The Designer's Process

Samira Iravani on Creating the Cover for Dig

The process of designing Dig started with all my favorite ingredients: an editor with a clear vision for the cover and a story I could really sink my teeth into. Dig, written by the brilliant A.S. King, is about five teens—The Shoveler, the Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. Confused? Good. The less you know about Dig the better. Let the teens help you tunnel your way out of the dark as they discover how their lives and the lives of millionaire former potato farmers, Marla and Gottfried Hemmings, intersect. The former title of the book, Blend & Strain, also tells you a little bit about what you’ll encounter in its pages. Blend your cast of characters together, then strain, to see what comes out of the chaos.

Samira Iravani on Creating the Cover for Dig

Lauren Harms Creates a Hot Cover for This is Not a Love Song

Looking back on my design process for This is Not a Love Song, I realized that my thinking didn't start with the manuscript. It started with Brendan Mathew's first book, The World of Tomorrow, which I had had the great pleasure of reading and designing the cover for in 2016. 

It's interesting to compare these two books because they're wildly different. The World of Tomorrow is a fantastically fun, fast paced novel set around the 1939 World's Fair. A very specific setting and time period, that had a clear visual vocabulary. This is Not a Love Song is a set of contemporary short stories that are much more meditative. As with most story collections, there are a wide range of settings and characters to dive into. 

Lauren Harms Creates a Hot Cover for This is Not a Love Song

Katie Tooke Delves into the Past to Create The Glovemaker

The book is set in Utah, 1888 in Mormon country. A woman awaits her husband's long anticipated return home, but a stranger arrives at her doorstep and with him, trouble.

As usual when I start a book cover design I read the book. Then I started on my research looking at images around the subject matter, old posters, old rugs/tapestries from the era and place. I looked at anything I could find from 1888 Utah. 

Katie Tooke Delves into the Past to Create The Glovemaker

Designer Michael J. Windsor, Setting His Sights on The Plotters

The concepts for this amazing, funny, and rather existential novel took me in quite a few directions. My initial approach centered around a running theme in the book which is centered on the mythical hero Achilles, to whom the protagonist, Reseng, holds in high regard and as someone he relates to. The idea most associated with Achilles is obviously the Achilles heel…his weak spot, and of course or hero Reseng has one... don’t we all… but more on that later.

Designer Michael J. Windsor, Setting His Sights on The Plotters

Jo Walker on Designing Gunpowder and Geometry

Gunpowder and Geometry is the story of Charles Hutton, a man who in the 18th century spent his early life working down the mines but rose out of poverty to become a Professor at the Royal Military Academy. 

I was asked to do something eye catching and different for this book - a ‘modern spin, not too old school looking’ and ‘nothing too dusty’ was the brief so I took that to mean I could have a bit of fun with it.

My initial thought was to focus on the mines and machinery as I thought a beautiful, gold foil, sparse jacket might do the job.

Jo Walker on Designing Gunpowder and Geometry

Ceara Elliot, Designing the Paperback Cover for Swan Song

Good: publishing a book. Better: publishing a book that garners acclaim. Best: going paperback. Paperback means people can’t get enough of you. Paperback means give me that story. Such was the success of Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott’s Swan Song, a historical novel based on writer Truman Capote’s relationship with a group of society women he dubbed his ‘swans.’ Today we’ll explore how designer Ceara Elliot both echoed and augmented the original cover of Swan Song for its new paperback version. You’ll find the paperback cover borrows just enough of the late-1950s motif to create continuity; all the while, Elliot’s cover design stands on its own. It also stands out on the bookstore shelves, as all good paperback covers should.

Ceara Elliot, Designing the Paperback Cover for Swan Song

Liz Dresner on Designing Famous in a Small Town

I was excited to see Famous In A Small Town on the Henry Holt winter 2019 list because I love Emma Mills's books, and they're incredibly fun to work on. I designed her previous two books, This Adventure Ends and Foolish Hearts, so I asked to be assigned Famous In A Small Town as well. (My creative director, Rich Deas, designed her debut, First & Then.)

