Author Archives: acevolkov

The fantastic world of Russian book covers

We’ve been digitizing a bunch of books in Russian recently, and we’ve been enjoying some of the distinct graphical design choices made by Russian publishers. A lot of information about a culture can be extracted through their advertising.

One of the stand out features of the late 80s and early 90s designs is bold and oversized typography :

  1. https://archive.org/details/spesnepozhizni0000utes
  2. https://archive.org/details/blatnaiapesniasb0000unse
  3. https://archive.org/details/russica81literat0000unse
  4. https://archive.org/details/elementsofrussia0000orns
  5. https://archive.org/details/nebolshaiasovets0000levi

Conveying the book’s meaning is hard on it’s own with the use of lettering exclusively it can become nearly impossible so often we see interwoven letters used as eye catching designs.

Several Publications like Молодая гвардия, which has been around for over 80 years, serialize their designs to fit in and present a uniform layout with bold alternating colors, black heavy font centered at the top of the cover and a set of 3 illustrations/images, the author’s name in knockout (white text on black background) and decorative cursive font.

  1. https://archive.org/details/blavatskaia0000senk
  2. https://archive.org/details/lomonosov0000shub
  3. https://archive.org/details/kleopatrailinepo0000frai

These incredible detective novella series published by a much younger publisher, Эксмо, was established in the 90’s but carved out a unique niche and immense popularity due to the eye catching hand drawn collages with a lot of items to draw the eye and with fonts like a serial killer’s note made out of dozens of fonts. These covers range from funny to surreal.

  1. https://archive.org/details/isbn_9785699053049
  2. https://archive.org/details/snegurkabystroiz0000logu
  3. https://archive.org/details/stilistdlyasnezh00dont
  4. https://archive.org/details/koncertdljakolob00mrsd

As far as trends go, a whole drinking game could be devised from spotting a greyscale photograph of someone’s face on a cover that has a colored background. In fact the whole bust/head only presentation is so common we’re beginning to suspect having a full figure on a cover is illegal…  

  1. https://archive.org/details/ulitsageneralovp0000glad
  2. https://archive.org/details/mikhailgorbachev0000burl
  3. https://archive.org/details/unset0000unse_f2b1
  4. https://archive.org/details/pokersakuloyroma00dont
  5. https://archive.org/details/volchiipasport00yevt

Lastly Russians are not also not strangers to caricatures.

  1. https://archive.org/details/prakticheskoeruk0000tate
  2. https://archive.org/details/dovlatov0000unse

In the end it is really fun to browse through decades of russian literature even if some of the design choices are questionable. Assuming you’re interested in judging these books by something other than the cover, enjoy the Internet Archive’s 39,000 books in Russian for entertainment, research, or building your language skills.