Faber and Faber

Poetry meets Publisher meets Designer

Four Faber and Faber Books as Canvases

The Challenge

To work with Faber and Faber Limited to explore the Faber & Faber archives, back catalogue and nature of its business as a publisher to create designs which could both exist as designs for retail but also complement the Faber brand and books taking it into new areas of business.

It was clear from the outset working with Rights Director Jason Cooper that the published back catalogue, the designs, and relationship with authors or their estates created a complicated scenario for any design development. This presented the bulk of the challenge, working through the wealth of back catalogue and archives establishing where the rights resided for cover designs (illustrated or otherwise). In addition to in-house design and illustration Faber also had established relationships with outside design agencies like Pentagram whose Justus Oehler created designs for Poetry series paperbacks.

About Faber: Faber and Faber, often abbreviated to Faber, is an independent publishing house in the UK. Its former editor was T. S. Eliot. Faber published William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, which had previously been rejected and ignored by many publishers. The company was named Publisher of the Year in 2006. 

Project Overview & Solutions

If a man loves the labour of his trade, apart from any question of success or fame, the gods have called him - Robert Louis Stevenson

Three main areas of potential were explored:

  • Cover archive
  • The Poetry Series
  • Editiorial Archive

Cover Archive

  • Select covers were taken from ‘classic’ designs in the Cover archive for use in Print-on-demand. These were produced to order. The most popular covers were: Sylvia Plath’s Ariel (both the original and the Bridget Riley inspired Op-art edition).
  • The large beanbag – Softbacks™ – prototypes featuring The Waste Land and others were shown at the Hay Festival and 100% Design but were not put into production.
  • In addition original covers were explored for tea-towels. These were prototyped but not put into production. In some cases the irony of the titles escaped retail buyers’ attention. See An Unsuitable Job for a Woman – P. D. James

The Poetry Series
The Poetry Series (originally by Justus Oehler of Pentagram) was adapted and ‘translated’ into:

  • Porcelain mugs (including a colourful strip motif according to Pentagram). These were produced in technical partnership with the brilliant ceramic designers Mark and Gillian at Repeat Repeat.
  • Deckchair designs (using combined spines) – prototypes only
  • Bookbags – using the original cover spines, the Poetry Series, and the Archive Box file alphabet
  • Pack of playing cards (featuring 52 covers and Poets). Ivan Allen was commissioned to create the idiosyncratic jokers dropping Faber cards all over the globe.

The Editorial Archive
The Editorial archive is essentially an alphabetically labelled box files of author correspondence tied with string (see below). Every box file was photographed by Tony Davis and select letters used to create an initial visual alphabet. The letters X and Q were missing. No poets with surnames beginning with those. Plans for this included: notebooks, and an online word-compiler made using the alphabet. This was planned to be used for both poems and prints on demand. There is still potential for this element of the project now Internet technology has evolved. It is an evocative reminder of the processes connected words, editorial effort and the end results of publishing.

Website: N/A
Availability: None of the designs are in production now. Originally sold in various retailers including: Conran Shop London, Conran Shop Paris, British Library, Bertrams, Blackwells, Uppsala Bookshop (Sweden), Arvon Foundation, Camden Lock Books, Borders (UK), The Literary Gift Company, Heffers (Cambridge), Waterstones (select), Bijlevelt Boekhandel (NL), Papercut (Sweden).

Contact us if you’d like to see any of the designs put back into production or have any comments about the work.

The Designs

The artist in me cries out for design - Robert Frost

Press & PR

Be careful - with quotations, you can damn anything. - André Malraux

Vessels of verse


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All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better - Ralph Waldo Emerson