Behind-the-Scenes Cover Design

Book cover design, as you may imagine, is no easy feat. Coming up with a cover idea that perfectly captures what the book is about can be challenging. Each book that we design goes through multiple cover explorations and rounds of refinement before we ultimately land on a final cover. We solicit feedback from our editors, sales and marketing team, fellow designers, and of course, the author. We edit and refine each round in the hopes of developing the best cover possible. Today we are excited to share with you a behind-the-scenes look at the cover development process for our newly published book, Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers: Portraits of 50 Famous Folks & All Their Weird Stuffby James Gulliver Hancock.

In the image below you will find the first two sketches that James shared with us. As James writes in the introduction of the book, “this book is a visual encyclopedia, allowing glimpses into iconic figures’ personalities. These props and events tell a part of the story of who they are in a way that is sometimes clearer and more revealing than words.” As the book’s editor, Bridget Watson Payne, and I reviewed these sketches we had this description in our mind and felt that we really wanted to show a mixture of the people and their stuff. We loved the look and feeling of both of these options—we loved all the stuff in option 1, and the people and the dynamic quality of the title treatment in option 2.


Going back to the main idea of the book, that the portraits are a visual encyclopedia of peoples’ lives, we felt that it was important to see people plus their “weird stuff” on the cover, so we asked James to develop one more sketch that married the two ideas from his original sketches, see below, and we were super pleased with results.


Then came the refinement process. As you can probably guess, when you have multiple people involved in choosing a cover, there are a lot of opinions and ideas about who we should feature on the cover. We definitely wanted to represent an artist, a writer, a thinker and a dreamer but with 50 truly fascinating people in the book—Albert Einstein, Babe Ruth, Coco Chanel, Grace Kelly, Madonna, Mahatma Gandhi, Oprah Winfrey, Vincent van Gogh, and the Wright Brothers to name but a few—it was so hard to choose! We tried many different configurations; here are a few.


Once we decided upon the final selection of people to be featured on the cover (clockwise from the top left: Abraham Lincoln, Princess Diana, Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Buzz Aldrin), James went to color.


After many eyes reviewed the color options, and opinions were heard and weighed, we settled upon the final cover!



For the lucky folks in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Melbourne or Sydney, author/illustrator James Hancock is visiting your town! Check out the dates below on the amazing flyer James created for the book signings he is holding. Go visit him (he’s REALLY nice) and get your book signed!


Get 30% off plus free shipping on Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers with code DESIGNDESK until May 26th.

Kristen Hewitt
Design Director

Kristen Hewitt

Design Director at Chronicle Books and an enthusiastic cheerleader for gift and stationery products (and pretty much anything with foil).
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