Douglas Adams


I have been fortunate to work with some really great people. Authors, Composers, Entrepreneurs, Actors, Publishers, Creatives. Working with the best is very demanding but it makes you raise your game.

I relish that challenge.

My latest project has been working with a very talented Musicologist in Chicago called Doug Adams. More on that project in a later post. But it’s a good excuse to start this Blog with the similarly named, Douglas Adams. I love to listen to BBC World Service. That’s where I first heard the radio broadcast of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – at 3 am on a sleepless night in West London. I liked the way it played with the Science Fiction genre. So when editor Caroline Upcher bought the rights for Pan Books I already knew the nature of the beast. And together we were able to spread the word that this was more than the SF designation it had on the list. But initially that is where it stayed. Mick Brownfield produced worthy cover art for the first edition. The series grew. It became a Trilogy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, this is what I mean by massively late. Sales needed a cover to rack up the orders. I had to deliver the design for the hardback jacket before Douglas produced the book. I made him promise to tell me what he had in mind. On his way out of the Fulham Road offices, unaware of his imminent incarceration, he stuck his head round my office door to brief me. He said, “It’s called So Long and Thanks for All the Fish“. And left.I sat, lost for words. A few minutes passed and his head re-appeared, “But there are no fish in it.“, he declared – and fled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This left me license to match enigma with enigma. And when the penny eventually dropped, it landed in a pint of Guinness and produced a ‘lenticular print‘. I found one of a walrus that morphed into a dinosaur, originally produced as a give-away for a cereal packet. Douglas Adams wrote in my copy “The silliest jacket in the history of history itself“.

An Olympic level of silliness reached (that, of course mirrored the product) we were able to cap it off nicely when we eventually produced a unified design livery for the whole series. Adams hard-nosed agent demanded that we get the new paperback editions in bulk display bins in WHSmith. Trouble was their policy was no bins for re-issues, which three of the four were. It’s never just simple! It was going to take a real eye-catcher to encourage WHS break the rules.

I played around with some nice images. Chris Foss produced a classy SF illustration of a spaceship in the shape of a Rebok training shoe. Fate demanded a fish this time. A very small place in North London produced a towel with the legend “Don’t Panic!” woven in. And Douglas had made a self-portrait on his early AppleMac. But felt none of them were strong enough to stand alone. Off to our author’s house in Islington. Unable to hear over the most sophisticated sound system I had ever seen we played games with paper. Marketing Gods would call it brain-storming. I chopped copies of the images into pieces. Then settled on cutting each image into four. So by reconfiguring them you see the whole of each image. Just out of devilment, the spines, when in chronological order spell out “42”. In Luscher Colour Test colours. Nobody got that.

Great fun, and millions of books were displayed and sold.