Rachel Willey is a book cover designer residing in Brooklyn, NY. Counted among her many remarkable designs is the cover for Brit Bennett's The Mothers. Spine contributor Vyki Hendy contacted Willey about the work. Here is Willey's process for developing the cover in her own words.
From the very beginning, The Mothers was described as a book that was going to be a literary event upon it’s release and our team at Riverhead wanted to be sure that this was communicated through it’s cover. Even though this was Brit’s first novel we wanted to make a big, bold move and grab the attention that she deserved.
The novel explores friendship and motherhood in different forms, one of which being in the church community. At the beginning of the design process, I tried to steer clear of all imagery. I think that I was afraid of painting the book into a corner that wouldn’t represent it accurately.
I began with mostly typographic solutions that were not coming out and saying anything in particular. They felt big, but also stagnant and lacking the warmth that the story held. My second round of designs, I began incorporating female silhouettes and some visual references to stained glass windows. Silhouettes can be a tricky design device because although they are an easy way to show that a book is about people, they are often hard to use in an interesting way. To combat this, I played around with overlapping the silhouettes and having them interact with color and pattern at their intersections. I wanted to reflect that the story centered on relationships between women and the ways that they effect one another. At my art director’s suggestion, I tried some tighter crops of the forms that gave them some abstraction and made them not read immediately as women. This added some mystery to the cover.
The final product was one of the last designs I did, I believe it actually happened right before the meeting. Once I printed it out it immediately became my favorite. I remember it was sitting in the printer tray and a coworker commented on it, which seemed like a good omen. Luckily everyone in the meeting loved it as well and the rest is history!
Design Editor, Painter, Designer, Lifelong bibliophile.