Paul Bacon is a legendary book cover designer, album designer and jazz musician. He got his start in advertising in the 1940s, a time when everything, even lettering, was done by hand. He has taught and influenced many of the biggest designers in the industry today. There are tumblrs dedicated to his work.
In publishing, Paul is known for developing the "Big Book Look" – commercial, bold and iconic – designing many well known covers from the 1960s through the early 2000s. It's estimated that he designed as many as 6500 covers, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Catch-22, Rosemary's Baby, Slaughterhouse-Five and Robin Cook's Coma.
Originally published by Little, Brown and Co. we just reissued Coma as a Mulholland Classics paperback. When the cover came up for discussion in a weekly jacket meeting, the decision was unanimous to keep the iconic artwork from 1977. Everyone agreed that the image of a man suspended by a myriad of thin wires evoked the story so concisely and still gave them chills.
Publishing being a very small world, it turned out that my previous creative director, Steve Snider, had commissioned the work back in the 70s. I called him up. He couldn't believe we were doing a reissue and hoping to use the art. But that's the thing with great covers – they stand the test of time.
Steve took a look through storage, and we checked our in-house archives. Unfortunately, we were unable to find the original painting. We were able to scan an early edition, and with a bit of retouching, go ahead with printing.
It was a lot of fun to see this well-known cover reincarnated for a new edition. We cleaned up the type a bit and did a fairly modern design for the back cover. Paul's image has been adapted many different ways over the years, and it was nice to see it return to its original composition. A stark white background, bold type and the uneasy sense that you must read this book.