Considering the usual requests made of a book designer, one of the most daunting challenges must be when you’re asked to design for a wildly popular, ongoing 10-book mystery series that has been translated into multiple languages. And yet Peter Mendelsund has done just that: an exceptional job for Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole detective crime series.
Having read these books for years, Mendelsund’s work for Knopf does a much better job of expressing the rough-and-tumble nature of Harry’s tightrope walk between his no-holds-barred drive toward stopping serial killers and his addictive, alcoholic tendencies—at least, compared to the bland, everyday covers for Nesbø books I’ve seen in overseas airport bookstores. For a popular series like this, I couldn’t imagine a better treatment. See this New Yorker article from a few years back, where the art direction was first established, but hadn’t cascaded across the majority of the series.
Check out Mendelsund’s other covers on his blog Jacket Mechanical, and look out for Cover, the forthcoming monograph on his design work over the past 11 years.