News reaches us of the sudden and untimely death at the weekend of John Hamilton. You may not have heard of John. He had been Art Director at Penguin UK, latterly PRH, from 1997 and before that worked at Reed.
John Hamilton was an unlikely hero of modern publishing. A working-class, increasingly tattooed boy from Glasgow, he was a genius at translating briefs from editors and writers for the covers of their books. He was also responsible for some of the most ravishingly beautiful and innovative illustrated book designs of the last few decades. Take a look at the acknowledgements in pretty much every Jamie Oliver cookbook over the last twenty years and you will see John thanked fulsomely. He was the ultimate creative collaborator, not just with authors but with other designers. It was John after all who got Banksy to design the cover of a Nick Cave book as part of the Penguin Essentials series.
Successful publishing requires great editorial commissioning, but also the magic dust of the maverick creative outliers within the business who understand the crucial role of design. That was John Hamilton.
The definition of a real team is that when one person leaves, the unit does not function in quite the same way ever again. Books will continue to be published and sold, jackets will continue to be designed. But we’re sure the publishers and writers at PRH UK will feel a huge hole that it will be difficult to fill in their collaborative process.
RIP John. Our thoughts are with his wife Claire and children Sadie and Angus.