Emily Gibbons writes
Tony Faber, grandson of Geoffrey Faber who founded Faber & Faber, led this event on the 17th May. The event was a mixture of the history of Faber & Faber, looking back over its inception as Faber & Gwyer, survival through WWII, recruitment of T.S Eliot, and transition to the paperback format, all the while identifying how the cover designs formed this history. The lecture took us through many brilliant cover design artists such as Margaret Wolpe, who was trained in sculpture by Henry Moore, or even Damien Hirst who designed the cover for Happy Like Murderers.
One of the most interesting discussions in the lecture was about the unique Faber branding through cover designs. A major figure in the publisher’s design history was Berthold Wolpe, a Jewish refugee from Austria who joined Faber & Faber in 1941 and created the Albertus typeface. This typeface came to be used on a large number of Faber books and served as a recognisable way of branding the publisher without naming them. It was especially interesting to learn that this typeface now adorns the street name signs in Central London. When Pentagram took over after Wolpe’s loss in the mid-70s, Faber & Faber moved on to further distinctive branding methods, such as the ‘box’ design, with all the book’s information in a box on the cover, and then onto the ‘grid’ design . It was so interesting to have these distinctive designs which we all recognise identified and contextualised within Faber and Faber’s history.
One of the most interesting facts to learn was that authors have little say over their cover designs, as Faber & Faber have an Artistic Director who matches the artist and author together, and then the artist essentially has one shot to design the right cover. This resulted in situations where the artist hated the design, such as Lawrence Durrell and his book Justine, but also produced iconic designs that still impact Faber & Faber and any book-lover today, like Anthony Gross’ cover design for William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.