways to store information and collaborate might find Basecamp’s features too limited.

In my next post I’m going to discuss another simple virtual office, one, like Basecamp, that you can set up during a coffee break or while watching a rerun of Friends.

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