Japanese Book Cover Designs that Broke the Mould

Photo by So Hashizume from Paper and Dummy Books exhibition at TAKEO MIHONCHO HONTEN, 2011

Japanese Book Cover Designs that Broke the Mould

Though you may be inclined to follow the famous adage of “Never judge a book by its cover,” for many centuries true bibliophiles and collectors have happily ignored these words, putting great value on publications with unique designs and special editions. Inevitably, what you see on the cover may be a decisive factor in choosing a book.

In Japan too, the importance of eye-catching designs that push the boundaries of the publishing world and defy pre-set standards is tangible. Prevailing market demands encourage continuing developments in graphic design as well as typography with certain designs standing as artistic milestones that have influenced new generations of designers up to present day. Certainly, some book cover designs are not merely an accessory to the content but stand alone as artistic endeavours.

In time for the Cheltenham Literature Festival, we have invited former editor-in-chief of the renowned Japanese design magazine IDEA, MUROGA Kiyonori, to trace the history of Japanese book cover design since the post-war period. As a writer and curator of graphic design and typography, MUROGA will select a handful of models and discuss why he thinks these symbolised new approaches in the field, considering points from both an aesthetic and technical view.


About the speaker

MUROGA Kiyonori was born in 1975, Niigata, Japan. Former editor-in-chief of IDEA magazine. He has been editing books on graphic design, typography, and visual culture since 1999. His recent editorial works include Sakuji Hyakkei and Pixel Hyakkei (Graphic-sha, 2019). He is also an international critic, educator, and lecturer on graphic design. He has contributed texts to various publications and periodicals including JAGDA’s Graphic Design in Japan 2013 (Rikuyosha, 2013), Japan—Nippon: Poster Collection 26 (Lars Müller Publishers, 2014), Nihon bijutsu zenshu (Shogakukan, 2016), ggg books 124: Yoshihisa Shirai (DNP, 2017), Encyclopedia of East Asian Design (Sydney, Bloomsbury, forthcoming). He co-curated “The Study Room” of the 27th Brno Biennial (2016) and “Fragments of Graphism” (Creation Gallery G8, 2018).

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