Liz Dresner on Designing Famous in a Small Town

Tal Goretsky Experiments with Paper for the cover of Dara Horn's Eternal Life

Eternal Life is a novel about a woman born in ancient Jerusalem, about 2,000 years ago, who is still alive today in New York City. She makes a pact with her lover and ends up cursed with immortality. Whenever she sets herself on fire, she dies and is reborn as an 18 year-old, with all her memories intact.

Tal Goretsky Experiments with Paper for the cover of Dara Horn's Eternal Life

Designer Rosie Palmer Shakes Things Up for David Szalay's Turbulence

The initial cover brief for this title was that it should be an atmospheric photograph of an airport or aeroplane and tie in with the feel of the Vintage paperback cover for All That Man is, Szalay’s previous book. After trying a few different images it wasn’t to be, and we instead opted to go along a typographic route. However, in an attempt to keep some continuity between the last book and this one, we kept the title split like how All That Man is and this was the starting point for how the title came to be hyphenated and spilt over 3 lines. This added an element of concrete poetry to convey the subject matter even further; hinting at Szalay’s ripple effect narrative. It also led us very naturally in the direction of world airport codes.

Designer Rosie Palmer Shakes Things Up for David Szalay's Turbulence

Donna Cheng on Designing Rabeah Ghaffari's To Keep the Sun Alive

To Keep the Sun Alive is about the intimate, vibrant lives of the people in the Iranian city of Naishapur. The novel is told through servants, children, and close families set against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution. As the city falls apart the characters' strengths are put to the test as they seek justice and truth, and search for a voice.

Donna Cheng on Designing Rabeah Ghaffari's To Keep the Sun Alive

Steve Leard on Designing Sick-Note Britain

Sick-Note Britain (Hurst Publishers, February 2019) is an urgent call to reform Britain’s sickness culture, offering social – not medical – solutions. The author sees the book as a blistering condemnation of a sham system that works for nobody.

Hurst gave me a pretty open brief, which for me is ideal as it allows me to try a wide-range of approaches.

With a book like this, there’s a number of obvious routes that initially come to mind. I often find it useful to get them down on paper, if only to rule them out and move on to more original ideas. The most obvious was a shape of Britain made out of a crumpled note. This seemed to tick some boxes, but for me these were shallow, a bit flat and didn’t have the necessary impact. 

Steve Leard on Designing Sick-Note Britain

The Covers of Devangana Dash: a Delightful Blend of Graphic Design and Deeply Human Illustration

New Delhi-based visual artist and designer Devangana Dash knows daring color and deviant lines. Just look at her covers for works like Goodbye, Freddie Mercury, Auroville, and Heart: A History, and you will find that oft-coveted balance between crisp, modern design and the gorgeous singularity of the human hand. Dash works as an in-house book designer for Penguin Random House India, where a constant influx of creative projects requires her to design, illustrate, and correspond with clients daily. 

The Covers of Devangana Dash: a Delightful Blend of Graphic Design and Deeply Human Illustration

Pete Garceau on Creating the Cool Cover for Tim Johnston’s The Current

The Current was a title that was given to me by the creative director of Algonquin Books, Anne Winslow.

The story takes place in the dead of winter, outside a small town in Minnesota. It focuses on 2 murders, that happened 10 years apart. Both victims were teenage girls, that died in the exact same spot, under the ice of a frozen river. The last girl to drown, had her car rammed off an icy road, into the frozen river, by an unknown attacker. With her, in the car, was a friend that survived the crash, who unearths secrets throughout the story, that lead to the killer.

Pete Garceau on Creating the Cool Cover for Tim Johnston’s The Current

Tree Abraham Takes On a Transcontinental Challenge for The Remainder

Last summer I had the fortuitous experience of being briefed the same book by two publishers. First, the British publisher And Other Stories reached out to me, and then a few rounds into the cover design process, the American publisher Coffee House Press contacted me about designing the US edition. Having studied design in the UK, and now based in the US, I am quite comfortable adapting my style to suit the intended market, but I could not have foreseen the challenges that this unique case would pose.

