The Exploration of Space by Arthur C. Clarke

A few years ago, I approached a publisher of space books with the idea of producing a series of volumes that would reprint the most important texts of the space age. The publisher passed, citing it being outside their business model, and they weren’t set up to work with outside designers. I still think it’s a good idea.

The first one would be the late Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s The Exploration of Space. First published in 1951, this was the book that predicted satellites and shuttles, and described the major concepts which included escaping from Earth’s gravity and re-entering its atmosphere (in one piece). It was the primer for all that would come after it.


The Exploration of Space Cover 1

So why not bring it back in print? The text remains clear and accessible, and with an update in its design packaging, adding the wealth of imagery now available to us, modern audiences would find it appealing.

The first cover concept is conservative. There have been many space books with covers like this, so it sits in the middle of the pack. With an image of Earthrise from the Moon, dramatic on the black, you really can’t screw it up. Futura for the title is an easy choice with its cleanness and mathematical precision. Clarke’s name is set in Zapfino for that expressive touch.

The Exploration of Space Cover 2

Another choice is to reverse the black of space books and put it on white. A red planet combined with a negative image of an eclipse is a more graphic image. The Gotham typeface is elegant like Futura but not quite as rigid.

The Exploration of Space Cover 3

And sometimes you just want to have fun. The typeface is Refrigerator.


Moving into an era of ebooks, it would be practical and desirable to offer books with multiple covers and interior design variations to reach different markets. Freed from having to print thousands of copies, design should take on a stronger and more diverse offering. Each of these covers would appeal to different market segments.

Below are two of the original interior pages and updated versions.

The Exploration of Space Page 44

The Exploration of Space Page 49