The Designer's Process

Emily Mahon Discusses Designing the Cover of What If This Were Enough?

When the stars align and the universe is kind, an author’s voice aligns perfectly with a designer’s vision. Such is the story of Emily Mahon’s cover for What If This Were Enough by Heather Havrilesky. Mahon’s simple, no-nonsense, pearlized cover illuminates the humor, emotion, and topical scope Havrilesky brings to the page. And that, dear book lovers, is how all-time favorites are made.

Emily Mahon Discusses Designing the Cover of What If This Were Enough?

Joe Wilson, Using Illustration to Bring The Sealwoman's Gift to Life

The Sealwoman’s Gift is the debut novel by Sally Magnusson and I had the great pleasure of bringing the cover to life. The book is a story about loss and love, set during a true incident in Icelandic history in 1627, when Barbary pirates raided an Icelandic island and abducted the 400 inhabitants into slavery in Algiers. Working alongside Art Director Sara Marafini at John Murray publishers, we decided the contrast of these two settings was something we could use to create a beautiful cover to wrap this book in. I was provided with a package of reference material, including my own work, extracts from the novel and some ideas Sara had about the direction. From here I started to develop some very rough thumbnails to try and plot out a rough composition and idea for the piece.

Joe Wilson, Using Illustration to Bring The Sealwoman's Gift to Life

Jonny Pelham on Designing the Cover for Women Talking

Women Talking is based on a real event which happened in 2009 in which almost every woman and girl in a Mennonite village, regardless of their age or status, was raped, sometimes repeatedly, by their menfolk. Miriam Toews imagines a small group of these women gathering in a hay loft whilst the men are away, visiting the city, to discuss how they will continue to live their lives in the aftermath of their ordeal.

Jonny Pelham on Designing the Cover for Women Talking

Eric Wilder, Learning to Interpret Cover Design

Eric Wilder, book cover designer and publisher of Spine Magazine, recently designed the dynamic-yet-pristine cover for Learning to Interpret: Working from English Into American Sign Language for RIT Press. The cover, which features traditional letters as well as ASL ‘glyphs,’ encourages anyone who picks up the book to begin the work of interpretation right away, which was exactly Wilder’s intention. “Learning to Interpret is academic in nature and deals with interpreting in American Sign Language. My goal was to come up with a very clean yet engaging cover for the subject matter. And by engaging I mean, I wanted readers on some level to have to interpret the cover for themselves,” Wilder said.

Eric Wilder, Learning to Interpret Cover Design

Luke Bird explores Japanese design culture for Convenience Store Woman

I definitely have a bit of “shinnichi” in me. I love all-things Japan and am becoming fascinated by the culture, so I was delighted to get a chance to design this little gem of a novel for Portobello at the back-end of last year. 

Joyfully, the brief was particularly thorough and helpful. I noted the editor’s comparisons to Kawakami and Murakami, words like ‘sweet’, ‘charming’, ‘original’ and 'off-beat’. On the flip-side, though, this is a novel which tackles tougher subjects like loneliness and ‘the pressure to conform’. It suggested we try and achieve “Contemporary Japan. Unconventional woman. Supermarket setting. Prize-winning. Best-selling.”, and that we start by looking at brightly coloured Japanese food packaging and possible portraits of the story’s central character and narrator, Keiko.

Luke Bird explores Japanese design culture for Convenience Store Woman

Steve Leard on Designing Snow on the Atlantic

I was briefed by Dominic Fagan at Zed Books to create the cover for Snow on the Atlantic by Nacho Carretero. The book tells the story of Cape Finisterre and how this sleepy, windswept corner of Spain became the cocaine gateway to Europe.

Zed wanted the cover to look like an exciting history book, whilst avoiding any pirate clichés or featuring any cocaine on the cover.

Steve Leard on Designing Snow on the Atlantic

Cover Reveal! The Lost History of Dreams, Kris Waldherr

Acclaimed visual artist and author Kris Waldherr traffics in art and words, which is why the cover for her debut novel The Lost History of Dreams is just as packed with meaning as it is visually stunning. Everything--from the cover’s cryptic eye miniature and shadowy visage to its delicate lavender typeface--harkens back to Waldherr’s own evaluation of the novel itself: “The Lost History of Dreams is a novel built on images. Daguerreotypes of the dead and photographs of the living. Watercolor paintings of migrating birds. Eye miniatures created by secret lovers. Stained glass and forbidden dreams,” Waldherr said.

Cover Reveal! The Lost History of Dreams, Kris Waldherr

Cover Reveal! The Meaning of Blood by Chuck Caruso

Cloud Lodge Books (CLB) are delighted to have Spine Magazine exclusively reveal the cover for The Meaning of Blood and Other Tales of Perversity, the latest offering by award-winning crime author Chuck Caruso. The evocative cover is courtesy of design studio LaBoca.

Cover Reveal! The Meaning of Blood by Chuck Caruso

Take Cover: Alice Marwick on Creative Process

Here is the thing about Alice Marwick: she refuses to apply only one philosophy to cover design. So far, her open mind and portfolio have served her (and the authors for whom she designs) well. Marwick has designed for publishers like Bloomsbury, Zed Books, I. B. Tauris, Simon & Schuster, Little, Brown, Atlantic Books, and John Murray. She has also worked in-house at a small independent press. Now, Marwick works for herself and the books in which she believes. Her latest cover design for Sweet Thames is yet another testament to her versatility as a designer.

