Unsettlingly brilliant Lolita book cover goes viral on Reddit

Lolita book cover
(Image credit: Penguin)

Reddit's r/DesignPorn channel can be a hit-and-miss when it comes to actuality design. But every now and again something truly impressive takes the subreddit by storm, like this uncomfortable yet ingenious book cover.

Nabokov's subversive classic Lolita is famous for its controversially sexualised content. It's unclear whether the unreliable narrator Humbert Humbert, with his troubling obsession with twelve-year-old Lolita, is poet or pervert – and that duality is perfectly captured by the cover of the 2009 edition, designed by Jamie Keenan. 

Lolita cover

(Image credit: Penguin)

With such a controversial subject matter, the book has posed a challenge for cover designers since its publication in 1955 (back then, Nabokov himself famously didn't want a girl on the cover). Keenan's 2009 cover perfectly captures the sense of poetry with its artful pastel pink wall and white ceiling. But take a step back and it becomes clear we're looking at a somewhat uncomfortable optical illusion, with the walls resembling thighs and the ceiling underwear.

The design is currently sitting at the top of the r/DesignPorn page, with over 10k upvotes. "[The design] Makes sense, giving that we're seeing sexual context where it isn't there, just like the protagonist," one Redditor comments, while another adds, Christ, this cover is unsettling – it's incredibly well thought-out and executed."

While it might be one of the most unsettling, this is by no means the first brilliant book cover we've seen in recent months. But not even the classics are immune from the odd design fail – who can forget that hilarious Frankenstein author/title mixup?

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Daniel John
Senior News Editor

Daniel John is Senior News Editor at Creative Bloq. He reports on the worlds of art, design, branding and lifestyle tech (which often translates to tech made by Apple). He joined in 2020 after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more.