Skip to Main Content
Text clean and tight, some tearing
Tony Palladino Collection: Box 12, Folder 31. Cover for Psycho (detail), Simon & Schuster: 1959.
February 03, 2014

Text clean and tight, some tearing

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.

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.

Two book covers with heavy blacks; one is of a building against a dark blue sky with only one lit window, the title reads "A thief in the night", the other is a coin soldier's head surrounded by a ring of text the title reads "Il Duce"

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

Two black and white book covers; left is of a woman's feet shedding her high heels while resting on a stack of books, the title reads "A step beyond innocence"; the other is an upside down cityscape the title reads "Break up".

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.

Two book covers with strong reds; left is a geometric depiction of a black house with fire coming out of the window the title reads" The fire trap"; the right is large block text against a wavy red block against white the title reads "The Duel"

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

Two primarily royal blue book covers; left shows the title text falling off the page the title reads "Free fall", right is a black driving on a black road car driving at night which has a lonely crescent white moon the title reads "The end of the night"

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.