Four Dimensional Nightmare: David Pelham on Designing Ballard

David Pelham is responsible for some of the most iconic Ballard cover art of all time, designing a number of his paperbacks during his tenure as Art Director at Penguin. He was kind enough to share some of his memories of that time for our #BallardDay celebrations.


‘Of all the Ballard covers I think my favourite is The Four Dimensional Nightmare, as I like the idea of the airless and silent dystopian landscape – something that Jim and I had discussed as being the unifying theme for this set of covers – being disturbed by the jabbering of US and Russian icons. Ballard very much enjoyed the idea that they are transmitting to nobody through some discarded piece of ex-military technology. Very Ballardian. And as with each of this set of covers, the image has something of the headstone about it.

Whenever I see my illustrations for The Drought and The Drowned World they bring back wonderful memories of my late friend the photographer Evelyn Hofer who gave me permission to use two of her remarkable images from New York Proclaimed by V.S.Pritchett as reference.

Generally speaking my work back then very much reflected the cultural influences of the time. The zeitgeist was extremely lively and it was an exciting time to be alive. My main influences at that time came from a fusion of the works of Konrad Klapheck and Richard Lindner, both of whom were combining Pop art with elements of Realism and Surrealism, and whose work will amply repay a visit to Google.

Having been Art Director of Penguin Books at a time when it was decided to recover all the Ballard titles, because of my great enthusiasm for his work I commissioned myself with the task. And having previously been introduced to Ballard by my friend Eduardo Paolozzi I became a frequent visitor to his home, discussing a wide range of topics along with the cover treatment of individual covers and the series as a whole.’

Ballard-first roughs

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