The "Africa Is a Country" blog wrote a post inspired by a reader's tweet that showed 36 books about Africa, all with the same elements on the cover: an acacia tree with an orange sunset. The website joked that all of the books "seem to have been designed by someone whose principal idea of the continent comes from The Lion King."
The folks over at Qz.com picked up the story and decided to speak to Peter Mendelsund (cover designer, author, and associate art director at Knopf) about the trend. Mendelsund says that "laziness, both individual and institutionalized" is to blame. He explains that for cover designers, "by the time the manuscript is ready to be produced, there’s a really strong temptation to follow a path that’s already been trod... If someone goes out on a limb and tries something different, and the book doesn’t sell, you know who to blame: the guy who didn’t put the acacia tree on the cover."
Mendelsund added that "we’re comfortable with this visual image of Africa because it’s safe. It presents ‘otherness’ in a way that’s easy to understand... Right now, we’re in the age of the tree. For that vast continent, in all its diversity, you get that one fucking tree."
Have you noticed the tendency to lean toward the familiar in other areas of design? Join the discussion in the comment section below.