Colin Webber on Designing Little Disasters

Colin Webber is a senior designer at Penguin Random House. Here he talks us through his process for creating the ingenious cover for Little Disasters by Randall Klein.


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.

 
 

Ultimately, a lot of what I was doing involved mundane objects being broken or in distress. I wanted to play off the title in a fun way. The contradiction of a 'little' disaster I think allows you to read more into the cover. A broken plate becomes more than just a broken plate.

Another idea I had was a kitchen timer being thrown out the window. This was a nod to the Michael’s wife who has a rising career as a baker. It also represents the importance of time as a whole in this story: The couples just happen to be at the hospital at the same time in the beginning, which kicks things off; the timeline being revealed at different intervals between past and present - The latter in which Michael is trying to beat the clock and rush back to Brooklyn.  

 
 

The final direction went through a few variations before landing on the singular plate and lettering. One design had 4 plates for the 4 main characters and to give a better sense of the dinner party gone wrong as one of the plates is broken. This direction was too busy though and the type was too confined in the remaining space.

 
 

I looked at the cover with digital type as well but found the readability against certain colors to be an issue and even with the right type it didn't feel quite right. It was too cold and sterile. I wanted the design to feel more special and hand lettering allowed for that one-of-a-kind type treatment. I wanted the lettering to feel integrated with the piece so I brought in some of the table cloth texture and made the plate sit on top to push the dimension. Red was the clear winner for color too. In the present day timeline it’s a very hot summer day, there’s the initial passion of the affair, the ultimate anger that follows.

 
 

Painter, Designer, Lifelong bibliophile.

@PaintbrushMania