Art Direction for David Foster Wallace’s Books

Marie Mundaca on her art direction for a number of David Foster Wallace’s books:

It’s a little odd to design interiors for fiction and literary non-fiction. It’s just text—what is there to do? There are the obvious things, like leaving enough space at the margins. Basically, the designer’s job is to pick a font that enhances what she thinks the book conveys, make all the text fit in the amount of pages editorial thinks it will take up, and decide what to do with the chapter openers and any strange elements, like lists and subheads. Designing Oblivion was easy: I picked a classic font that fit a lot of words on the page but was still easy to read. I wanted to emphasize the density of the thoughts, but still allow the reader the opportunity to linger on the page. I decided on generous gutter and outer margins, and a slightly longer than average lines-per-page count to highlight the structural aspects of the book. Oblivion opens and closes with stories that feature giant, imposing women. They reminded me of caryatids —the columns in female form that stand outside ancient Greek temples. The pages are the columns of that temple. The words are what readers come to worship, meditate, ponder.

Consider the Lobster was a little different. Most of the book was very typical, but there was one particular essay called Host that required some special treatment.

Mundaca talks passionately about the design of Wallace’s Host and how well the essay was presented in The Atlantic.

I found this quote particularly affecting:

I always knew we would work on another book together. I didn’t know that he’d be dead when that happened.