Thursday, February 09, 2006

all the way down typography

I’ve noticed a trend in cover typography here at the Textbook Mills: a conscious avoidance of capital letters. If avoiding excessive capitalization, is called "down style," then this might be called all the way down style (atwd for short?).

That’s right—no capitalization. Having noticed the trend here, I've started paying attention to cover typography in bookstores and at other publishers.

Sometimes only the book's title will avoid those line-breaking upper case letters. In other designs, everything—title, author’s name, edition statement, anything—except perhaps the publisher’s imprint, will be atwd.

So, local trend or typographical movement?

When I asked around, unscientifically, someone suggested that we embraced atwd because it "looks more trade-like." But a quick perusal of Amazon shows a clear bias towards ALL CAPS title pages. In fact, I had a hard time finding an example of a Headline Style cover to link to, (I finally typed the titles of books I seemed to remember having headline-style cover typography into Amazon's search engine; just browsing turned up an overwhelming majority of covers set in all caps), let alone an atwd one. So I must conclude that this typographical movement is a local phenomenon.

Readers are accustomed to seeing titles, and title page information, in ALL CAPS, and in headline or title style (scroll down page for definition). Despite its popularity here at the Textbook Mills, atwd just doesn't seem likely to eclipse the conventional typography. and the new trend doesn’t seem to eclipse it.

I don’t know why this is. From where I stand, in the editorial end of the process, it looks like a fad, or a designer's fancy.

1 comment:

kchew said...

I remember a trend in the 1970s where some designers used atwd on some covers for fiction. I think that Richard Farina's book (Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me may have been the title--it's on a shelf in another city, so I can't check) had this done to it, and the design was all letters, no images. Johnny Got His Gun used atwd as a design element too.

I am pretty sure that this design gambit flew by me a few times at UTP, but can't remember specific examples.

In short: a designer's fancy. Someone's having fun, and it'll go the way of all design fads when something more shiny shows up.