Paul Bacon, Legendary Book Designer, Dies at 91
Electric Lit relies on contributions from our readers to help make literature more exciting, relevant, and inclusive. Please support our work by becoming a member today, or making a one-time donation here.
Paul Bacon, after an incredible career of more than 50 years, passed away in his Fishkill, NY home on Monday at age 91. Many of his 6,500 book cover designs are instantly recognizable and often iconic, including Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Peter Benchley’s Jaws.
According to the New York Times, Bacon pioneered the design style known as “The Big Book Look” — bold and minimalist, featuring prominent lettering and a small conceptual image. His designs were all created by hand.
His career flourished following World War 2, where he’d served in China, Guam, and Guadalcanal. Bacon designed his first cover for Bill Westley’s Chimp On My Shoulder, published in 1950, and designed his last cover for Lindsay Hill’s Sea of Hooks, published in 2013.
When he wasn’t designing book covers, Bacon played in a jazz band and designed jazz album covers.