Celebrating the life of iconic book cover designer, Paul Bacon

Even if you’re not a bibliophile, you’re probably familiar with Paul Bacon’s work. Over the span of his prolific career, Bacon turned out more than 6,500 book covers – many of which remain iconic to this day.

Take a peek in any bookstore for Catch-22, Slaughterhouse-Five or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and you’ll see his work staring right back.


Photo: Hank O’Neal (via The New York Times)

Born in 1923, Bacon grew up in New Jersey and began his design career after serving in the Marine Corps for World War II taking up a job with Zamboni Associates illustrating household objects for advertisements.

While some would compare his expressionistic style to Saul Bass, the real influencer was his greatest passion – jazz. Through his membership in The Newark Hot Club and relationships with Alfred Lion and Frank Wolff, he began designing for small-circuit jazz magazines and became Blue Note Records’ first designer, crafting albums for artists as illustrious as Thelonious Monk and Fats Navarro.

But it wasn’t until Meyer Levin’s novel, Compulsion, that Bacon caught his biggest break. The book jacket’s stark, conceptual imagery and bold typography became rooted in his signature style, dubbed the “Big Book Look”, which soon took the publishing world by storm and continues to influence design today.

In honor of his recent passing, we’ve rounded up some of Paul Bacon’s greatest work. Take a look and let his iconic technique influence your next creative project.

compulsion by Paul Bacon
catch-22 by Paul Bacon
thelonius monk album art by Paul Bacon
coca-cola by Paul Bacon
sophie's choice by Paul Bacon
album art by Paul Bacon
album art by Paul Bacon
zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance by Paul Bacon
one flew over the cuckoo's nest by Paul Bacon
album art by Paul Bacon

Have another favorite from Paul Bacon? Share it in the comments!

The author

Kelsey Bryant
Kelsey Bryant

Kelsey is 99designs' Designer Marketing Manager. Born and raised in a small town in Connecticut, she moved to San Francisco in 2009 with a degree in Strategic Communications from Elon University. When she’s not working with the designer community, you can find her exploring the city, taking weekend road trips, and soaking up that California sunshine.

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