book

Cherie Chapman, on Designing the Simon Brett Murder Mysteries

Designer Cherie Chapman has a knack for turning the intrigue of a novel’s plot into a series of captivating images for its cover. Chapman’s passion and talent for creating book covers continues to earn her high-profile projects, including a recent redesign of the Simon Brett murder mysteries. Canongate’s new imprint, Black Thorn, commissioned Chapman to rework 14 of Brett’s titles. Editors at Black Thorn thought the series needed a more illustrative approach, and they sought Chapman’s particular gift for creating fiction book covers with zing. Chapman’s guiding principle for the Simon Brett series? Fun. Imagine it: a project infused with joy for both designer and potential readers alike. Here’s how Chapman made magic for these quirky, cozy murder mysteries.

Cherie Chapman, on Designing the Simon Brett Murder Mysteries

Kaitlin Kall, Breathing New Life into a Concept for the Cover of If You Want To Make God Laugh

Bianca Marais’s writing is emotionally rich and deeply felt; I absolutely loved both reading and designing for her novels. If You Want to Make God Laugh is set in post-Apartheid South Africa and tells the story of three very different women who are brought together unexpectedly and, through their journey together, challenge the conventional norms of both family and identity.

This cover is a bit of a publishing unicorn, as it was an outtake of one of the comps presented for Bianca’s first novel, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. The editor sent Bianca two cover concepts for Hum, and she loved both so much that when it was time to jacket her next novel, it was suggested we try and rework the unused one. This almost never happens!

Kaitlin Kall, Breathing New Life into a Concept for the Cover of If You Want To Make God Laugh

University Press Cover Round-Up

Since July is a quiet pub month, I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate an oft-overlooked area of UP Design: Series Designs. Series designs are a challenge to design; they require forethought to fit a wide variety of titles and the designer has to consider a package that can be replicated indefinitely without duplicating previous colors/symbols or breaking the pattern in a way that divorces the design from the rest of the series. Take a look at six examples of designers who really hit the mark on this challenge to produce beautifully memorable series designs.

University Press Cover Round-Up

Eleanor Crow teams up with Illustrator Yehrin Tong for Infused

Henrietta Lovell is best known as the Rare Tea Lady. She is on a mission to revolutionise the way we drink tea by replacing industrially produced teabags with an appreciation for the best quality leaves. Her quest sees her travel to the Shire Highlands of Malawi, across the foothills of the Himalayas, and to hidden gardens in the Wuyi Shan in China to source the world’s most extraordinary tea. Infused takes us on a remarkable journey, introducing us to the people who grow and craft the precious leaves as well as the celebrated chefs who serve them. And always guiding us is Lovell herself, who tells the story of how her love affair with tea has shaped her life through times of both great joy and adversity. The result is a delicious infusion of travel writing, memoir, recipes and glorious photography, all written with Lovell’s unique charm and wit.

Eleanor Crow teams up with Illustrator Yehrin Tong for Infused

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 6: Amanda Weiss

For this episode Holly Dunn interviews freelance book cover designer Amanda Weiss. Weiss has been recognized frequently by the Association of University Presses for her work, including selections for the 2019 AUPresses Book, Jacket, and Journal Show: Beyoncé in Formation, and Woke Gaming. Dunn and Weiss discuss typography, photography, and use of color.

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 6: Amanda Weiss

Michael Morris with a Look at Different Directions for The Travelers

The cover for The Travelers by Regina Porter came about when I was trying to do something completely different and, once I stopped trying so hard, it finally started to come together. Basically every cover designer will tell you the road to a cover is almost never the same, which makes it interesting but also stressful of course.

This novel is a family saga of two families, one white and one black, interconnected over many years and places. It’s a story made of many different stories, none necessarily more important than the other. This meant there was no shortage of symbols to represent each part, but which ones could represent the wide scope of the entire book was the challenge. Initially in conceptualizing with editorial, we wanted something bold, modern, but with a touch of a southern classic feel. Even though it takes place all over, a large selection of the stories take place in the south, in particular one scene that shapes the events of much going forward. This particular scene takes place on a tragic night when a young black couple is pulled over by the cops in Georgia in 1966. Along that stretch of road are weeping willow trees, we felt that given the strong family narrative it would make sense to use willows as a sort of family tree.

Michael Morris with a Look at Different Directions for The Travelers

Will Staehle Discusses his Cover Design for Sarah Gailey's Magic for Liars

I’ve worked with the talented creative team over at Tor on countless covers, and I’m always thrilled when they approach me with a new project. Magic for Liars came across my desk at a particularly busy time for me, but the book concept was really interesting, and I was excited to take the project on.

