Project: House style, for Hawthorne Books

Hawthorne Books
House style

An identity and house style for an independent literary publisher

We’ve had the honor of serving Hawthorne Books since before the northwest literary house had a business license. There’s not a lot of money in independent publishing: we’ve had to be designer, typographer, photographer, illustrator, web developer, courier and general-purpose doula for dozens of projects, including thirty-plus books and their covers, a full-commerce Web site, and uncountable pieces of marketing-related ephemera.



Early studies for the device portrayed the tree’s sharp, narrow thorns as a loose metaphor for independence; ultimately, we chose to imply the tree by showing only a clump of its berries: the produce of the tree, as books are the produce of the press. At right, we used the hawthorne leaf in a device for the press’ Rediscovery imprint, which brings well-respected older works back into print.



Working papers

The first items we developed for Hawthorne helped to set the brand language, which is sophisticated, bookish, and not a little Anglophilic. We like to say that Hawthorne’s brand is the English language, carefully presented: even in arenas such as the Web, where control of presentation is limited, we do as much as we can to present well-crafted language in well-crafted but unsentimental type.



Cover rationale

Brand is more than a logo, a color, or typeface: it is consistency of approach. Even though the illustrations and compositions of every book in Hawthorne’s catalogue are different, you can get a sense of family, of unity of intent behind them, because they all subscribe to the same set simple rules: in this case, two overlapping squares, and rational divisions thereof.




The rational above, played out over 24 titles. Although all of the books and their titles are necessarily different, this unified approach gives them the feel of a family. A full – and growing – revue of covers can be found here.



Text rationale

Here, you can see the diagram from the cover rationale augmented by two vertical rules, which forms the basis for the typography inside the books (which we’ll examine in greater detail elsewhere): again, the goal is a consistent, thought-out approach from cover to cover. The text is John Downer’s Paperback – a sturdy Scotch Roman derived from the faces used to set potboilers in the mid-20th century – set ragged right, to provide consistent wordspacing.



Text rationale, cont.

Pages from Toby Olson’s Seaview, showing attention paid to liminal / transitional pages. Hawthorne publishes original paperbacks, but there is no reason – besides laziness and/or parsimony – for a paperback to be lesser than a casebound book. Both writer and reader have a right to orderly Library of Congress listing, a dedicated dedication page, and a sense of thoughtfulness as the reader is led through the text.



Catalogue system

The independent book trade has benefited greatly from the Web, but a printed catalog is still a necessity for distribution. It’s also a burden, because you have to keep it refreshed each season. We developed a simple container stocked with postcards representing each of its books (printed at the same time as its book covers), providing a lively, timely, full-color representation of its catalog; the inserts can also be sent individually, providing the press with an inexpensive direct-mail tool.