Greg Heinimann is Assistant Art Director at Bloomsbury Publishing, where he designs and illustrates literary fiction and non-fiction book covers. Here he talks us through his design process for The Other Americans.
The Other Americans by Laila Lalami is a novel about the fallout from a hit-and-run accident involving a Moroccan immigrant man in modern day California. It features multiple narrators tied together through their connection to the event, the cover up that follows, and the strength of the deceased’s family in dealing with such a trauma.
The brief was fairly simple in that it asked to convey the mystery behind the accident, and should be photographic. A small-town nighttime scene with illuminated windows was suggested, or perhaps the intersection where the crime took place.
With that in mind, I sought out American photographers who focus on the quiet and suburban such as Gregory Crewdson, Kevin Cooley, Stephen Shore and William Eggleston. These designed, I illustrated several options as an alternative focusing on tyre skid marks, and a suburban scene from above showing the seconds after the crime.
Throughout, I wanted a cover that left a visual clue and hidden meaning, but one that would still ground the project in it’s literary foundations and not veer off into the thriller genre. Perhaps an image that demanded closer inspection where a story would reveal itself.
Towards the end of the design process, I came across an aerial image that featured a long street dividing driveways and houses where the long title could be placed vertically. To the right of the top house, I placed (what could be) the jeep used in the crime at a haphazard angle - as though it had skidded to a halt in the owners’ driveway. Making a lot of type work within such a complex image was strangely easy, with each driveway and tree shifted here and there giving plenty of room for quotes.
We went to the cover meeting with narrowed down mix of photographic and illustrated options, and two routes were chosen (one the nighttime illustrated scene) with the cover below winning out. For the final layout, I used a soft touch stock with a blind spot glossed street grid over the entire back cover, making a nice visual reference to the detective work that happens tracing the vehicle in the story.
It’s a wonderful book, and I’m grateful to have worked on it.
Design Editor, Painter, Designer, Lifelong bibliophile.