This fantastic debut novel from Sarah Gailey follows our lead, Ivy Gamble. When a gruesome murder is discovered at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages where Ivy’s estranged twin sister teaches Theoretical Magic - Ivy ( a reluctant detective ) is pulled into a world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister―without losing herself.

Will Staehle Discusses his Cover Design for Sarah Gailey's Magic for Liars

Kelly Winton on Designing The Paper Wasp

The cover design for The Paper Wasp came together very organically. I was hired as a freelancer by Grove Atlantic’s Art Director Gretchen Mergenthaler. The cover memo had some specific direction, but Gretchen always encourages original ideas and experimentation and it sounded like a great project. I was excited to work on it.

Kelly Winton on Designing The Paper Wasp

Jakob Vala Explores the World of Taxidermy for Mostly Dead Things

Mostly Dead Things tells the story of Jessa-Lynn Morton, who takes over her father’s taxidermy business shortly after his suicide. Still grieving, she struggles to keep both the business and her family from falling apart. While Jessa buries herself in work and alcohol, her mother begins making lewd window displays with animals from the taxidermy shop. Jessa's first love—also her brother Milo’s wife—ran out on the family years before, leaving Milo with their young daughter and her troubled son from a previous relationship. Struggling to cope with her absence, Jessa and Milo remain locked in a pattern of resentment and grief.

Jakob Vala Explores the World of Taxidermy for Mostly Dead Things

Ulli Lust, on How I Tried to Be a Good Person

Ulli Lust, a 2013 Los Angeles Times book prize winner for her graphic novel Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, is revisiting her past with her newest book How I Tried to Be a Good Person. The graphic novel is a memoir, like Lust's first book, and according to Fantagraphics is “a story of sexual obsession, gender conflict, and self-liberation.” 

Ulli Lust, on How I Tried to Be a Good Person

Sounds Like You Have It Covered: Eric Wilder’s Cover Design for Sounds Like Home

For the 20th anniversary reissue of Mary Herring Wright’s memoir Sounds Like Home: Growing Up Black and Deaf in the South, designer Eric Wilder faced the challenge of delivering Wright’s message to 21st-century readers. The memoir’s old cover, which featured a scripted typeface a sepia-toned photograph of the author and her brother, simply would not do for the much-anticipated reprint of Sounds Like Home. Instead, Wilder decided to play with elements of Wright’s Carolina heritage for a cover that subtly conveys the memoir’s strong sense of place.

Sounds Like You Have It Covered: Eric Wilder’s Cover Design for Sounds Like Home

Emily Courdelle on Designing Is Butter a Carb?

I designed the cover for Is Butter a Carb? while I was working in-house as a junior designer with the wonderful design team at Little, Brown Book Group. I put myself forward for this project in the cover briefing for two main reasons: 1) the title (who doesn’t love a Mean Girls reference?), and 2) that I felt this project could give me a chance to experiment with my love for hand/digital lettering.

Emily Courdelle on Designing Is Butter a Carb?

Amy Chu & Janet K. Lee, Bringing Sea Sirens to Life

Last year, graphic novel sales drastically outpaced the growth rate of other print publishing. More and more readers are drawn to the marriage of art and storytelling that goes into books like Sea Sirens, a new middle-grade novel about a Vietnamese-American surfer and her water-loving cat. Spine sat down with Eisner Award-winning illustrator Janet K. Lee as well as writer and co-founder of Alpha Girl Comics Amy Chu to talk about bringing their graphic novel to life.

Amy Chu & Janet K. Lee, Bringing Sea Sirens to Life

A Look at International Editions

When a book originally written in English is translated for a new audience it often requires a new cover to go with it. Some of these are very similar, taking elements from the English version, while others are vastly different. It's difficult to draw any conclusions about how these markets differ from the UK or US simply by looking at these covers. That would require a lot more research, comparison and conversation with designers. (PhD thesis, anyone?) In this article, I've instead tried to focus on the objective design choices that have been made rather than judging them as better or worse. Just as with US vs UK covers, I don't think that's a useful conversation. Moreover, it's impossible with the markets being as different as they are.

A Look at International Editions

Baily Crawford Tackles a Sensitive Subject for On a Scale of 1 to 10

On a Scale of One to Ten by Ceylan Scott gives us a look inside life in a psychiatric ward through the eyes of teenage Tamar. Based on the author’s true story, it is as poetic as it is unflinchingly honest. With themes of depression, self mutilation and suicide, the cover had to be intriguing while remaining respectful of the content. The read is deeply emotive, raw and beautiful; I wanted to encompass these qualities while also remaining accessible, considerate to the reality that a manuscript this dense with hard-hitting subject matter can provide important refuge to so many readers.

