Fast Co. Design
Aug, 2011

In-house designer Cardon Webb creates six covers that fit together to form a cutaway view of the human head.

New Covers Breathe New Life Into Classics By Oliver Sacks

A lousy or insipid cover won’t turn me off from reading a good book, but a great wrapper heightens my appreciation of the book as an object. And a superb jacket — one that brilliantly conveys what the book is about in a single compelling image — can be enough to tempt me to buy an additional copy for display. Such is the case with a new series of covers for six Oliver Sacks titles from Vintage Books. Each cover deftly conveys in graphic shorthand the neurological abnormality Sacks describes; arranged together, the jackets form a powerful tableau of a cutaway view of a human head.

The covers are the work of Cardon Philip Webb, an in-house book cover designer. And, shudder to think, they almost didn’t see the light of day. Despite being well received by Vintage designers and editors when Webb presented them last year, the covers were mothballed. A year later, Webb got word from Vintage’s art director, John Gall, that his designs were back on the table. “This design direction (my third) was always based around the idea of a tableau,” the designer says. “Though in the beginning it looked quite different — with more of a 19th-century medical-illustration feel. It quickly transformed into a more contemporary style as much of my work does.”

Check out the slideshow of all the covers, which, like all successful graphic art, speak for themselves. They’re available now on Amazon for $10 each.

Words by Belinda Lanks