Reginald James Kent- Curated Materials

Reginald James Kent


Book covers are a marketing tool, from the advent of the paperback, publishers have realised that an attractive cover can set a book apart from it competition. However good book covers also encapsulate the ideas of a book in visuals. Presented are two covers, a mid 20th century novel 1984 by George orwell[1],and a more contemporary YA novel, Uglies by Scott Westerfeild[2] . I feel both expound on the idea of industrial normalisation and conformity.


Both images are graphics, compounded. Orwell’s uses very little text on the image, relying on symbols and metonyms to project its point across. The Simon Pulse covers uses symbols too, however these are a little more modern, and perhaps have less strength indexical impact. It is my suspicion that this is why the designer felt a by line was required to give it context.

Historical + Cultural + Personal

1984 was written in response to the growth of Stalinism in the east. The idea of surveillance is rampant in the book where many can be imprisoned for “thought crimes” or even thinking of anything that could imply individuality. The eye of big brother, the personification of the totalitarian government watches all. This cover is designed not unlike socialist realist art of the era in the Soviet Union. Art was not for enjoyment. Art was utilitarian. The bold reds catch your eye, but the poster like cover reminds you of your civic duty… you are being watched. The eye is lined with newsprint, showcasing the media as an agent for control. How does this relate to self-image? In this modern age marketing bombards us constantly. How literate are we in receiving marketing media, do we have our own style or do we simply adopt the projections of “beauty” in the fashion industry. Could this obsession with materialism be as bad as being in the throngs of a totalitarian government? Thus we transition to the next image.

Uglies is a piece of science fiction where everyone in that society must undergo cosmetic surgery. The main plot of the book follows a heroine who denies this necessity. The industrial beautification can be seen in the cover. There is a dehumanizing by using dismembered dolls, suggesting that the characters in the book lose some part of their humanity subscribing to this society. Yet at the same time there is a personification of the plastic doll parts, this creates a very interesting conflict. The dolls are placed in a surgical instrument for the surgeon (perhaps the personification of the state) to use. Another nice touch was the dotted lines so common in plastic surgery, they give a sense of continuation to important parts of the cover. While there are no humans in the image you get the sense that something is very wrong in this clean surgical world.

[1] Penguin UK, 2008, design by Shepard Fairey

[2] Simon Pulse

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