design

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 3: Sarahmay Wilkinson

For this episode Holly Dunn interviews Sarahmay Wilkinson, Associate Art Director at W. W. Norton. They discuss some of Wilkinson's book cover designs, including the fascinating backstory to her design of Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls. Also talked about is Wilkinson's journey into publishing after having first established herself as a designer in the beauty industry.

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 3: Sarahmay Wilkinson

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

Jack Smyth Creates a Bold Cover for 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.

Jack Smyth Creates a Bold Cover for The Half-God of Rainfall

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 2: Lauren Panepinto

For this episode Holly Dunn interviews Creative Director/VP for Orbit Books, Lauren Panepinto. They discuss how she came to be at Orbit, artist collaboration, and cover design for science fiction/fantasy books. You can view more of Panepinto's work at www.laurenpanepinto.com.

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 2:  Lauren Panepinto

Artist Cristina Pagnoncelli Breaks Out the Inks for We Set the Dark on Fire

In December of 2017 I was hired by HarperCollins - one of the largest publishers in the world and the English language - to do lettering for the cover of a new book by a young writer. I read the book's digital preview and quickly devoured the 304 pages. I fell in love with the history - which is fanciful but parallels very closely with our current society (machismo, xenophobia and class conflict). Only after absorbing the whole plot, I set out for visual research. The briefing asked to bring some Mexican / Spanish character to the lettering since the story is about immigrant characters.

Artist Cristina Pagnoncelli Breaks Out the Inks for We Set the Dark on Fire

Sarahmay Wilkinson on her Incredible Design for the Cover of House of Stone

Some stories read like beautiful, bitter medicine. Novuyo Rosa Tshuma’s first novel House of Stone, a multifaceted and fragmented reflection on Zimbabwe’s harrowing past, is one of those stories. The novel oozes intensity, even terror. It’s magnificently composed, but it’s also so raw it might cut you. When designer Sarahmay Wilkinson, who currently serves as Associate Art Director at W.W. Norton, received the creative brief for the cover of House of Stone, she knew the project would be challenging. How does one wrap a biting story in shelf appeal?

Sarahmay Wilkinson on her Incredible Design for the Cover of House of Stone

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 1: Kristen Radtke

For this first episode of Season 3 of our podcast Holly Dunn interviews cover designer, graphic novelist, and Art Director, Kristen Radtke. The conversation includes Radtke’s process on design, writing Imagine Wanting Only This, and how she works with other artists for The Believer Magazine.

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 1: Kristen Radtke

Greg Heinimann Explores Photography and Illustration for The Other Americans

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami is a novel about the fallout from a hit-and-run accident involving a Moroccan immigrant man in modern day California. It features multiple narrators tied together through their connection to the event, the cover up that follows, and the strength of the deceased’s family in dealing with such a trauma.

The brief was fairly simple in that it asked to convey the mystery behind the accident, and should be photographic. A small-town nighttime scene with illuminated windows was suggested, or perhaps the intersection where the crime took place.

Greg Heinimann Explores Photography and Illustration for The Other Americans

Samira Iravani on Creating the Cover for Dig

The process of designing Dig started with all my favorite ingredients: an editor with a clear vision for the cover and a story I could really sink my teeth into. Dig, written by the brilliant A.S. King, is about five teens—The Shoveler, the Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. Confused? Good. The less you know about Dig the better. Let the teens help you tunnel your way out of the dark as they discover how their lives and the lives of millionaire former potato farmers, Marla and Gottfried Hemmings, intersect. The former title of the book, Blend & Strain, also tells you a little bit about what you’ll encounter in its pages. Blend your cast of characters together, then strain, to see what comes out of the chaos.

Samira Iravani on Creating the Cover for Dig

ABCD 2019 Winners!

Judging by the amount of empty cups dotted around the room, a good time was had by all at last night’s Academy of British Cover Design awards; in particular, by those talented ten who won a coveted ABCD book.

All the shortlisted covers were nothing but exceptional and Spine would like to congratulate everyone who entered.

And now, without further ado, here are the winners!

ABCD 2019 Winners!

Go Ask Alice C. Morse

If you love book covers, you can thank the British and American Arts and Crafts movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. If you love book covers with both historic and modern elements of design, you can thank Alice C. Morse, an American artist, designer, and teacher whose work in bookmaking went far beyond the cover. Morse, who also illustrated books and experimented with various bookbinding techniques, knew the artistic and commercial value of exceptional book design. Her legacy? Enchanting, inspiring designs that echo the emphasis of the Arts and Crafts movement: beauty and (and in) practicality.

Go Ask Alice C. Morse

Lauren Harms Creates a Hot Cover for This is Not a Love Song

Looking back on my design process for This is Not a Love Song, I realized that my thinking didn't start with the manuscript. It started with Brendan Mathew's first book, The World of Tomorrow, which I had had the great pleasure of reading and designing the cover for in 2016. 

It's interesting to compare these two books because they're wildly different. The World of Tomorrow is a fantastically fun, fast paced novel set around the 1939 World's Fair. A very specific setting and time period, that had a clear visual vocabulary. This is Not a Love Song is a set of contemporary short stories that are much more meditative. As with most story collections, there are a wide range of settings and characters to dive into. 

