Lauren Harms is a book cover designer residing in New York. Her work includes designs for Invincible Summer and Where the Peacocks Sing. Here she gives details on creating both covers, as well as how she came into the industry.
Can you give a little bit of your background, how you became a cover designer?
I studied branding and packaging at Syracuse University in the Communications Design program. That program prepared me to handle and give critique, and to approach projects from all angles. Our portfolios were comprised of self initiated projects ranging from storefronts to conceptual magazines. We were encouraged to research the audience or market, and to try a variety of styles on every project. When I graduated, I realized that research and experimentation were why I loved being a designer. Eventually, I ended up interviewing at a publishing house and it all clicked. Every book has a different story to tell, so it’s your responsibility as the designer to read, research and explore all the possibilities to represent that story. Also, it doesn’t hurt that I love paper and all things printed!
Could you explain your creative process for the cover of Invincible Summer? What is the significance of the imagery?
There was a lot of excitement surrounding Invincible Summer when I started working on it, which made designing the cover a lot of fun. After reading, I identified elements in the story that evoked strong visuals - particle physics, intertwining friendships and relationships, the 90s, London, Corfu... there was a lot to work with! We knew we wanted it to look “summery” and bright, with big type that really popped. The title had such a winsome quality that it could carry some of the carefree attitude. For the image, we knew we wanted something rich and enticing that would whisk you away. A few chapters of the book are set on the island of Corfu, which encapsulates the feeling we were hoping to communicate with the cover. After trying a few versions with photographs of the Mediterranean, we thought an illustration might be more alluring. Inspired by wallpaper patterns, I pieced together and illustrated small scenes depicting the sea cliffs, homes, and flora of the Mediterranean. All of the elements came together to transport readers into an exciting story.
The cover for Where the Peacocks Sing has a remarkable texture. Did you sew the artwork by hand?
Where the Peacocks Sing is actually all Photoshop! Usually I would prefer to create a design like that by hand, but was happy with how it came out on the computer. For the fabric, I found a beautiful textile image on a stock site. For the type, I wrote the title by hand in a few different styles and weights. Layering my hand typography in Photoshop created the effect of stitching.
You have created a number of designs for both fiction and nonfiction books. Do you have a preference, if so why?
When it comes to reading, I prefer fiction. There’s nothing like an excellent story that sucks you into a rich, imaginative world. It’s always fun to interpret that world visually for the cover. However, I do read the majority of what I work on, and have learned a lot from nonfiction books. So I’d have to say I enjoy designing both nonfiction and fiction. Both present their own opportunities to solve conceptual problems in a visually appealing manner.