Magnus Voll Mathiassen’s minimal covers for Gyldendal’s cities series

Oslo-based illustrator Magnus Voll Mathiassen has created some bold new covers for Norwegian publisher Gyldendal’s reissues of classic texts by Oscar Wilde, Truman Capote, Orhan Pamuk and Ian McEwan

Each year, Gyldendal releases four classic texts as pocket editions. The latest collection is based around the theme of metropolises and includes Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, set in London, Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (New York), Ian McEwan’s The Innocent (Berlin) and Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul.

Magnus Voll Mathiassen – known for his strong use of colour and celebrity portraits – has created a minimal series of covers which combine bold typography with graphic illustrations.

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Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (left) and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, published by Gyldendal. Design: Magnus Voll Mathiassen
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Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul (left) and Ian McEwan’s The Innocent

“Minimal design, illustration and colour is used to bind these four books together,” he explains. “The concept is based around art exhibition posters from the 50s and 60s, often strict looking, but with a few quirks and more sympathetic looking than what is usually made today with computers and perfect printing. A ‘remixed’ version of Helvetica was created and used slightly ‘sloppily’ and ‘wrong’ to give a feel of something organic.”

Each cover illustration provides a nod to the key themes in the text and the city in which it is set: the cover of Pamuk’s memoir, in which he reflects on life in Istanbul, the city’s rapid cultural change and tensions between the past and present, features an outline of the famous Blue Mosque behind a solid black mass, representing more modern Western architecture.

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Covers feature a ‘remixed’ version of Helvetica, says Matthiassen
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A close-up of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Each illustration features foil detailing

Artwork on the cover of McEwan’s text represents the Berlin Wall, while an illustration for Dorian Grey depicts London landmark Big Ben alongside a pair of eyes, designed to look both “beautiful and appalling”. The cover for Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s provides a nod to central character Holly Golightly and the book’s New York setting with an image of a curvy skyscraper surrounded by eyes.

Covers are equally eye-catching on their own and lined up on a shelf as a set, with contrasting colours and different text size and spacing on each spine.

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Back covers are equally minimal, with solid black shapes referencing front cover illustrations

Each book costs 149 NOK (Norwegian krone) and you can buy copies here.

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