Brand Everywhere: Lizzie Skurnick Books

This case study marks the fourth in our Brand Everywhere series in which we talk to designers who use consistent print and screen type to build a comprehensive identity.

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The first thing you read on the recently launched site for Lizzie Skurnick Books is this clear mission statement: “devoted to bringing back the very best in young adult literature, from the classics of the ’30s and ’40s to the thrillers and novels of the ’70s and ’80s.” With these historical periods as touchstones, default typography simply would not do for this brand. Knowing that a modern publisher couldn’t settle for system font replacements, Lizzie Skurnick’s designer Eric Gordon made a savvy choice in Harriet Display for both print and web.

Mid-century young adult paperbacks informed the typography of the LS Books covers.

Mid-century young adult paperbacks informed the typography of the LS Books covers.

Family showingOkay Type’s Jackson Cavanaugh designed Harriet as a contemporary reflection of the typefaces popular in mid-20th-century American and English design. Sparkling serifs with high stroke contrast (like the large display versions of Baskerville, Century, and Caslon) were commonly used on paperback covers throughout the era. Harriet nods to these styles but has its own personality, unburdened by any particular model. This was certainly in Gordon’s mind when he selected the typeface for the brand. Quoting from his interview on the LS Books blog:

“Lizzie Skurnick Books is reissuing novels from the past few decades, so it was important that the type acknowledge that history but also look fresh. Had we been designing for just, say, ’70s-era books, they might have had a very specific look, evocative of that period. Since the catalog spans multiple decades – each with their own distinctive design trends – the goal was to come up with a design structure that could feel appropriate for any of those time periods. Not quite retro, but retroish. The primary typeface we used (Harriet) really does a great job of being able to slip between eras, and the different color schemes and photo treatments can help push the covers to be more vintage-y or more contemporary.”

Print

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Harriet Display is used within a common layout for all Lizzie Skurnick book covers, building a strong identity that varies only in photography and color. Harriet Text, a sturdier variation designed for small sizes and longer passages, is used along with H&FJ’s Whitney for the synopses on the back covers.

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We asked Gordon to tell us more about how the covers define the Lizzie Skurnick brand.

“Because this series of books spans such a range of decades and design styles, we’re trying to evoke the past without really being specific. Lizzie’s photo archive of vintage young adult fiction covers informed many of the design decisions – such as type treatment and the slightly distressed cover stock – but the color schemes are more punchy and current. Some readers might have originally checked these books out from the library, so we’ve also incorporated elements like the colored spine texture and cover stamp as a little nod to that history. For the cover images, when we can, we’re trying to use photography from the authors themselves. On Lois Duncan’s Debutante Hill, for instance, that photo features the author herself and was taken by her father.

Web

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On the web, Harriet is paired with Freight Sans, a Garage Fonts release designed by Joshua Darden. Gordon tells us that this choice was another effort to keep the look relevant to today’s readers:

“We wanted to acknowledge the stories’ history but also use a typeface that looked fresh. Combining the more flowery Harriet with a modern sans like Freight really helped achieve that.”

Both the Harriet and Freight Sans families are served to the site by Webtype. Gordon put our 30 days of free testing to good use:

“Working with Webtype was seamless. The trial licenses really allowed us the flexibility to test out various weights and determine what worked best on screen.”

The effort paid off. From paperback cover to online catalog, Lizzie Skurnick Books presents a cohesive identity that pays homage to the literary history the imprint represents, and appeals to new, young readers while treating them like adults.

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