Book Cover Design Takes Home the Silver

One of my colleagues issued a general inquiry this week into the design process. She’s been following our progress on a particular upcoming title. This is more or less what I shared with her.

Where/how do you start when you are asked to design a cover?

I read the manuscript and the design brief. I know it sounds obvious, but it’s just the start. In some circumstances, the brief can evolve right along with the design, especially if the brief was initially authored only by the acquisitions or marketing departments. What I mean by that is the word “strawberry” might be in the brief, but the design process may reveal expanded interpretations of “strawberry.”

What ideas in the book inspired you to find this imagery?

Imagery is just as much a result of budgetary and production constraints as it is theme. A designer can actually have too many options, if you begin knowing that you can’t hire a model, for instance, or that you can’t afford to re-do a fruitless photography session, you can work the hell out of a type-driven concept.

How does your imagery connect to the text?

I can’t speak for other designers, but I “consult” snapshots in my head like going through an old shoebox.

How do you decide on a color palette?

The color scheme usually taps me on the shoulder. But, it can also be extracted from a particular image. Actually, the color palette can emerge from any of dozens of sources, including production techniques, geographical locations in the story, predominant hues on the books that will be surrounding it on the shelf, etc.

How do you give a reader hints about the book without giving too much away?

Symbolism is the designer’s friend. And it’s inherent, my job is to boil down an entire narrative (or, at least, the essence thereof) into a 6×9 static image. And don’t forget that the title, if the titler(s) have done their job, is doing quite a bit of the heavy lifting.

How does the design department collaborate to bring these great designs to the table?

We focus on some of the tiniest details… then, in the next critique session, we pull back and look at the overall concept… and we just keep doing that until we have what we want, or what we think we can convince the rest of the press that they want. (wink, wink)

Anything else you want to say about your cover design process or this specific project?

I struggled with my devotion to my design and my infatuation with Brandon’s. I had a hard time deciding which way to vote, because I know I should be voting for the good of the press and the good of the title. I’d been looking at mine for so long, that it wasn’t fresh, and Brandon’s bold cover was full of vitality and punch. Anyway, I’m glad Brandon’s was chosen because it’s stunning, though I think mine would have been just as handsome on the shelf. He and I have divergent, and complementary design sensibilities.

Visit the Up Nights site for ordering information and to view the book trailer.

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