Cover design feature: John Gall [Part 1]

I’ve been meaning to feature my favorite covers and their designers for a while, so I might as well start with the ones I hold closest to my heart. Book covers mean a lot to me, no matter how shallow that sounds. I get out of my way to find the perfect edition to compliment my library, be it the next installment in the series or another piece in author’s bibliography. I love seeing matching spines, uniform in height and bound in stylistic harmony. At these times I would brush my fingers over them, step back in a moment of admiration, and feel truly at peace. The saying might reproach us for judging a book by its cover, but it says nothing of praising the artist’s hard work. And that is what I’ll try to do here.

Haruki Murakami library John Gall designI love these Vintage Haruki Murakami covers, and even more so when seeing them together. In fact I blame John Gall, their creator, for getting me into paperbacks. Some years back I stubbornly purchased only hardcover books, thinking they would be more sturdy in function and beautiful in form. I kept my neat little shelves stacked with the heavyweights and even went out of my way to search particular titles at Abebooks only to avoid “cheap-looking” paperbacks. Then I discovered Vintage Books’ translations of Haruki Murakami and their beauty enslaved me.

Even in his work outside of Murakami, Gall uses a lot of vintage illustrations, geometric patterns, and mixed media materials to create unique and catchy art. I loved reading his interview with Random House and learning a little more of the process behind the final product. At one point he explains that choosing vintage illustrations as main focus of the cover has really helped him set the right mood for Murakami’s work – nostalgic, classy, mysterious, out of this world. He also mentions that using modern imagery or photography would have ruined this illusion.

Something that might interest graphic designers looking into expanding into the world of publishing: apparently, according to Gall designing for a paperback is very different from creating a hardback. The paperbacks are typically released later and lack any marketing support that brand new publications enjoy, demanding the cover to be exceptionally catchy to attract the reader on its own. The designer also needs to keep in mind that extra elements might be added to later releases, like blurbs, bestseller lines, award mentions, etc., not to mention the importance of strategically placing it all on a much smaller surface without making it feel overcrowded. That is something a reader might never even think about.

After researching John Gall a little I found that he is actually behind a lot of my favorite designs, some of which I will feature in future posts.



  1. I’m exactly like that! I’ve even gone as far as buying two editions of the same book because I found one I liked better. Not my proudest moment, I have to admit. This Murakami’s are amazing! Shame, the only one I’ve seen here is the Norwegian Wood one (which I’ve got to get my hands on). I especially love the After the Quake one!

  2. Have you tried for books you might have a hard time locating? I got all my Murakami’s there. You can’t beat free shipping worldwide.

  3. These vintage covers perfectly fit the character of Murakami’s books. The cover design is important for me, when I choose to buy a book. If I have the choice of different editions, I would prefer the one with the cover I like most.

  4. I’m the same way. I actually blame these beauties for swaying me away from hardcovers and into a paperback territory.

  5. […] some Haruki Murakami book covers designed by the incredible John Gall. You can read that post over here. His graphic design skills never seize to amaze me. And being a devoted fan that I am, I also had […]

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