Books: George Orwell


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With George Orwell’s writing seeing some renewed interest, and his entire bibliography available online, I was inspired to launch a book redesign project for several of his major works. I began with his two most famous books, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, and his most important nonfiction work, Homage to Catalonia.

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.

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.

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 ascendance, book-ending the fairy tale with reality.