Lauren Harms Creates a Hot Cover for This is Not a Love Song

Katie Tooke Delves into the Past to Create The Glovemaker

The book is set in Utah, 1888 in Mormon country. A woman awaits her husband's long anticipated return home, but a stranger arrives at her doorstep and with him, trouble.

As usual when I start a book cover design I read the book. Then I started on my research looking at images around the subject matter, old posters, old rugs/tapestries from the era and place. I looked at anything I could find from 1888 Utah. 

Katie Tooke Delves into the Past to Create The Glovemaker

Designer Michael J. Windsor, Setting His Sights on The Plotters

The concepts for this amazing, funny, and rather existential novel took me in quite a few directions. My initial approach centered around a running theme in the book which is centered on the mythical hero Achilles, to whom the protagonist, Reseng, holds in high regard and as someone he relates to. The idea most associated with Achilles is obviously the Achilles heel…his weak spot, and of course or hero Reseng has one... don’t we all… but more on that later.

Designer Michael J. Windsor, Setting His Sights on The Plotters

Jo Walker on Designing Gunpowder and Geometry

Gunpowder and Geometry is the story of Charles Hutton, a man who in the 18th century spent his early life working down the mines but rose out of poverty to become a Professor at the Royal Military Academy. 

I was asked to do something eye catching and different for this book - a ‘modern spin, not too old school looking’ and ‘nothing too dusty’ was the brief so I took that to mean I could have a bit of fun with it.

My initial thought was to focus on the mines and machinery as I thought a beautiful, gold foil, sparse jacket might do the job.

Jo Walker on Designing Gunpowder and Geometry

Ceara Elliot, Designing the Paperback Cover for Swan Song

Good: publishing a book. Better: publishing a book that garners acclaim. Best: going paperback. Paperback means people can’t get enough of you. Paperback means give me that story. Such was the success of Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott’s Swan Song, a historical novel based on writer Truman Capote’s relationship with a group of society women he dubbed his ‘swans.’ Today we’ll explore how designer Ceara Elliot both echoed and augmented the original cover of Swan Song for its new paperback version. You’ll find the paperback cover borrows just enough of the late-1950s motif to create continuity; all the while, Elliot’s cover design stands on its own. It also stands out on the bookstore shelves, as all good paperback covers should.

Ceara Elliot, Designing the Paperback Cover for Swan Song

Liz Dresner on Designing Famous in a Small Town

I was excited to see Famous In A Small Town on the Henry Holt winter 2019 list because I love Emma Mills's books, and they're incredibly fun to work on. I designed her previous two books, This Adventure Ends and Foolish Hearts, so I asked to be assigned Famous In A Small Town as well. (My creative director, Rich Deas, designed her debut, First & Then.)

Liz Dresner on Designing Famous in a Small Town

Tal Goretsky Experiments with Paper for the cover of Dara Horn's Eternal Life

Eternal Life is a novel about a woman born in ancient Jerusalem, about 2,000 years ago, who is still alive today in New York City. She makes a pact with her lover and ends up cursed with immortality. Whenever she sets herself on fire, she dies and is reborn as an 18 year-old, with all her memories intact.

Tal Goretsky Experiments with Paper for the cover of Dara Horn's Eternal Life

Designer Rosie Palmer Shakes Things Up for David Szalay's Turbulence

The initial cover brief for this title was that it should be an atmospheric photograph of an airport or aeroplane and tie in with the feel of the Vintage paperback cover for All That Man is, Szalay’s previous book. After trying a few different images it wasn’t to be, and we instead opted to go along a typographic route. However, in an attempt to keep some continuity between the last book and this one, we kept the title split like how All That Man is and this was the starting point for how the title came to be hyphenated and spilt over 3 lines. This added an element of concrete poetry to convey the subject matter even further; hinting at Szalay’s ripple effect narrative. It also led us very naturally in the direction of world airport codes.

Designer Rosie Palmer Shakes Things Up for David Szalay's Turbulence

Donna Cheng on Designing Rabeah Ghaffari's To Keep the Sun Alive

To Keep the Sun Alive is about the intimate, vibrant lives of the people in the Iranian city of Naishapur. The novel is told through servants, children, and close families set against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution. As the city falls apart the characters' strengths are put to the test as they seek justice and truth, and search for a voice.

Donna Cheng on Designing Rabeah Ghaffari's To Keep the Sun Alive

Steve Leard on Designing Sick-Note Britain

Sick-Note Britain (Hurst Publishers, February 2019) is an urgent call to reform Britain’s sickness culture, offering social – not medical – solutions. The author sees the book as a blistering condemnation of a sham system that works for nobody.

Hurst gave me a pretty open brief, which for me is ideal as it allows me to try a wide-range of approaches.

With a book like this, there’s a number of obvious routes that initially come to mind. I often find it useful to get them down on paper, if only to rule them out and move on to more original ideas. The most obvious was a shape of Britain made out of a crumpled note. This seemed to tick some boxes, but for me these were shallow, a bit flat and didn’t have the necessary impact. 

Steve Leard on Designing Sick-Note Britain