Jack Smyth is from Dublin, Ireland and currently works in London designing book jackets for 4th Estate & William Collins. Here he talks us through his process designing the cover of The Half-God of Rainfall.
Inua Ellam’s The Half God of Rainfall is a modern take on ancient mythology / basketball saga which is part poem / part play. It’s about as far away from a regular piece of fiction as you can get, and I really wanted to try make it feel different in the way the cover was approached.
From the get go, Jo Walker’s wonderful covers for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s paperbacks were a loose reference, so I kept things graphic and pattern based.
Initially, I wanted things to be simple and abstract. While basketball plays a huge part in the text, I didn’t really know how to represent it elegantly on the cover without tipping the language towards a sports novel. These were just a bit crap really, but got to start somewhere…
I then caved and tried to bring some basketballs into the mix, hoping to create a rising pattern that could be an eye as much as an eye. I also tried bringing this into a larger repeated pattern, but I honestly was confusing myself as to what kind of book these covers suggested – sci-fi? A magic basketball pupil? No thanks.
I liked the idea of symbol repetition, so I began constructing symbols which might suggest mountains, setting suns, pillars, basketballs, rivers etc. The results were still a bit static but I liked the large triangle shape – a nice strong element to have at the core.
I thought some new type could help bring some movement into the cover so I tried a bit of messy hand lettering with an old brush. This really helped form the crux of the final cover, with the rest of the elements being half abstract / half figurative graphic symbols which could make a landscape or just a (hopefully) pleasing collection of shapes and patterns depending on which the viewer sees. The author had a look at this stage and had some good input in terms of colours and balance and this conversation readily informed the end result.
Design Editor, Painter, Designer, Lifelong bibliophile.