03 Feb

Text clean and tight, some tearing

Tony Palladino Collection: Box 12, Folder 31. Cover for Psycho (detail), Simon & Schuster: 1959.

Early in his career, Tony Palladino specialized in book jackets—his style was always restrained, and oscillated between primitive torn-paper graphics and highly simplified visual ideas.


The whole cover

He operated in this mode for a long time, producing a wide and diverse body of work before finally gaining widespread recognition through the cover design to Robert Bloch’s Psycho, for Simon & Schuster. Psycho was an entry in that publisher’s popular “Inner Sanctum Mysteries” imprint, which grew out of the popular radio show of the same name (memorable for its signature creaking door intro effect) which ran from 1941 to 1952.

Palladino’s approach to the concept here is typically economical, but unusually strong. Neatly-set sans serif text spelling the title is torn lengthwise, as if a piece of paper, suggesting both violence and dissociation. When the advertising firm J. Walter Thompson was hired to produce the promotional materials for the Alfred Hitchcock film adaptation, they simply purchased Palladino’s design outright and cast it as the logotype on all of the movie’s promotional materials. Saul Bass’s title sequence for the 1960 film relies on a similar chopping-up of type.

L-R: A Thief In The Night, by Thomas Walsh (Simon & Schuster: 1962). Il Duce, by Christopher Hibbert (Little Brown: 1962).

L-R: A Step Beyond Innocence, by Nora Johnson (Dell: 1962). Breaking Up, by W.H. Manville (Simon & Schuster: 1962).

Though none of his other covers had quite the same impact or lasting popularity as Psycho, a brief survey here shows the remarkable way he deployed these same basic techniques to a wide range of different applications.

L-R: Fire Trap, by Owen Cameron (Simon & Schuster: 1957). The Duel, by Donald Seaman (Doubleday: 1979).

L-R: Free Fall, by William Golding (Harcourt, Brace & Co.: 1960). The End of the Night, by John D. MacDonald (Simon & Schuster: 1960).

See also: this promotional advertisement.

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03 February 2011
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Tony Palladino
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