I wanted this book before anyone ever said they were making it.
For most of my life, I’ve wondered about the artists behind the amazing artwork on the Atari home video game boxes.
When I was just a kid — and a budding young artist — I would study the illustrations on the boxes and in the Atari 2600 catalogs and reproduce them in pencil. I distinctly remember copying the covers of Defender and Haunted House (still my favorite 2600 box art) and doing a pretty darn good job (I was always an artist — for those of you who don’t really know me, I am a professional tattoo artist). But I could never read the signatures on the art, so when the internet came around, I would try to find information by searching “Atari package artists” or “original Atari box art” and always coming up dry.
Fast-forward to a year or two ago, when the Art of Atari book project was announced, and I had an internal “HELL YEAH!!” moment. Someone was doing the research I had always wanted to do, but I didn’t know where to start, and all I had to do was sit back and wait for this book to come out.
Well, the book Art of Atari is finally out, and it’s literally everything I wanted and more. Big, splashy reproductions of the original art? Check! Profiles and bios on all those artists? Check! Unused artwork, pasteups, mockups? Checkaroonie! Plus concept art, industrial design, even the evolution of the Atari logo. Not only the information and art I wanted, but so much more that I never even thought about. This book could not be more complete. I’m blown away and I haven’t even actually started reading it yet.
Needless to say, my excitement over the book necessitated my pre-ordering of the Deluxe Edition. While the standard edition is a nice-looking volume itself, the Deluxe Edition is the most perfectly clever book design possible. It’s housed in a sturdy slipcase that’s designed like an Atari box, naturally; but the book itself, bound in textured black leather with a large label on the front, looks like an Atari 2600 cartridge. It is the correct answer to “what should this book look like?”
Of course, the interior design is bold and colorful, and utilizes classic Atari-esque motifs such as the classic typefaces (the author even discusses them) and boxy pixel-like elements that recall the screen objects and scores you would have seen in those classic games from the ’70s.
The DE also includes a couple special surprises: a lithograph of a new piece by Atari artist Cliff Spohn (a mashup of classic covers surrounding a VCS console), and a download code for 100 classic Atari 2600 games from Steam, so you can play all you want!
Art of Atari comes with my highest recommendation for anyone who fancies themself a videogame historian, art lover, or just nostalgic. There is so much to dive into and unpack and I can’t wait to explore it fully. I want to offer my most sincere thanks to author and curator Tim Lapetino for creating something I’ve always wanted!