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The Lyrics, Paul McCartney editorial design

Spanning more than 900 pages, The Lyrics sees McCartney trace the origins of 154 of his most meaningful songs. Published by Liveright Books/W W Norton & Company, it is a Winner in Editorial Design

Imagining the lyrics of Paul McCartney in book form would be a dream job for any musically minded ­designer, and the team at W W Norton & Company’s Liveright Books imprint certainly haven’t disappointed with their designs for the former Beatle’s lavish two-volume publication.

Spanning more than 900 pages, The Lyrics sees McCartney trace the origins of 154 of his most meaningful songs. The book came about through conversations with Irish poet Paul Muldoon – 50 hours of them over the course of five years – and is supplemented by memorabilia from the million-plus items in the musician’s archive, including photos, posters, paintings, jottings and letters.

The design team’s brief was to create slipcases, book jackets, book boards and full interior spreads for two separate print editions: a widely available standard edition and a premium limited edition. “The interiors would be the same, but the exterior designs needed to stand out from each ­other with two uniquely powerful designs. The standard edition aimed to separate itself in the marketplace, while the limited edition needed to feel like an unparalleled publication with museum quality attention to detail,” the designers tell CR.

“The idea for the design was to create a confident, elegant, yet lively package that both honoured the traditional aesthetic of the books that inspired Paul McCartney, and the bold nature of his monumental influence in our culture,” they add.

For the standard edition they packaged the book using an unconventional green cloth and notably kept McCartney’s image absent from the front cover, with the aim of elevating the book above the obvious commercial appeal of biographies.

The book jackets use images of him from all eras of his life, with his own handwriting overlaid, while the boards are designed to reveal the rawness and purity of McCartney’s songwriting. “We wanted the experience of looking at this package to feel like you were getting deeper into Paul’s mind as you peeled off the layers from the minimal and clean exterior to maximal and authentic boards,” say the designers.

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“For the limited edition, we designed a package that was bolder than the standard edition and featured elements of production that were surprising and rich,” they continue. “We wanted the reader to feel like they saw a more intimate portrait of Paul with this packaging.”

The typography for the special edition was silkscreened onto the case and McCartney’s handwriting was blind de-bossed onto the clamshell case. Upon opening it, the reader is greeted with a personal photo of the musician in a field of poppies with his daughter, Heather. Included is an archival print of his lyric sheets and photos from his teenage years, and the books themselves are wrapped in orange cloth. As a finishing touch, the serif typeface Rigby was custom designed for use in this book only.

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Publisher: Liveright Books/W W Norton & Company
Exterior Art Director: Steve Attardo
Interior Art Director: Anna Oler
Design: Triboro