As a kid, Thomas Colligan wasn’t exactly a voracious reader—but that didn’t stop him from voraciously consuming books. Growing up in Geneva, Switzerland, his grandfather had a collection of art tomes, and Colligan recalls spending hours poring over them. Meanwhile, he loved drawing and creating his own characters, and people began to take notice and encourage him. Colligan says it was this early praise that set him on the path toward a life in the arts. That, and, he “wasn’t very good at any of the other subject matters, so, you know.”
He crossed the Atlantic to attend Pratt in 2010, and in his first year he discovered that everything he loved—album covers, skateboard decks—had a name: graphic design. He also kicked his reading up a notch. After realizing how so many of the illustrators whose work he admired were also book designers, he pursued an internship with Rodrigo Corral, and later landed design gigs at Simon & Schuster, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux, where he works today.
In cover design, Colligan discovered a way to balance his artistic talents with the challenge of doing justice to—and elevating—the vital text within a given book. While he’s done editorial illustration for the New York Times and others, for now he doesn’t seem much interested in expanding his output into realms like consumer packaging or ad work. “I already feel like the constraints of book covers, which are really nice, are hard to deal with,” he says. To find balance, he and three friends from Pratt founded the independent publishing initiative TXTbooks, which allows them to go wild with their zines, chapbooks, and other volumes.
But that doesn’t mean Colligan is bored by the work he does at his day job. In fact, the opposite is true; his output is characterized by bold design decisions, a refreshing sense of risk, and an overall aesthetic that bears his authorial mark while doing due diligence to an author’s words and messages.
Here are five such covers.