Tree Abraham Takes On a Transcontinental Challenge for The Remainder

Stephen Brayda on Designing Samanta Schweblin's Mouthful of Birds

Mouthful of Birds was presented on my first list as a cover designer for Riverhead and stars aligned. With a six-month-old baby at home, I needed another reason to lose sleep at night.

Packaging Samanta Schweblin’s newest collection of short stories proved to be an all-consuming adventure like the stories themselves. I was immediately moved as I read- I’ve always been fascinated with tales that end with more questions than answers. The stories are short (some just two pages long) but packed full of evocative and haunting imagery- more than some full-length novels. Schweblin has mastered the formula for captivating storytelling and I quickly got caught up in the ride.

Stephen Brayda on Designing Samanta Schweblin's Mouthful of Birds

Carol Ly on tackling a new genre for Shame is an Ocean I Swim Across

Like many, I knew of Mary Lambert from her beautiful vocals on the song Same Love. I didn’t realize she was an accomplished poet/spoken word artist until I became the designer for Shame Is an Ocean I Swim Across.

Before the design process began, Mary invited us to see her perform. I ventured out that evening with the book’s editor, Kate Farrell, and her assistant, Rachel, without knowing what to expect. By night’s end, Mary had bared her soul on stage through song and poetry, and it was clear how much she connected with her rapt audience.

Carol Ly on tackling a new genre for Shame is an Ocean I Swim Across

A Look at Interior Book Design with Jordan Wannemacher

We all know that cover design matters, but the visual elements of a book don’t stop at the jacket. Interior book design involves an artistic and logistical eye, a mind for both page layout as well as the music of the prose. Enter Jordan Wannemacher, a book designer who has taken her zeal for cover design straight to the pages themselves in her work for the interior of David J. Helfand’s A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age.

A Look at Interior Book Design with Jordan Wannemacher

Beginning to End, The Making of Light from Other Stars, Part 3: Patti Ratchford

Beginning to End is a series from Spine following a book from acquisition to publication. For our first "season," we're following Light from Other Stars, about a young astronaut hopeful and an invention that alters time. The novel is author Erika Swyler's second, following her much-lauded 2015 debut, The Book of Speculation. Bloomsbury Art Director Patti Ratchford designed the cover, which features art by Marc Burckhardt. Bloomsbury will publish Light from Other Stars in May.

Beginning to End, The Making of Light from Other Stars, Part 3: Patti Ratchford

Michel Vrana on Designing The Death Scene Artist

Andrew Wilmot’s The Death Scene Artist (Woksak & Wynn) is a literary horror novel that recounts a romance between the dying M_____, a bit player film and television extra, and the world’s greatest living ‘redshirt’, who has died on screen nearly 800 times. There’s a lot of symbolism that came to mind right away in reading the book. Movies, death, performance, scripts, masks, red…

Michel Vrana on Designing The Death Scene Artist

Richard Ljoenes on Designing the Genre-Defying Works of Alejandro Jodorowsky

The Son of Black Thursday (Restless Books, November 2018) is the sequel to Alejandro Jodorowsky's semi-autobiographical Magnum Opus Where the Bird Sings Best. I had the opportunity of working on both of these covers, and they are up there with my favorite projects.

Richard Ljoenes on Designing the Genre-Defying Works of Alejandro Jodorowsky

Olga Grlic, Designing I Do Not Trust You

I Do Not Trust You was originally called The Lost Map of Chaos and is a teen thriller with lots of adventure and mystery, for my new imprint Wednesday Books. There was no direction given when it was launched and I knew I wanted it type and texture only and not photographic.

Olga Grlic, Designing I Do Not Trust You

Dan Mogford on Designing Wasted Calories and Ruined Nights

Wasted Calories and Ruined Nights is a collection of restaurant reviews by Jay Rayner detailing some of his worst experiences as restaurant critic for the Observer. Alex Kirby at Faber approached me with the brief to do something playful, maybe typographic with a hint of “dining gone wrong” and no photos of Jay himself. 

Dan Mogford on Designing Wasted Calories and Ruined Nights