There is not a beat poetry, or a beat novel, or a beat painting. Beat is a poetic conception, an attitude toward the world. - Allen Ginsberg
At Juniper Books, our curated and hand-designed sets are inspired by a variety of different ideas and perspectives. Our new Beat Generation set is a quintessential example of the fruits of our collaborative creativity. It is the perfect place to start if you want to learn more about authors and poets of the Beat Generation, and it originated with one of our designer's fascination with the culture, art and literature of that time period.
Nicole Didusch, one of our in-house graphic designers, dove into the history of the Beat Generation, a.k.a. the Beat Movement that originated in the 1950s. Derisively called "beatniks", writers like Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg expressed their alienation from conventional society by adopting a musical style of dress, manners and vocabulary used by jazz musicians. Kerouac and Ginsberg used the term "beat" as a truncation of "beatific" —emphasizing how their whole literary project was meant to celebrate the wonders of life and especially those people who pushed the limits of conventional society in search of whatever form of ecstatic joy they could find.
Her design also came from a very personal place, as she has long been a fan of both Beat Generation authors and what the movement represents. “It's all centered around human connection and rejection of materialism so I wanted the design to show that. My first drafts were with actual pencil and paper ‘cause I wanted my process to be more ‘human’ as well.”
As for the elements within the design, she chose a hand with a cigarette, coffee, and a scrap of paper because, “That’s what I see when I imagine what Allen Ginsberg and the Six Gallery poets looked like when they all hung out and riffed about their work and the state of the world. Kerouac is the one tapping ash off of his cigarette, quietly philosophizing. It's gritty. There’s no illusion of perfection—no rules. These people weren’t the hermetic scholarly snobs that dominated the literary scene for centuries. They were real.”
Linocut prints were reaching the height of their popularity during this time period with star-powered artists like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse both using the young technique towards the end of their careers. Modernism in visual art is a natural companion to modernism in written art. Seeing the connection between the bold, high contrast designs of linocut, Nicole drew an immediate line in artistic message to the Beatniks. She said, “I wanted the design to look hand-made rather than a clean vector graphic, so I went a linocut print inspired route. I think the texture that you get from printing—the fact that they’re not absolutely perfect—suited this set.”
Adding the Beat Generation Book Set to your library is great way to re-experience a seminal time in history, culture and literature and help other people experience it too.