Monday, November 25, 2013

Covering Up

I always find it really interesting to learn about book covers that got away and the design process that goes into creating and selecting book covers. That's why I interviewed The F-It List's talented designer, April Ward! Below is the interview, and afterward is a selection of F-It List covers that didn't happen. I'm glad I don't have to design my own book covers. I have a feeling they'd all have something to do with cupcakes and Swedish Fish (of which I just ate both). Thank you, April, for the great interview and the gorgeous cover!

What is your job title, and what are your job responsibilities? How did you come to this position?

I am an Associate Art Director for Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. I design children's books, chapter books, and young adult novels for three imprints: Henry Holt, Feiwel & Friends, and Square Fish. I moved to NY after high school and studied illustration at Pratt Institute with a focus on children's publishing. I was taking some design and type classes as well but I thought graphic designers only worked on magazines and websites, which didn't interest me. My junior year I had an internship with an amazingly talented illustrator and designer, Kris Waldherr. At the time she was designing her book The Lover's Path which is an incredibly beautiful illustrated novel. Watching her process of illustration and design made me see book design in a totally different way. She also introduced me to some people in the industry which helped me land my first job as a design assistant at Harper Collins. I knew immediately that designing books was a good fit for me.

What is your process for designing a book cover? Do you always read the entire book first? Do you take notes along the way? Do images come into your head as you read? How do you take notes?
I like to read the entire book before designing it, though sometimes if we need a rush cover I will have to start on comps before I finish reading the whole book. I do read every book I design, I think that's one of the best parts of my job. While I'm reading I will write down little bits of the story that pop out to me visually like atmospheres, character details, moments…then I do little thumbnail drawings to get an idea of compositions that could work. Once I start in on photo research the concepts will change and morph into different directions based on what images are available. I have a little sketchpad with the original thumbnail drawings (now also covered in my daughter's scribbles) and I like to look back at those when the book is printed. It's interesting to see if an early concept stuck through to the final, or if the end result is something totally different.
How many cover design options are expected of you?
I try to to come up with 5-7 initial concepts, sometimes more depending on how many images I have that could work. Then based on feedback from the creative director and editor I'll do some revisions before presenting 2-3 covers at an art meeting.
Who has final say?
There are so many people involved in the process that I wouldn't say there is one person with final say. The final cover is chosen by a committee of sales, marketing, the editor, the publisher, the author, and even big book store buyers. Everyone's opinion holds weight and if one person has a negative reaction it generally means the cover will be reworked or at least discussed again, even if the comment comes after a point where the cover is considered final. We have to be really  flexible, which can be especially challenging when you're attached to a design.
Did you ever design a cover that you loved but everyone else hated? Has an author ever written to you and told you they hated the cover?
I've definitely done covers that I love that don't make it past the first round and you just have to accept it and let it go.  I've never had an author tell me that they hate a cover, that would kill me. 
Have you ever had the opportunity to redesign a cover after the book has been out? Say, for a paperback version of a book? Has the cover changed completely, and, if so, why?
Yes this happens pretty frequently, it's a good opportunity to rethink an existing concept or try to make the hardcover jacket punchier with a new direction. If a hardcover package is successful it doesn't necessarily need to be redesigned in paperback but I don't think it's a bad thing to give the book a new look for a new format. 
Are there any other questions you want me to ask you?
Sure! What was your daughter for Halloween?
A clown!

What are you doing this weekend?

1 comment:

Ronni Selzer said...

I so enjoy reading cover stories for books!