George Orwell series (book design)

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With the constant political tumult being at the forefront of public consciousness, I was inspired to revisit the works of George Orwell. His entire bibliography is openly available and in the public domain, so it was ripe to launch a project organizing his work into collections with reimagined design.

The first “volume” of these packages his two most famous books, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, with his most important nonfiction work, Homage to Catalonia—where Orwell writes of his experiences on the frontlines of the Spanish Civil War. His perception of events detailed in Homage was a crucial influence on the outlook from which he wrote his famous cautionary tales. Without that context his ideas have been somewhat sanitized—amenable to tepid liberalism or even anti-Communist conservatism. But Orwell was a committed lifelong democratic socialist, and his writing fits within a suppressed tradition of anti-authoritarian leftist thought.

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I aimed for a total departure from other recent editions of his books, which tend to feel austere and sterile. I wanted them to feel urgent, vital, and “in the thick.” The jackets carry the motif of photo collage with ripped strips of paper, as if literally ripped from the pages of Orwell’s experience. His words, represented by the titles, appear nested within in blown out typewriter font.

For Homage, they of course actually were. The cover intersperses pieces of propaganda posters for the republican-aligned side of the war with photos showing the real experience of the combatants—including Orwell himself, and the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unity (P.O.U.M.) he had joined. It presents a story of high ideals and messy realities, and the dissonance between.

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Nineteen Eighty-Four projects the motif forward to the imagined reality of living under the most extreme totalitarian regime—bleak and claustrophobic. It also shows bits from the story: Winston’s automatic writing “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER”, the oppressive gaze of Big Brother, the run-down proles’ flats, and (on the back) endless cubicles of the Outer Party.

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Animal Farm uses photos combining represented elements from the story—the workhorse Boxer, the windmill whose construction is the farm’s communal project—with slivers of early Soviet Russia, from the October Revolution to Stalin’s ascendence. It takes you into and out of the fairy tale with bookends of reality.

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