I invented the abstract colorful blob book cover.

James Folta

May 8, 2024, 1:07pm

A satirical confession, from an imagined designer who unleashed the style of book cover with “amorphous shapes of suggestive colors” on the world.

I’ve created a monster.

I’m the designer who first created the colorful blob book cover. You know the ones: the vaguely egg-like, kidney-bean-like dollops of pastels and bright millennial hues that have taken over not only the covers of literary fiction, but also mass-market fiction. Even the cartoon characters on romance covers are getting brighter and less defined. I’m afraid they’ll be next to get blobbed.

I’m begging you, please, try a different style of cover. I want to be able to walk into a bookstore again without triggering a panic attack.

This all started so innocently. I wanted to do something more primitive and playful. What about a design that was both eye-catching and gestural? Might someone be curious about a book with a bright and abstract cover? What if a child with crayons were trying to make up new fruits and vegetables, and then you put those drawings on the cover of a “powerful debut” that Bookforum panned?

Did I intend for the blob to take over? Not like this. Every artist hopes their work catches on, and that people spark to it. But the blobs have gone too far. Everywhere I look I see them, floating across the best-seller tables of bookstores like candied bubbles.

And it’s driving me mad.

Sure, I’ve worked on other designs that are as well known: Those flat, unshaded, minimal, cartoon-y graphics that every tech company adopted in the 2010s. Those perfume ads that look like the visions of someone who drifted off in the front row of a fashion show and is having a sexy Euro-nightmare. That one austere aesthetic all the yogurt companies seem to have now.

But none have taken over my life quite like the blob has. It’s hard to even walk by a window display, or a library, or a cafe where people are reading, without coming face to face with my creation. Even when I close my eyes I see them: wiggly pinks and purples crawling across a cover, threatening to consume blurbs about MFA students who are already “voices of a generation” with “prose that crackles.”

I haven’t left my apartment in months. I only wear stiffly starched clothes. I’ve replaced all my houseplants with cacti. I’m cleaning obsessively: every stain or spill reminds me.

I come from a family of designers, and looking back, I should have known this could happen. My mother was part of the team that brought the acid-trip hippie aesthetic into advertising.

You know the moment when you see your parents’ interiority for the first time? When they become people to you, with emotional lives as tangled as your own? For me, that moment was the morning I saw my mother pause over a colorfully psychedelic ad featuring a couple in bell bottoms selling Frigidaires. My dad took her hand and they sat together in silence for a long while. I finished my cereal and went to school, but that morning has never left me.

My blobs, my blobs! My dreams, my nightmares! I’m awash in the construction paper cut-outs, marching off the best-seller list and into my troubled sleep.

I need a vacation, I need to get away. But the airports and their Hudson Newses are breeding grounds, fetid with the blobs on books with titles like “Little Items” or “The Strange Woman Named Dorothy Flowers.”

I can’t risk it. So I’ll stay in, ordering the least blob-shaped, drabbest colored foods I can (ice cubes and toast with NO jams or jellies).

But I’m begging you, publishers, please: no more abstraction, no more formless sort-of-shapes, no more Joan-Miró-core. Please, I need a break.

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