images.jpegThat’s the thrust of a great article in the Guardian’s Book Blog today. Sam Jordison takes a look at publisher Hard Case Crime – a house with a strong visual identity. He contrasts their branding with that of the majors:

One of the most persuasive theories I’ve heard about the survival of publishers in the digital era is that those that will flourish will be the ones with the most distinctive brands. To tempt people to return repeatedly to an iPhone or iPad application, splash out on a range of ebooks or best of all treat themselves to a printed book, publishers are going to have to create a sense of worth beyond simple words. Otherwise, they’ll simply be lost among all the other megabytes of digital slurry.

If this theory is right, most of today’s publishing houses should be worried. Brand creation is not something they do well any more. The music industry has rightly taken a lot of stick in the past decade, but at least labels like Def Jam, 4AD, Rough Trade and Naxos have instantly recognisable identities. If predictions about the death of the web search engine and the primacy of the branded application come true then quite a few music labels should be in a strong position, as long as they can bring the right technology. But publishers? Are enough of them truly distinctive? How many people can even recognise individual publishers’ logos, let alone a coherent visual identity to their products? Probably quite a few among the readers of this blog – but I’d be very curious to know how many people beyond this and similarly rarefied circles can recognise anything other than the waddling Penguin.


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