The Designer's Process

Matthew Revert on Designing How to Set Yourself on Fire

Head editor, Michelle Dotter from Dzanc and I enjoy an easy working relationship. It’s always a pleasure working with her, so when I was given the opportunity to design the cover for How To Set Yourself On Fire by Julia Dixon Evans, I jumped at the chance. The book sounded fantastic and offered a lot of design opportunities. I don't tend to take titles too literally when approaching a book's design as it is often far too obvious, but when I first approached it I couldn't resist the evocative image of a burning book. As you'll see, an element of this idea survived to the final draft, but early on, I was far more overt.

Matthew Revert on Designing How to Set Yourself on Fire

Ambiguous Animation: Michael Salu Talks The Garbage Times/White Ibis

What do you do when a book cover design demands movement, dynamism, and mystery? If you are Soft Skull Press, you call designer Michael Salu, a writer himself, who approaches the uncanny with his kinetic designs. For Sam Pink’s The Garbage Times/White Ibis, a combination of two novellas, Salu filled a tall order by designing a cover that solicits curiosity both in motion and at rest.

Ambiguous Animation: Michael Salu Talks The Garbage Times/White Ibis

Zoe Norvell: Designing Book Covers On The Go

To be a great designer, I believe one must live an enriched life. Designers find inspiration everywhere we look—from famous museums to dusty junk shops to the colorful currencies of other countries. In order to express the world visually, it’s important to me to digest as much of it as possible. This is one of the many reasons why travel has always loomed large in my life. Going to a new city or a national park is a feast for my eyes and a shot of adrenaline to my creative muscles! Traveling forces me to look beyond my desk, beyond Pinterest or Tumblr, and go to straight to the source. 
After living in Brooklyn, NY for ten years, I packed up and moved out at the end of 2017. For the last four months I’ve been a “digital nomad,” living in and visiting eight countries in Central and South America: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. In late December, I flew south with my MacbookPro, drawing tablet, notebook, a large bag, and a loose itinerary. During this time away, I upheld my usual work load—working on over 30 book covers.

Zoe Norvell: Designing Book Covers On The Go

Katie Everson on Designing Boy 87

A gripping, uplifting tale of one boy’s struggle for survival, Boy 87 echoes the stories of young people all over the world today.

Shif is an ordinary boy who likes chess, maths, and racing his best friend home from school.

But one day soldiers with guns come to his door, and he knows he’s no longer safe. He must leave his mother and younger sister, to embark on a dangerous journey. Separated from the people he loves, Shif will encounter new nations and strange voices, cruelty and kindness, imprisonment and escape, on a hazardous voyage by land and sea.

Katie Everson on Designing Boy 87

Emily Mahon on designing Sociable

Sociable is a hilarious novel of one young woman’s search for happiness and an inside look at life in the wild world of digital media. As I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but picture current open office space plans with hundreds of people on computers and limited personal space. Everyone inhabits their own little universe while on headphones, listening to podcasts and music. Yet within these workspaces there is a physical closeness that creates a communal world.

Emily Mahon on designing Sociable

Katya Mezhibovskaya on designing Here Is Real Magic

What happens when a magician, whose job is to elicit astonishment in others, loses his sense of wonder? Here is Real Magic is a book about celebrated professional magician, Nate Staniforth’s hero’s journey from fascination and success to disillusionment and searching and eventual rekindling of his connection with magic. After years of transforming audiences from rational, tax-paying adults into wide-eyed children, Staniforth was near burn out. He decided to seek out the source of his vocation and travel to India where magic is ever-present, acknowledged and revered.

Katya Mezhibovskaya on designing Here Is Real Magic

Words from the Weiss: Amanda Weiss Talks Cover Design, Part 2

I was recently approached by Katrina Noble, art director at the University of Washington Press, to work on an upcoming book cover called Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Oppression and Social Injustice. Edited by Kishonna L. Gray and David J. Leonard, Woke Gaming consists of essays exploring the ways gamers are using current technologies to challenge inequities within and beyond virtual reality. Not just focusing on #Gamergate and the common discussion of violence within video games, Woke Gaming discusses the future of gaming, identifying strategies for detoxing video game culture and turning it into a positive catalyst for social justice. The book discusses a broad range of social issues from gender dynamics and misogyny to racial and queer positions in gaming practices. 

Words from the Weiss: Amanda Weiss Talks Cover Design, Part 2

Shine On: Anne Jordan and Mitch Goldstein Shed Light on the Cover of M. Joy’s The Unnaturals

For designers Anne Jordan and Mitch Goldstein, a book’s insides should always dictate its cover design. Design begins from within, after all, in the guts of the thing. For the cover of M. Joy’s young adult dystopian novel The Unnaturals, new from inclusive indie publisher Wellington Square Media, Jordan and Goldstein got not only creative but downright kinetic with blue light, a driving a motif throughout the novel.

Shine On: Anne Jordan and Mitch Goldstein Shed Light on the Cover of M. Joy’s The Unnaturals

Jenna Stempel-Lobell, Collaborating with T.S. Abe & Billelis for Ibi Zoboi’s Pride

HarperCollins cover designer Jenna Stempel-Lobell looked to both old covers and modern art to create the cover for one of her latest projects, American Street author Ibi Zoboi’s second novel Pride, a novel “especially suited” to her “typical design process.” 

