Art + Design

From the Design Desk: More Covers Loved and Lost

It’s been quite awhile since we’ve given our readers a peek into our book cover design process, and it’s always fun for us to look back at the ones that got away. Each book that we design will go through many rounds of cover directions with feedback coming in from fellow designers, editors, sales and marketing, and of course, the book’s author. It’s interesting to see the visual journey that results in a final published cover.

Here’s a sampling of some of our recent covers loved and lost:

Art Made From Books

Art Made From Books

Designer Hillary Caudle wanted to leave the kraft board exposed to give it a raw, tactile quality that would mimic the work featured inside, but after playing around with all her options—screen prints, stickers, tip-ins, exposed spine, etc.—everyone just kept going back to the striking beauty of Cara Barer’s Explorer image. So, ultimately she ditched the elaborate concept of the deconstructed book in favor of a simple, unobstructed, stunning image of the treasure inside. At least she got to keep the exposed spine!

Art Made From Books

 

Beer Nerd

Beer Nerd

For this board game—a mash-up of beer tasting and beer trivia—the box cover needed to communicate fun plus beer. I liked how the first two covers were simple and not too illustrative and alluded to beer labels. On the third I added a bottle to more quickly convey the drinking element of the game play. While the author and editor liked these directions and they were getting to that beer directive, we ultimately felt the cover needed to be more punchy and bold. I played with color, typography, and iconography, to better get at that fun part. Here’s where we landed.

Beer Nerd

 

The Magnificent Chicken

Magnificent Chicken

For this book, a “celebration of the wonder, peculiarity, and magnificence of championship chickens,” designer Anne Kenady was looking for the perfect cover image to show the subject matter at a glance, while also communicating the wide range of the photos inside. The first one was the author’s choice for the cover, and it’s really quite an interesting specimen! It speaks to the range of birds in the book, but ultimately it just didn’t immediately read as chicken. She put him on the back cover as a compromise. The other two were beautiful roosters, but more expected. The winning photo has great texture and visual interest, and he’s the perfect balance of unusual and classic chick.

Magnificent Chicken

 

Smitten

Smitten

Designer Jen Tolo Pierce went through quite a few rounds of cover directions for this empowering dating guide for real women. The earlier covers were rejected for feeling too YA (young adult) fiction and not right for the reader in mind. She worked with the authors to really key into their intended audience of sophisticated, smart women, and ended up with a much more refined, subtly feminine cover that feels more timeless-handbook than trendy-self-help.

Smitten Final

 

Dead Mountain

Dead Mountain

This book is a non-fiction investigation into an unsolved case from Soviet-era Russia. The author, editor and I agreed that the cover needed to convey a few things at the same time, ideally using one strong image—the setting in Russia’s Ural Mountains, an archival evidentiary quality, and an overall sense of mystery. Luckily the book contains a cache of archival photographs relating to the case. Initially I loved the eerie, dark image of the book’s titular mountain, but it was a bit too abstract for a quick read of the cover. I explored many other images and treatments, but we all kept coming back to the incredible photo of the young adventurers skiing off into a blizzard—one of the very last photos taken by the group before they met their untimely deaths. The photo had place, time, and mystery all wrapped into one clear visual. The typography and iconic red star further communicate Soviet Russia.

Dead Mountain Final

If you’re curious about some of our past covers that got away, check out these posts here and here.

Emily Dubin
Designer

Emily Dubin

Emily Dubin

Senior Designer at Chronicle Books, collector of magazines, watches, and vintage ephemera. See more of her work at dubindesign.com.
Emily Dubin

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