Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Who’s the designer? I think we should be told

Oxford University Press’s in-house newsletter, Recorder, gave over most of page 2 in its latest issue (charmingly dated ‘Hilary 2008’) to an article about the cover design of its successful Bookworms series. This is a series of popular literature re-written with controlled vocabularies and grammar for the English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL) market. Clearly they are successful, as there are 218 titles in the series, and the series and its associated marketing have been awarded a British Council innovation award.

‘In short,’ the article says, ‘these attractive covers are an appeal to all learners to pick up a Bookworm and: [sic] ‘Read your way to better English!” ’ A footnote explains that the series relaunch involved the design of 236 new covers. (In case you’re wondering, that’s because there are 18 teacher’s books.)

So who is responsible for all this design effort? The article is strangely silent about who the designers are, yet the effort must have involved hundreds of hours of briefing, picture research, commissioning, artworking, quality control … Is British reticence about claiming kudos still alive in Oxford? Is this part of the tradition of ascribing such things, when carried out by in-house designers, to the anonymous hands of ‘publisher’s staff’? Perhaps the designers will let us know – and if I find out, I’ll certainly tell you!

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