Our new Z Lit Classics series brings some of the most beloved classic pieces of literature into eye-catching, luxe paperback packages. We’re excited to give you a closer look into the process of designing these!
All of us can remember being forced to pick up Great Expectations in school and having to stare at these old, outdated covers. They look old, they smell old; if these books are timeless classics that have endured till now, why weren’t we excited to pick them up and read them? Why couldn’t they look as interesting to read as they actually were?
So when we were given the chance to create new editions of works of literary classics, we wanted to make something beautiful and elegant but also bright and new, exciting for readers who know and love these stories while at the same time appealing to young people who are first encountering these books.
Fittingly then, the biggest inspiration for this series was Gen Z. Every day the young people of this generation have inspired us in their daring and courage in fighting and finding one’s identity and role in the changing societal norms of the world. They’re fearless and smart. Plus, they’ve also got good taste.
The first three books of Z Lit Classics were consciously chosen as stories about women and written by women. Literature and many cultures can be male-dominated spaces, but Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, and Kate Chopin carved out spots for themselves with literary acumen and skill. Garnering both criticism and praise, their books importantly discuss female experiences in different moments in history and demonstrate the challenges women had.
Sense and Sensibility, 1811: Austen’s works have been tirelessly picked over and analyzed, and for good reason. Austen is a true master in depicting personas we encounter in our own lives, just with slightly exaggerated features. Many readers love the romance and comedy her novels combine while plot overlays to shroud the social commentary of the bearing that marriage status and wealth have over a woman’s place in Georgian society.
Little Women, 1869: There’s something so comforting about reading this book, and it may be just how sweet and innocent the characters are, or may be how relatable and realistic the girls are in their daily struggles and victories, but Little Women has warmed the hearts of many children and adults in the world for it. We can all find ourselves in one of the characters—responsible Meg, bookish Jo, quiet Beth, or fearless Amy; the March family shows that there was room for all types of awesome women.
The Awakening, 1899: It may not be surprising to know that Kate Chopin’s The Awakening published to immediate criticism and controversy, was censored for its “immoral” nature. With the rest of the Z Lit Classics, The Awakening shares the similar themes of marriage and moral and social expectations of women, but also confronts the role of wife and mother as the protagonist struggles to find her individual self.
Written by authors whose lives spanned different moments in history, the three books serve as a time capsule in capturing the essence of what it means to be a women in society. Austen, Alcott, and Chopin’s names are still instantly recognizable, and still to this day their works provoke and inspire other books, movies, art, and other forms of adaptations and responses to contribute to the discussion.
Naturally, the design of these books needed to represent the feminine strength and boldness that these writers and their protagonists embody. We wanted something beautiful, something unique, but also something that embodied the story we were telling of how the past informs our present and future. All of our inspirations led us to the beautiful fine art of photographer and artist Ellen Carey.
Learn more about Ellen Carey, and see more of her art, like the images above, here.
Our collaboration with her was sealed with the artist statement on these photographs:
The Struck by Light series is inspired by William Henry Fox Talbot’s photogram, in which an object is placed onto the surface of light-sensitive paper to use the sun for exposure, creating “sun pictures.” Carey’s photograms are made in a darkroom without a camera and in color, with black and white palettes and unconventional objects, such as push pins and glass marbles, to interrupt the light that strikes the paper. The result leaves a silhouetted image—the negatives, or shadows, as juxtaposition to the positives, or lights—evoking reflections on love and loss, life and death, old and new, and on the process of transformation with hope for the colorful future.
Our concept of the design hinged upon these themes of a colorful contrast paired with bold typography, creating the final product:
The gorgeous design of these books make them sit prettily on a shelf. And who doesn’t love gold or silver foil on a book? (And we can’t think of a better way to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Little Women! Find out more @LittleWomen150.)
Want to download a Z Lit Classics book club discussion guide? Click here to download.