Here are photographs of the logo and imprint on the title page and the back flap of the jacket of Martin Amis’ Inside Story: How to Write.

Title page

Back flap of jacket

Let’s set aside the logo problem right away. Knopf’s logo has always been the borzoi, shown nicely on the jacket flap. It was Blanche Knopf’s idea right at the outset. Who on earth thought that that silly stick dog on the title page was a good idea? It looks modern only to those traditionalists who think “modern = lousy”. Personally  I have nothing against the modern, but I do think lousy is just lousy.*

People out in the real world probably don’t realize that the designers of the inside of a book are almost always different from the designers of the jacket or cover. Many text designs are nowadays dealt with by a standard template design, which is just pulled off the shelf as a layout which’ll look OK for this or that book.

That sans serif type (which may be Computer Modern) is used throughout the book for the running heads which are set in nicely letterspaced caps. It’s also used for chapter titles and first level subheadings. Partly because it’s not the world’s most handsome sans serif typeface, I’m not entirely in love with the internal design. Of course the interior may well have been set in Britain where the book is published by Jonathan Cape, a division (like Knopf in America) of Penguin Random House.

On the title page, the company name and addresses are nicely letterspaced caps. For my money the rather clunky bold type used for the company name might have had even more letterspacing: both lines may actually have the same amount, with the heaviness of the bold type making it look a little less spaced. Not sure. But if so, you’d really want to add a little bit more spacing to make the lines look similar in color.

While the interior of books often gets rather short shrift, real money is usually spent on the jacket. It looks like Knopf’s jacket department hasn’t bought into stick dog — thank goodness. On the jacket we are told about the illustrations in the book in a line of nicely letterspaced Cap and small caps along with the (appropriate) old style numerals. (They are there on the title page too.) However, no sooner has that line been satisfactorily set, but Chip Kidd, or whoever was executing his directives, forgets to turn off the letterspacing. This results in the dumbness that the remaining copy, all in upper and lower case, comes out stupidly letterspaced too, which makes it harder to read. Also, notice however — a flaw in the design of the typeface used — how horribly heavy that Cap W looks in the first line shown. You might say that’s the way the font is, so what can the designer do about it? Answer: use a different, a better, typeface!

OK, nobody’s really going to be reading this stuff, and harder isn’t really all that much harder. So who cares? Well Knopf cares, or should: and they used to like to avoid solecisms like this.


* In 2011 Knopf ran a contest for a new version of the borzoi — the one used in Amis’ book was already in their stable, or should I say kennel. Their site shows a few of the versions they’ve used over the years.