Cover Story : book covers and graphic design in Portugal 1940 - 1970



Whether in the private, social, professional, school or entertainment spheres, book covers are a ubiquitous presence in our lives. Wherever there is a paper book there is always also a cover embracing it. Therefore, as is the case with books, book covers have become a registry and exhibition surface of the society in which we live in, reflecting its established or revolutionary ideas, its tastes, trends, conventions and innovations, mirrored in texts, images, visual and sensory effects. We can also look at book covers as objects which reflect the emergence of Graphic Design as a major craft in itself. Thus, it is in the light of Graphic Design that this research seeks to attentively look at the book covers, in a polyhedral approach to the theme.
The work presented here is composed of three parts — two theoretical and one practical — spread throughout five chapters which always begin with the formulation of a question and end with conclusions.
The first part is an exercise of queries and meditations, pertaining more to the field of the Philosophy of Design. Book covers as a theme and the different roles that they, and their designers, can assume in the process of circulation and consumption of the book are considered here.
The second part, more connected to Design History, describes the emer- gence and evolution of book covers, situating them in relation to space and especially over time, with a parallel to the history of books and mankind. Simultaneously, and somewhat independently, a visual timeline is build so- lely with images of book covers — or their equivalents, such as cover pages — providing a visual time travel across the different consecutive moments and movements of the Design History as mirrored on the covers. This part also includes a framework of the Portuguese national reality, giving special attention to the Portuguese cases considered as more relevant in the years of the 1940’s to the 1970’s.
In the third part, which is the practical part, a questionnaire for analy- sing book covers is presented and applied to the covers designed by six specific cases of Portuguese graphic authors, so that through them we may learn more about the practice of book cover design in Portugal in the 1940s to 1970s, and more specifically, to distinguish what kind of approach to book cover design was chosen by these authors.
Closing the dissertation is a presentation of all conclusions obtained over the five chapters, in a text that articulates these findings and relates them in a conclusive and final form.


graphic design, Portuguese graphic design, graphic design history, book cover design.


Book covers and graphic design in Portugal 1940 - 1970

PhD Thesis

Cover Story : book covers and graphic design in Portugal 1940 - 1970, March 2019


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