Covers for a proposed book

A cover for the proposed book A Protest Against Forgetting – Interviews with Eric Hobsbawm by Hans Ulrich Obrist.

Hobsbawm was a Marxist historian and thinker, he is celebrated as one of the most important historians of the twentieth century. He was a committed and outspoken adherent to the principles of Marxism, in the face of frequent, overwhelming opposition.

The constructivist typography associated with Soviet Russia and therefore Communism is awesome – bold, inventive, striking. When designing a cover for content associated with Communism there is therefore a lot of fantastic reference points. Some of the themes of constructivism – geometry, asymmetry and its sense of energy can be used differently, these ideas presented in a changed, new(er) way.

There are pitfalls too in having such strong starting points. Book covers in particular seem to use pastiche of historic designs as a handy shortcut to making an obvious, literal connection between cover and content. I don’t like pastiche, don’t understand it or see why it’s relevant as an idea. Also, for someone like Hobsbawm, presenting his spirited and unpopular viewpoint there was a need for an added sense of subversive vibrancy, a sense of clash.

I’ve named the ideas, from top to bottom as Overlap, Graffiti, Stencil and Writing, and brief descriptions follow.


Clashing and overlapping type represents the ideas of PROTEST and AGAINST in the book title, and the way layers of graffiti overlap. Graffiti, because of it is a way of expressing the angry, subversive, anti-establishment. The type is an amended version of our Ano typeface. Like Constructivist typography, it is based on geometry, but is a very different and modern expression of this idea.

The red, gold and black colourway throughout takes reference from – of course – Communist flags, and Soviet typography. Gold also suggests the gilding of traditional bookbinding and that sense of craft and care. The gold separates Eric Hobsbawm text. This represents his status as a special and precious talent.


The angled, graphic, stencil type is a pure and typographic version of the randomness of graffiti and subversive spirit of stencil and spray-paint, or police DO NOT CROSS tape. The serif / circle / stencil typeface (I’m currently developing) is expressive and has something of the decorative nature of Cyrillic types.


Stencil type made from basic, geometric shapes adapted from our Ano typeface, filling the page to make a kind of pattern. Again, the type is abrasive, the word breaks are arbitrary, depending on where the line ends rather than any sense of grammar.


Typography uses Caustic – a graphic, stylised version of handwriting or calligraphy, so suggests something intimate, like a diary or record of a conversation. However, it is angular and pointy, so suggests an opinion that is discordant, that might not be  widely popular. The classic, centred layout looks serious. This is a serious book.