Recently, I’ve been given a lot of reading material surrounding the issue of ministerial calling. Something that struck me was the fact that there were two books which shared some similar content– The Ministry by Charles J. Brown (Banner of Truth) and Am I Called? by Dave Harvey (Crossway).
As soon as Am I Called? landed on my doormat, I looked at the front cover: an image of a 1960s telephone– jet black, interposed with a stylised question mark, and the typeface, I’d say it was a lovely bit of Clarendon Bold. It screamed Crossway, and I guessed right.
This has been a gripe of mine for a while. Crossway have up to date book-covers, great. Banner had — note had — great book covers. I think that their design brilliance is epitomised in the Lloyd-Jones Romans series: block colours, white space, ecclesial images. The set looks great lined up together, and each book has a stand-alone aesthetic value. But recently they’ve attempted to update their covers. Take Charles J. Brown’s book for example, it has been pasted with a faux-leather binding image, and the font is kitsch. Look at John Murray’s classic Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, this is a book which has an iconic front cover: BLACK-GOLD-RED, with the word ‘Redemption’ in grotesk white capital-lettering. Sadly the iconicity has been lost in the current edition, it’s been made into a quasi-Crossway cover. Stock image of a chain, sans-serif font.
The most important thing is that the books are read, I know that. But something in me thinks that firstly, Banner should stick to the strength that is in their original graphics, and keep reproducing those ones — and new ones in that style — because they look great. Secondly, I would have thought that the hip graphix would not attract younger readers, but the theological content will. Crossway do need to spend thousands of dollars on covers, because readers have only that — the book covers — as recommendation, I’m sure their reputation will grow over the decades. Banner have centuries of experience so that when you buy a Banner book, you buy it for the book, not for the cover. That said, it should not go unnoticed that the Banner covers from the 70s are really rather toothsome, and would — IMHO — attract younger readers. So it’s win win.