Die-cuts and Deckles and Type, Oh My!

Jodi Chromey

Staff Writer

Jodi Chromey is a freakishly tall writer who edits MN Reads and has been blogging at I Will Dare since 2000. Follow her on Twitter: @jodiwilldare

One of the reasons I love The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd is the insane cleverness of the hardcover version’s design. The edges of the pages read “good is dead” if you fan the edges out a little. If you fan them the other way the pages read “do you see?”

The copyright information is spread across multiple pages in a single line, and the acknowledgements are spelled out in tiny white type around the book’s edges. It’s a fabulous design, which is expected from a book about design school written by someone who is probably the most famous book designer ever.

Now, I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. I learned that lesson from Ms. Heck, my elementary school librarian, but sometimes I can’t resist.

I’m a sucker for a die-cut cover. I love them. This, of course, started with the V.C. Andrews books I read as a kid. I remember staring longingly at the books while standing in line at the grocery store with my mom. In fact, I don’t think I ever read an Andrews book that wasn’t purchased at a grocery store.

Was there anything more sinister than those covers? Oh, there’s a pretty blonde girl looking out a window, then you pop open the cover and BAM! creepy, sinister grandmother lurking in the background. So wonderful.

I have carried this affection up from childhood and will always pause to investigate a die-cut book. I did this yesterday when The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker landed on my doorstep. It has a delightful die-cut and deckled edges!

Sure, deckle edges are an old-timey affectation, but knowing that doesn’t make me appreciate them any less. Hell, I love old-timey affectations. It’s why I’m incapable of not buying books that feature cassette tapes on the covers.

And since I’m nattering on aimlessly about those non-writing aspects of books I do so adore, I must include a note about “notes about the type.” I have to admit I like reading “about the type” more than “about the author,” mostly because I don’t care about which MFA program an author completed or that they live in Brooklyn. In fact, those kinds of things really influence my perception of a book so I try to skip it until I’m done (same goes for blurbs, I read who blurbed but not what they said).

The Age of Miracles (which obviously inspired this) has a great About the Type which includes this line, “He described the face as having ‘something of that simple, hardworking, feet-on-the-ground quality’.” That’s some kind of awesome, says the woman who watches the Behind the Typeface: Cooper Black at least once a year.

Now, I’m not quite ridiculous enough to let these design choices influence my opinion on the story contained within the design, however they greatly influence my appreciation of the book as an object.