The ’70s are back—at least in book design. The vaguely disco, “All In the Family”–style curlicue is attaching itself to titles everywhere. Most notably, Lena Dunham’s upcoming essay collection Not That Kind of Girl.
Chip Kidd, who designs book covers for Alfred A. Knopf, told me that the book appears to him to be “from around 1972.” It’s not a compliment. “For me it’s sort of like everything that I react against when I'm designing a book cover,” Kidd said. “I just don't understand why they would go with this route.” He added that, for a book like Dunham’s, he would think, “you would want to send the message that it's fresh, uncharted territory, and I just don't get that from this.”
Dunham’s book is not alone, though. Lizzie Skurnick’s eponymous imprint has revived the curvy, weighty typeface for the covers for a number of new releases. The designer responsible for Skurnick’s covers, Eric Gordon, wrote in an email that the aim of the covers is “to evoke the past without really being specific.”
Skurnick considers her readers to be “women who grew up on these books in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, and now are forced to buy them on eBay.” Such thinking might make sense across the board. According to Bowker Market Research’s 2013 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics & Buying Behaviors Annual Review, women buy about 65 percent of all books in America, and the average age of print book buyers is 42, which means the average American book buyer was a kid in the '70s or '80s. Whatever the vintage of their books, then, perhaps publishers are beginning to recognize that nostalgia can be just as powerful as novelty.