John Cage / Print Book Covers
 
I created book covers for a trilogy of works containing a collection of John Cage’s essays and lectures. He was a composer known for utilizing his classical training to create complex contemporary pieces.

Each cover represents a distinct characteristic of John Cage’s music. Below you will find the final covers along with a sample of his music that closely influenced the cover’s design.

Volume 1 - Syncopation
Volume 1 focuses on syncopation; a placement of rhythmic notes in unexpected or off-beat moments. Type was placed in irregular places, free from a grid and density of letters was used to depict the intensity of softness of a note. This cover was inspired by “Etudes Boreales III”.

1st cover

Volume 2 - Melody
Volume 2 depicts melody, which in much of John Cage’s work sounds like a cascade of notes stringing together continuously. Letters were placed in an arc formation moving upwards as it slowly dissipates into the empty space on the page. Listen to “In A Landscape” to hear an example.

2nd cover

Volume 3 - Dissonance
Volume 3 visualizes dissonance. Dissonance is the sound of tension and disharmony. It’s powerful in the way it can evoke a visceral reaction. Type was layered in a variety of angles such that you lose the legibility of the letters themselves. “Fraction 2” is a great example of dissonance.

3rd cover

Process
Much of my process involved listening to several of John Cage’s compositions while I worked in illustrator.  I started working in black and white using a sans serif font. San serif seemed appropriate since it tends to be more modern. While John Cage is no doubt a contemporary composer, much of his music is rooted in his classical training. Thus, choosing Bembo an “old-style” serif font grounded the modern treatment and placement of the text.

As I iterated, I wanted visual ways to connect the three covers. You’ll notice that all the type in volume 1 is unstroked, in volume 2, a combination of stroked and unstroked, and finally for volume 3, exclusively unstroked letters. I also connect the covers by scaling the text after each volume. This was done to create a system so that the covers worked as a cohesive unit.

Cover design evolution