Take Cover: Alice Marwick on Creative Process

Kimberly Glyder on Designing Dear Mrs. Bird

Back in early 2017, Jaya Miceli, art director at Scribner, asked me to work on the jacket for Dear Mrs. Bird, a novel by AJ Pearce. The book takes place during World War II in England and centers on a young woman who answers letters at a newspaper as an advice columnist. These letters are addressed to “Mrs. Bird.” Given a great deal of creative freedom on this title, one of the challenges I had was to differentiate my design from the UK edition, which is a beautiful package featuring a bird.

Kimberly Glyder on Designing Dear Mrs. Bird

Glenn O'Neill Gets His Hands Dirty For The Possible World

The Possible World is a novel featuring three seemingly disconnected characters who each, in different ways, need saving. They are brought together to change one another for the better. Ben is a six-year-old boy who witnesses a horrific crime that claims the life of his mother; Lucy is the doctor who tends to Ben in the aftermath; and lastly Clare, an elderly lady, who harbours a long lifetime of secrets.

In considering a jacket approach it was suggested, in our monthly briefing meeting at Penguin, that we think of the possibility of a simple iconic image that radiated a sense of hope.

Glenn O'Neill Gets His Hands Dirty For The Possible World

Sarahmay Wilkinson, Using Textiles for Woman of the Ashes

Working with Laird Gallagher, editor at FSG, on Woman of the Ashes was an absolute pleasure. Mia Cuoto’s writing has the depth, detail, and precision of a journalist, with an added layer of magic and wonder -- it is most captivating.

Woman of the Ashes takes place in Southern Mozambique in 1894. The story explores  two sides of an empire, as well as two sides of a divided family. At the center of the story is a young woman named Imani. Fifteen years of age, Imani is a member of the VaChopi tribe. She is hired as the translator for the Portuguese Sergeant German de Melo, it is their relationship that becomes the primary backdrop for the unfolding of Woman of the Ashes.

Sarahmay Wilkinson, Using Textiles for Woman of the Ashes

Nathan Burton Serves Up the Cover for Sophia of Silicon Valley

I was briefed by Siripant Ploy at Harper Collins to come up with a cover for Anna Yen’s Sophia of Silicon Valley, a comic novel whose protagonist is finding her way through a male/geek dominated industry. They didn’t want it to look too chick lit and wanted something iconic and eye-catching.

Nathan Burton Serves Up the Cover for Sophia of Silicon Valley

Suzanne Dean collaborates with Bryn Perrott for There There

Fierce, funny and groundbreaking, There There is a multi-generational, relentlessly paced story about violence and recovery, hope and loss, identity and power. I wanted something simple, strident and bold that used type and image in a stark combination. There There was such a commanding title, I instinctively knew it would look incredibly graphic, filling the cover dimensions perfectly.  I thought the US woodcut artist, Bryn Perrott, would be particularly good for the cover. She had a raw energy about her work that, in my mind, perfectly matched the tone of the novel.

Suzanne Dean collaborates with Bryn Perrott for There There

Sukutangan on Designing Rahasia Salinem

Rahasia Salinem is a novel inspired by a true story, about the life of a woman called Mbah Salinem, a maid who has helped many families and tended many households throughout her lifetime, including the authors’. Set in the 1940s and modern times, this book also explores the fight for independence by young Indonesian soldiers and the aftermath of war, and poverty.

We explored many concepts for the cover of this book. At one time we were focusing on Salinem herself, illustrating her figure and making her the prominent focus of the cover, but we realized that it would be too easy and predictable, especially because her name is on the title.

Sukutangan on Designing Rahasia Salinem

Colin Webber on Designing Little Disasters

Little Disasters is the story of two couples brought together by chance and changed forever by an affair. Michael and Paul meet in a hospital waiting room while their significant others are giving birth. It alternates between the two men's perspectives as well as between past and present day. The details unfold amid a mysterious disaster that's wreaking havoc on NYC in the present day.

I explored a few directions before landing on the final. One idea was an ice cream cone that’s tumbling over. The couple that has the affair is out one day getting ice cream together and they decide to make that their code word in case either one of their partners finds out. So at face value a ruined ice cream seems pretty innocuous, but once you find out the connotations it symbolizes that ‘oh shit’ moment.

Colin Webber on Designing Little Disasters

Dominic Forbes on Designing Mrs Whistler

Mrs Whistler is the story of American painter James Abbot McNeill Whistler, Jimmy to his friends, as told through the eyes of his long-suffering muse, Maud Franklin.

I was really excited to get this brief as I’ve been intrigued by Whistler’s work since learning about him in Art History lessons at college. As well as being notorious for his witticisms in social circles many of his works and his art philosophy were quite radical for the time.

Dominic Forbes on Designing Mrs Whistler

Designers with Moxie: Cherie Chapman Talks Cover Design

Have you ever wanted to follow a successful designer around for a day, in the hopes of discovering their magic secrets to success? Cover Designer Cherie Chapman chalks her success up to three key elements: preparation, communication, and an openness to change. In design as in life, no?

Designers with Moxie: Cherie Chapman Talks Cover Design

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