Analysis of Moby Dick

Visual Language

To clarify: the analysis in question has nothing to do with the content of the book (which I have not remotely read), but the design of the book cover:


First, I created a grid:


The separation of the horizontal sections is more apparent to me than the verticals. Horizontally, there are three or four prominent sections–the title, the author and illustrator, and the image of the eponymous whale. The title and the image take up almost the same amount of space on the cover. Though the vertical subdivisions are more open to interpretation, the gridlines show that bulk of the whale runs through the center.

The next thing I created was the palette:


I am drawn to a simple palette. I like that the image is not a stark black, white, and blue, but a sandy beige, a charcoal black, and a muted blue. It gives the cover a hand-made feel. It appears more like a primary source document than a cheap copy.

The pop of blue is my favorite part of the image. It shows the movement of the water, which is wrapped like tendrils around the head of the whale. The inclusion of blue brings the image to life. I decided to color the blue black, just to see how that would change my overall impression of the image:


Unsurprisingly, I find the design much less effective. The water reminds me of a poorly placed wig. I think that were the artist constrained to black and white, he would have had to reconceptualize the image.

The next thing I looked at was the typography. I recalled what my professor, Katherine Dillon, said about the virtues of consistency. She mentioned that a common design mistake is the inclusion of too many fonts. In this cover, the font of the title and the font of the author/illustrator are very similar. As you can see, some letters (like the “d” and “c”) are almost identical in appearance, but a few others (like the “m” and “b”) have noticeable differences. Overall, I don’t think the designer got carried away with variances in font. The typography has a nice consistency:

!!!!!!!!!!!!!moby-dick-typo-same              moby-dick-typo-diff

The main typographical flourish is on the “b” and the “k”. I really like this detail. The curlicues seem almost thematic. They remind me of little fishes, and of rope being tied around a mast:

!!!!!!!!!!!!!moby-dick-fishies               moby-dick-rope

As a final note, I’m proud of my first foray into photoshop!


PS. (phoray???)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *