El Blog del museo Picasso de Barcelona

Love at First Sight: how we select the catalogue’s cover

Imagine you’re browsing among the art catalogues in a bookshop, without looking for anything in particular. The first thing that strikes you about all of the books there — from a distance, even before you can read the titles — is the colourful covers. Reproductions of famous paintings, intriguing details, familiar styles, indecipherable typefaces… you stroll over to a table next to the shelves and pick up a catalogue. Could you say just what it was that attracted you to it? What made you go for this one rather than some other? If the cover had been different, would have you have looked inside it anyway? And when you did open it, was the interest that the cover aroused in you confirmed by the contents, or were you disappointed?

We tend to think that in the case of an art catalogue, like any other book, the cover is the bait dangled in front of the reader, the siren song we hope will entrance you. Choosing one design over another is not simply a matter of taste. The decision is made according to what we want to say to you, what part of the content we want to focus on, what we believe will attract your attention.

cover cover cover

1 Cover of the exhibition catalogue Forgetting Velázquez. Las Meninas.
2 & 3 Other proposed graphic designs. Jason Ellams

Too classical? Too cryptic? Elegant? Daring? Obvious? Will it be interpreted correctly? Des it tie in with the Museum’s line? Is it going to look dated in a year or two? We ask ourselves these and many other questions in the process of choosing the cover of the new catalogue we are working on.

Cover catalogue Secret Images Cover Secret Images Cover Secret Images

1 Cover of the exhibition catalogue Secret Images. 2 & 3 Other proposed graphic designs. Nino Cabero

In some cases the selection process can take weeks. On other occasions there is unanimous agreement at the first meeting. We often ask the designers who work with us to put forward a range of options, not to feel confined to putting into visual form an idea that we have given them, and to risk offering us even conflicting alternatives. They have been working on the project for months, so nobody understands better than they do the expressive potential of a particular image or the power of a certain typography. Luckily, we can rely on their patience and professionalism when the choice proves difficult.

But the cover is not just image or typography: it’s something we touch, it’s a fundamental part of the physical body of the book, binding it, defining it, supporting it. The choice of format and materials, whether it’s a paperback or hardback, whether or not it has a jacket… whether to put the title on the spine, and if so, how… whether or not to commission a text for the back cover… All of these things have their own particular significance, each one means something and is sure to generate a lot of very different responses among the visitors to our exhibitions who buy our catalogues.

Marta Jové
Publications

Do you think we made a good choice? Which cover would you have chosen?

12 Comments
  • George
    February 16, 2010

    For the Meninas cover I’d also have chosen the first one: the figure leaving (or entering?)the room, peering from the curtain, barely insinuated has always intrigued me.

  • George
    February 16, 2010

    For the Meninas cover I’d also have chosen the first one: the figure leaving (or entering?)the room, peering from the curtain, barely insinuated has always intrigued me.

  • Jaume Maymó
    February 15, 2010

    benvolguda MARTA, si parlem de les cobertes dels catàlegs i, en concret, de l\’amor a primera vista, tinc una \”mala\” experiència amb el Museu Picasso! l\’any passat vaig anar expressament un dia a la llibreria del museu per comprar un catàleg per regalar a un amic, el Quique de Buitrago. quina va ser la sorpresa? quan per vacances, vam obrir el paquet, el catàleg intitulat \”PICASSO. TOROS Y TOREROS\”, com així està escrit a la coberta i al llom, és en versió catalana i no en castellà com havia sigut la meva intenció. sense obrir el llibre, no hi ha cap referència que digui res de la llengua (!?).
    anècdotes apart, em semblen molt bé els teus comentaris i el fet d\’obrir o encetar aquest diàleg públic sobre la importància del disseny de les cobertes dels catàlegs. la 3ª proposta gràfica em sembla més un anunci de revista (hi ha molta informació), la 2ª la trobo potser massa \”abstracta\” i, segurament, també escolliria la 1ª, que centra l\’atenció i és força suggerent al contraposar la il·lustració japonesa al nom del pintor. expressions.

  • montse huguet valle
    February 15, 2010

    Marta Jové¡¡¡¡¡Hola…¡ m´h agradat motl el que has escrit. La portada que més m´ha agradat és la del mig, la de la cara. la de la meninas¡¡
    un petonàs

  • Mònica
    February 16, 2010

    El catàleg d’Imatges Secretes… un catàleg preciós. M’ha agradat aquest article d’amor a primera vista

  • Sergio Cortés
    February 16, 2010

    Un artículo super interesante!! me ha gustado mucho!! curioso!!

  • Pepa Novell
    February 16, 2010

    Hola Martona!!!
    M’encanta haver de llegir coses que no tenen res a veure amb el que jo faig, aixi em prenc un “break”.
    Del cataleg “Oblidant Velazquez” definitivament el numero 1, sense cap mena de dubte. Del cataleg “Imatges secretes” el numero 3. Pero es clar, aquesta es la meva opinio, molt i molt personal!!! Perdo per no posar cap accent, els teclats americans em tenen consumida!!!
    Molts petonets californians!!!

  • Pere
    February 16, 2010

    Quina sort que tenen els catàlegs del Museu Picasso: se’n cuida algú que estima i sap estimar els llibres!

  • Marta Jové
    February 17, 2010

    Moltes gràcies a tots pels vostres comentaris. És molt interessant veure quins han estat els vostres “amors a primera vista”.
    Pere, és fàcil estimar els llibres en un lloc com el Museu.
    Jaume, sovint és difícil integrar a les cobertes una menció a la llengua sense “espatllar” el disseny. En general ens decantem per enganxar una pegatina en el retractilat, però intentarem tenir més present aquest problema que et va afectar a tu.
    Espero que seguiu de prop els nostres propers catàlegs i ens feu arribar les vostres impressions.

  • Sonia NavvabAkbar
    February 18, 2010

    Me he enamorat de la segona opcio per la portada de les imatges secretas!

    Cuatro trazos sobre un fondo blanco… busco cosas y puedo imaginarme muchas cosas. En definitiva estas lineas (curvas) hablan conmigo y yo me pregunto: como una imagen tan sencilla puede ser tan relajante e intrigante a la vez?
    Enhorabuena para el diseniador y la editora.

  • George
    February 16, 2010

    For the Meninas cover I’d also have chosen the first one: the figure leaving (or entering?)the room, peering from the curtain, barely insinuated has always intrigued me.

  • Anna Noëlle
    February 25, 2010

    M\’agrada molt el tema que heu tocat, perquè sempre hi ha una motivació conscient o inconscient quan toquem, agafem, comprem un llibre en una llibreria… A mi, personalment, m\’agrada més el del Picasso eròtic. Trobo que la coberta és molt suggerent…

  • Margarita Jové
    April 25, 2013

    A la millor germana del mon segueis sempre aixi petonets

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