Baily Crawford Tackles a Sensitive Subject for On a Scale of 1 to 10

Lauren Peters-Collaer gets Creative with Collage for Feast Your Eyes

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg is an arresting and deeply compelling novel. It tells the story of Lillian Preston—a single mother and photographer searching for artistic recognition in 1950s New York City—and is formatted as if it were a catalogue of notes from a posthumous MoMA exhibition of her work. The “catalogue”, written largely in the voice of Lillian’s daughter Samantha, describes her mother’s life, including a show at a small gallery early in Lillian’s career where a display of partially nude photos of a young Samantha leads to obscenity charges, Lillian’s arrest, and mother and daughter becoming a lightning rod for national scrutiny and scorn. I was mesmerized by Feast Your Eyes immediately so was simultaneously incredibly grateful to my art director, Jaya Miceli, for giving it to me, and terrified at the thought of not doing it visual justice.

Lauren Peters-Collaer gets Creative with Collage for Feast Your Eyes

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 4: Miraphora Mina

For this episode Holly Dunn talks to Miraphora Mina, who along with Eduardo Lima, make up the design duo MinaLima. Mina is responsible for designing elements for the Harry Potter Films, as well as the Fantastic Beasts series, including The Marauders Map, The Daily Prophet, and all the text books. She and Holly also discuss MinaLima’s work on interactive classics for HarperCollins.

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 4: Miraphora Mina

Luke Bird Designs an Offbeat cover for Plume

Currently, it seems I am irrevocably drawn to contemporary literary fiction with a touch of (oft-dark) humour. Plume is a brilliant novel. I find that designing a book that you really like can feel a little daunting. It sometimes feels as if there is an added internal pressure to get it just right. 

I was pleased to see that the brief from 4th Estate was quite open. Julian Humphries, who commissioned the cover, described it as being very cool, and said that I should feel free to take some risks. Interestingly, he suggested that I “think ABCDs”, referencing the ABCD book cover design awards in the UK. As a cover designer, briefs don’t get much better than this. I felt it could be an opportunity to create something really striking and design-led, which was a pure reaction to reading the novel.

Luke Bird Designs an Offbeat cover for Plume

Faceout Studio's Jeff Miller Explores Russian Folk Patterns for Romanov

The cover for Romanov actually came together more quickly than expected. Some cover projects just present themselves that way. You immediately get the creative juices flowing and have imagery and/or art in mind that propels you in overdrive. There’s almost a good anxiety that takes place where you’re desperate to see things come together. That was the case here.

Faceout Studio's Jeff Miller Explores Russian Folk Patterns for Romanov

Steve Leard Plays With Perspective for The Mountain That Eats Men

The Mountain That Eats Men (Zed Books, 2019) is the haunting story of Cerro Rico, a mining mountain near Potosí, Bolivia. 

From the 16th century, the mines of Potosí bankrolled the Spanish empire. During those years immense wealth allowed the city to grow larger than London at the time and the mountain was quickly given the epithet Cerro Rico – the ‘rich mountain’. But today, Potosí’s inhabitants are some of the poorest in South America while the mountain itself has been so greedily plundered that its summit is on the verge of collapsing. So many people have died in the mines that Cerro Rico is now called the ‘mountain that eats men’.

Steve Leard Plays With Perspective for The Mountain That Eats Men

Nicolette Seeback on Designing the Luminous Cover for Trust Exercise

Designing the cover for Trust Exercise was a unique experience for me because I didn’t have the chance to read the manuscript before I started working on it. This was because the project wasn’t initially assigned to me, but I had been attending jacket meetings where many beautiful designs were being presented, none of which were being approved. I had been listening to the feedback on the other designs, while also learning some clues about the book itself during this time. When I was asked to contribute some designs to show in the next round, I thought about all that I had heard, and my first instinct was to experiment with intimate figure drawings. I had heard that sex and consent were themes in the book but I hadn’t yet seen any covers exploring the body, so I set out to fill that gap. I used crayons, thick markers and various other pens to create line drawings on paper that I scanned and vectorized. I treated each of these designs very similarly by placing large type in the center and weaving the illustrations through the letters. These comps were liked by some but ultimately killed because they weren’t quite right for the book.

Nicolette Seeback on Designing the Luminous Cover for Trust Exercise