London-based publisher Hexus Press’ co-founder Thogdin Ripley talks us through five seminal design artefacts from around the dark, spooky labyrinth of the horror genre.
From the outrageously nerdy, instantly nostalgia-twitching glowing red outlined capitals of the design-your-own Stranger Things titles app that took last year by storm, to the upcoming cinematic realisation of Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation, horror is back in the limelight. As if it ever went away. But while genre TV and cinema is generally lauded for its tenacity of aesthetic (or indeed, damned for its lacking), in print it’s rarer to find something that stands the test of time without falling into kitsch. Amid a certain mainstream appreciation of retrospective genre tropes, I thought it would be nice to look at the some of the perhaps less well-known broadly “horror” themes from a wider palette, concentrating on print and graphic design.
Each of the works I’ve chosen here are highly symbolic, be it that they either use design as a way to compact meaning—through building the themes they exhibit into their appearance, or in the very physicality of their existence—or that they have transcended themselves to become symbols in their own right. And it’s in that spirit that we approached designing the cover for Gary J Shipley’s ferocious, amorphous novel Warewolff!
The book does a multitude of things, one of which is to present itself as a transmission from our world, the non-fictional here and now, which the “author” has tuned himself into—the voice of a monstrous, indefinable ‘other’ too terrifying to comprehend but in its facets: a being that “learns to talk by shaping the stories of its victims.” To read Warewolff! is to submerse oneself in that compound voice, and by hearing its many facets to let the void of contemporary life stare right back through the page at you.
This co-opting of the unexpected at every turn—through the fact that idea that you’re reaching to understand is, in itself, also reaching back into you; through the way the sentences invariably crack and break, changing their meaning almost word by word—is something that really excites me about the book, and we tried to make the cover tread the line between being contemporary and attractive enough to pick up, but visually confounding enough to still have teeth, and to use them to bite.