Making O’Reilly Animals

The animals on the covers of O’Reilly books are a hallmark of the brand,
making them instantly recognizable on bookshelves throughout the world.
Over the years, countless readers have sent O’Reilly questions about the

“What kind of animal is that on the cover of …?”

“Is that a lemur or a tarsier on your Web site?”

“Does the animal on the cover relate to the book’s contents?”

“Have you considered selling your cover images as posters?”

“How do you do those animal drawings? Are they computer generated?”

“Why do you put animals on books about computer languages?”

How animals ended up on our books

The last question touches on a bit of early O’Reilly history. Edie Freedman
(now O’Reilly’s Creative Director) was hired to design the first book covers.
She thought the books had the strangest titles–sed and
awk?–that evoked images of the popular fantasy game, “Dungeons and

While looking for imagery, she came across the Dover Pictorial Archives, a
series of books (and now CD-ROMs) containing copyright-free collections of
18th- and 19th-century wood and copperplate engravings of animals. She
encountered a pair of slender lorises and had an epiphany. “That’s
sed and awk!”

She scanned several animals from the archive and placed them on mock-up
covers, which she then presented to everyone at O’Reilly. O’Reilly had ten or
so employees at the time, and people wondered if the animals were
appropriate. But Edie convinced them to follow her instincts. Customers wound
up loving the covers, and a brand was born.

keep reading >>

create ow o’reilly animal


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