Art + Design

From the Design Desk: Covers Keep on Coming


This week we came across Book Worship, a new book design blog by designer Shawn Hazen featuring vintage covers. We heard about it on The Book Cover Archive Blog, who also compiled an extensive list of people Twittering about cover design. Could book covers be the new movie poster? They’re a little hard to frame, but not to collect…

Print Magazine has a great article on the cover design process and the many versions designers often have to create before a winning design is selected. Print asked eight prominent designers to show some examples and explain the reasoning behind them. The conclusion seemed to be that through the rejection process, a better cover did ultimately emerge. Below are some Chronicle covers and the many options we explored.

With Barbara Boxer’s fictional novel, Blind Trust, we wanted the cover to be intelligent and intriguing with a sense of eminent danger. The main character is a strong politician, but at the same time she is vulnerable because of her position and exposure. The cover with the figure walking on the snow was selected because it conveyed a sense of mystery and it has a voyeuristic creepiness to it without being misleadingly violent.

In the case of the lighter Indie Rock Coloring Book, the process was much much easier. We simply picked a cover based on sketches from artist Andy J. Miller. Our only change was to request more musical instruments.

For L.A. Bizarro, a non-fiction book about surreal, seedy, and counter-culture destinations in Los Angeles, designer Katie Hanburger was inspired by the hand-painted signage in this city of pulp and kitsch oddities. The final cover is a collage of strange characters with a bright three-dimensional title, hopefully as unabashed and bold as the old Hollywood sign.

I won’t go into the difference between designing covers for fiction versus non-fiction, but I will say that there’s a certain openness to interpretation with fiction that generally requires a different set of emotional metaphors. Designer Andrew Shapiro had to go through many, many iterations of Swimming with Strangers before the right balance of moodiness, fragility, narrative, and wonder was agreed upon. Fiction has the power to draw such very different gut reactions from everyone, so finding that perfect metaphor often requires wide-ranging and detailed design explorations, from composition to type—that old dance.

I do love the idea of book cover design becoming more prevalent and entering everyday vernacular. Perhaps in the same way that the spread of foodie culture has more people discussing the difference between a Syrah and Grenache or the merits of raw milk, a rise of interest in design could eventually have people discussing the difference between a Chip Kidd cover versus a Rodrigo Corral or collecting vintage Penguin editions. One can hope. It sounds fun to me!

Suzanne LaGasa

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