*This is part 2 of my look at what makes middle-grade and young adult books so fascinating. The gears and wheels behind the scenes, so to speak, and the things that make you want to buy them. Kind of like being at a Book Fair? I don’t know. I’m trying.*

I like systems.

I guess this could come from my background in education, where everyday is a constant repeat of the days previous. We have Homeroom and Bellwork from 8-8:15, then from 8:15-8:30 we review the Bellwork together. Following that would be–No, I’m not really going to give a breakdown of a sample teaching schedule I used. But, you get the point. Systems help me keep stuff in place because as it turns the lines of work I’ve chosen (teaching and writing) tend to have a thousand things flying across your mind at a hundred miles a second, so knowing there’s something there to catch you should you slip, be it a back-up lesson plan or a writing prompt, can be a lifesaver.

This isn’t about writing prompts. It’s about covers.

Romek Marber was born in Poland in 1925. If you’re wondering who that is, he gave us one of the premiere formats of cover design of all time: The Marber Grid.

It breaks down like this: Marber was invited by art director Germano Facetti in 1961 to design two Penguin covers for the author Simeon Potter. While Penguin had a way of doing covers before, by 1962, Marber decided to switch it up and invented this little beauty:

Drawing of grid for Penguin Books paperback covers by Romek Marber in 1962

This grid was used on a series of Penguin crime books, showcasing how there’s a pattern, a rhythm, a flow to how the books need to be established. No matter the book, it could fit with this cover design. Typography sits between the two topmost lines while your eyes are drown to the intersecting points at the bottom. See? The intersections add like pathways, leading you to the mysterious image, like the ones below:

Penguin Books 1962 Crime with modernist graphic cover design and illustration by Romek Marber
image shows modernist graphic style of Penguin paperback covers in 1962
Penguin Books 1962 Crime with modernist graphic cover design and illustration by Romek Marber

This post, written by gregneville1, says that the first twenty titles proved this system of designing covers worked. You apply a formula, match it to the grid, and what do you have? A cover identity anyone can recognize anywhere. After all, the cover is the first thing most people see. Kids, especially, need to be drawn to a cover to get them interested in buying it or telling their parents to buy it.

Kind of makes you wonder…

Thanks for reading,

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