The following text was first published as part of Infinite Mile Issue 3.
The image above is of the cover of a book of poetry by Kofi Natambu published in 1983. Natambu founded Post Aesthetic Press earlier that year, with an address in Southwest Detroit. This would have been two years after Ronald Reagan came into office, the same year Return of the Jedi would be released, and around the time various personal computers would arrive on the consumer market (Commodore 64, the Macintosh, the IBM PC). Coleman Young would be about halfway through his twenty year term as mayor of Detroit.
I figured I would use this post for Infinite Mile as an opportunity to research the design of individual publications that were created in Detroit by independent or small presses in the 1960s/70s/80s. Kofi Natambu’s Intervals stands out, for me, because of the design of its cover. It is a simple, saddle-stitched, 52-page volume. The cover design is credited to Debra Jeter, of Another Direction in Art (or, alternatively, Directions in Art — the name is listed two different ways, one way on the cover itself, and another way on the copyright page). There is a separate credit for the typesetter (Toni Swanger, of the Detroit Metro Times), who laid out the interior pages.
Many of the books of poetry I’ve come across that were published by small presses from this time include a credit for a cover image, but not a cover design. Often, the relationship between type and image is straightforward — the cover may been designed following a path of least resistance. Maybe not by someone who identified as a ‘graphic designer’. Perhaps the printer made the final decision about where to place image and text. Or the typesetter centered a cover image, with the volume’s title and author names above or below the image.
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