Academic texts from the 1970s share a minimal, geometric aesthetic, communicating highly technical or abstract concepts with minimalist cover art that relied on symbols, patterns, and shapes. Put another way, the prevailing design philosophy of the time can be summarized as “pair a Neo-grotesque sans-serif with circles and lines, multiplying each by the total number of advanced degrees held by the authors.”
The effect can border on optical illusion, and Vimeo user Henning M. Lederer has produced a video that pushes 50 examples right over that line, straight into the realm of eye-watering phantasmagoria. Because the covers mostly rely on simple geometry, Lederer was able to easily animate the shapes, and smartly inuits the motions suggested by the original, static versions. Arrows penetrate porous boundaries, nested circles revolve within each other, sines and cosines undulate, and spirals dance to a throbbing, spirograph pulse. Left to stare at them too long, you might need some ibuprofen, or find yourself in a highly suggestible state, but each cover rotates out over several seconds. The cumulative effect is disorienting, which is also due in part to the parade of abtruse titles like Catholic Moral Theology In Dialogue, The Eclipse Of Citizenship, and The Structure And Dynamics Of Organizations And Groups. If there’s a theme here, it’s probably that these concepts may be beautifully constructed, but they can literally make your head hurt.