Jenna Stempel-Lobell, Collaborating with T.S. Abe & Billelis for  Ibi Zoboi’s Pride

Matt Broughton on Designing Dead Men’s Trousers

Dead Men’s Trousers is essentially the next chapter in the Trainspotting story, dragging our favourite characters into the Brexit era. Renton is the jaded manager of a number of Internationally acclaimed DJs. Sick-Boy, as usual, has his hands in whatever sordid deal he can find. Spud is still Spud. And bizarrely, Begbie has reinvented himself as a celebrated artist.

Each character has an agenda – the friends stalk each other, deceive each other, use each other, corrupt each other. It’s an often hilarious, painful, yet surprisingly moving ‘dance of death’. An idea that lead us to our cover – a re-enactment of Michael Wolgemut’s 1493 woodcut ‘Danse Macabre’. With added trousers.

Matt Broughton on Designing Dead Men’s Trousers

Cover Reveal! Disbanded Kingdom by Polis Loizou

We here at Spine are delighted to reveal the cover for Disbanded Kingdom. It is the first novel by Polis Loizou, co-founder of London's Off-Off-Off Broadway Company, published by Cloud Lodge Books. The stunning cover is courtesy of design studio LaBoca.

Cover Reveal! Disbanded Kingdom by Polis Loizou

Snap, Grackle, Pop: Nicole Caputo Talks Cover Design for The Gunners

On shelves now is the beautifully jacketed novel, Rebecca Kauffman’s The Gunners. The bold, minimalist font asserts itself without descending to typographical aggression. Two grackles grapple (or perhaps share) an earthworm beneath the title and author credits. The balance between graphic and white space hovers near perfection. And how, you might ask, does a designer create such a gorgeous cover? Simple. According to Nicole Caputo, all you need is love. For the story itself, that is.

Snap, Grackle, Pop: Nicole Caputo Talks Cover Design for The Gunners

Sarah J. Coleman, Making the Dreadful Young Ladies

Illustrator / Designer Sarah J. Coleman has developed a remarkable portfolio of book cover designs over her career. Here she shares a time-lapse video for her drawing of the cover of the recently released Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories. 

Sarah J. Coleman, Making the Dreadful Young Ladies

Joanne O'Neill on designing This Could Hurt

Set in the aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse, This Could Hurt is a witty, heartfelt novel that illuminates the pivotal role of work in our lives. The author captures the emotional complexities of five HR colleagues trying to balance ambition, hope, and fear as their small company is buffeted by economic forces that threaten to upend them.

Joanne O'Neill on designing This Could Hurt

Melissa Four on The Killing of Butterfly Joe

The Killing of Butterfly Joe is about a young man who meets a charismatic butterfly salesman, who takes him across America on a wild road trip. It's a coming of age story full of big, colourful characters, and it has a Gothic feel to it. 'The American Dream' is a theme - Butterfly Joe is always chasing a big deal.

Melissa Four on The Killing of Butterfly Joe

Sandra Chiu on designing the cover for The Immortalists

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is a beautiful novel about family, relationships, and the choices you make in life. I was immediately drawn to the brief when the editor, Sally Kim (G. P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Random House) introduced the book. After reading and falling in love with the manuscript, I became very determined to design a cover that does the story justice.

Sandra Chiu on designing the cover for The Immortalists

Spine Podcast, Episode 6: Alissa Dinallo

For the final episode of Spine Season 1 we speak with Australian Book Cover Designer, Alissa Dinallo. Alissa has won many design awards including The Australian Book Design Association (ABDA) Award for Young Designer of the Year in 2015. Alissa discusses with us the catalog she created for ABDA, her illustration technique, and her lifelong love for William Morris.

Spine Podcast, Episode 6: Alissa Dinallo

Good Wives and Warriors on designing The Exact Opposite of Everything

We were approached by Egmont publishing, through our illustration agents (Central Illustration) to pitch an idea for this cover. They liked the previous illustration we'd done for the cover of another YA novel called Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. We were also doing another three YA book covers at the same time so we really felt like we were getting our teenage heads back!

Good Wives and Warriors on designing The Exact Opposite of Everything

Katie Tooke takes on The Queen of Bloody Everything

After reading The Queen of Bloody Everything and talking to the editor and reading the brief I set to work on designing this cover. It is funny and heartbreaking in equal measure and very much voice led. The story takes the main character from a feisty awkward six year old up until she is a grown woman and focuses on the complex relationship between herself and her dysfunctional mother. The protagonist longs to be part of the family next door and so she looks beyond her house to her neighbours family, longing for another life. The sense of the main characters childhood and the hot late 70's summer stuck with me as it felt a prominent visual element of the book.

Katie Tooke takes on The Queen of Bloody Everything

David Mann on creating the cover for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

I’d never worked on a cover like The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle before, simply because I can’t think of anything like it. It’s an incredible piece of writing by Stuart Turton that defies a single genre - Gosford Park meets Inception via Murder on the Orient Express anyone?! The eponymous Evelyn dies time after time at a country house ball, as party guest Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest every day to solve the mystery of her murder.

David Mann on creating the cover for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Suzanne Dean Goes Back in Time to Create the Cover for The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is a spellbinding story of curiosity and obsession. Set in 1785, Jonah Hancock, a merchant, sells his ship for a mermaid.

My first job was to collect research on typography and fonts, printed matter, fashion and fabrics - all of which was pasted to the wall of my office. The title and author font was developed by referencing eighteenth-century lettering. Here are the first sketches by the lettering artist, and the finished title.

Suzanne Dean Goes Back in Time to Create the Cover for The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock