Louise Fili – The Lover Book Jacket

Louise Fili designed the cover for The Lover by Marguerite Duras in 1985 when she was art director for Pantheon Books at Random House. Duras was a French writer, and even though her work was famous in France, she was barely known in the United States. Thus, the projected sale of The Lover in America was not very high.

Fili’s mission with this cover was to step away from the loud design of book jackets that was popular at the time. She also wanted to change the overall style and design technique of the book covers at Pantheon overall. She believed that a book jacket could be alluringly beautiful. Fili slowly introduced changes in Pantheon’s designs including matte lamination, softer palettes, unusual paper stocks, and unconventional illustration. Her design for The Lover represents her “quiet conquest” of the Pantheon production and design process. She designed the book jacket subtly and ethereally, with custom typography, avoiding large bold text that shouted at the viewer. Also, she added a soft, vignette portrait of Duras at age fourteen.

This book jacket not only reflects Fili’s personal style and aesthetic, it also represents popular design styles of the time. In the 1980’s there was a reoccurrence of Art-Deco styles, especially in graphic design. The font Fili created for The Lover has a heavy Deco resemblance. The black and white image gives the cover a vintage vibe as well. This represents Fili’s astounding ability to take what’s old and make it new.

The Lover’s book jacket made it a runaway bestseller. It brought huge success to Pantheon, being its first bestseller since Dr. Zhivago in 1958. The design also brought huge success to Fili herself. Pantheon gifted her with carte blanche, or complete creative freedom. Also, after the debut of The Lover, the term Pantheonesque was coined. This came into use when discussing book jackets in publishing circles. Fili was also described, after this publishing, as “the woman that saved New York” by Phillip Briggs. Fili’s husband, Steven Heller also claims she “saved New York with her eclectic movement”. The Lover’s book jacket was a momentous turning point in Louise Fili’s career, Pantheon books, and the design of 1980’s book jackets in general.