Justine Anweiler is a book cover designer at Pan Macmillan in London. Her work includes covers for We'll Always Have Paris: Trying and Failing to be French and A Manual for Cleaning Women. Here she describes her process for both, and shares other design insights.
Disclaimer: All views expressed are those of Justine Anweiler and do not reflect the views of her current or previous employers.
Can you discuss your process for the development of 'We’ll Always Have Paris'?
When We’ll Always Have Paris was initially briefed I remember thinking “Oh shit! I’ve just come up with something iconically French for the cover of All This Has Nothing to Do With Me” And it was because of that cover that this book came my way. After 30 seconds of complete and utter defeat knowing I had to out-do myself, I got researching. Leanne Shapton’s Swimming Studies is one of my all-time an all-time favourite covers, and I felt if all went according to plan I might be able to create something as graphically bold for this jacket. I chased a few visuals that went down the picturesque escape-the-daily-grind-memoire route, but the longer we all (the editor, sales, and fellow colleagues) deliberated we decided iconic was best!
How did the idea for the cover of ‘A Manual For Cleaning Women' come about?
This cover was a complete one off and if I’m ever as lucky to have such a simple and effective idea for a jacket again, and it get so swiftly approved I will buy this whole country ice cream. That’s a promise!
At the time there was an editor at Picador, named Kate Harvey, who is an absolute dream to work with. I had never worked with her before and when this cover came up I jumped on it. When a book is briefed to be “a big American novel” it is music to my ears. Being a Canadian on a fully English team, and usually being the only supporter in the room of a US jacket when we are discussing it as our potential UK cover, I get excited when “American” is the brief.
Over the Christmas break I thought about how to visually depict the title and make the most of its double meaning. First day back and I said “I have no other ideas because I’m really set on getting a clothing label made with all the type on it.” Luckily my art director loved it. When we pitched it at our next cover meeting we were both surprised when everyone else was sold on it too. And so it was made.
You use a great deal of illustration in your designs. Do you feel there are qualities that illustration has that makes cover art more approachable to readers?
I tend to think I’m more of a curator and that the true talent of many of my favourite covers (both one’s I’ve been involved in and one’s that I admire) lie in the hand of the illustrator behind it. As a visual consumer I prefer to feel the human that created the work of art and I apply this to the covers I create. Although I love slick traditional Swiss type that’s adhering to the strictest of grids, I much prefer an opinion confidently expressed through imperfect mark making. I guess it all depends on what you’re in to.
I believe illustration is the visual regurgitation of what the illustrator has already experienced. It is because an illustrator is conveying what they think and feel through colour, line, and shape that I feel connected to the work. I’m not always sure I set out to create covers that people will buy, but I always set out to create a cover that shares a point of view. Whether that is mine, or the author’s or a broader statement of the world at large, illustration allows covers to be expressive and expressive covers positively linger.
Of your designs, which cover do you consider your greets triumph so far? Why?
Conceptually A Manual for Cleaning Women has got it going on, but I must say that my favourite cover is Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight - for several reasons. The first being that it was a book I read from cover to cover and was truly stuck on how to re-jacket it. The second being that many of my greatest successes have come as a result of working with James Annal, my art director, and he really made this one what it is. The third reason is that no one believed that a cover with such small type would ever get published, and it did! As a result of the last reason, I felt any pre-conceived notions that put limitations on our creativity were lifted and that is worth everything.
The final cover is a hand painted African print that incorporates Alexandra Fuller as a young girl submersed in her environment during a time of war around race and immigration.