More in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor
Today’s interview is with a cover designer at Walker Books, Jack Noel. Jack is the genius behind the cover of The Next Together, which I personally believe to be the greatest work of art that humanity has ever created. (But I might be biased.)
This is my favourite interview in the series so far, not only because Jack is very funny, but because he shares some of the abandoned cover designs for The Next Together with us!
What does your job involve?
I design covers for books. The process is: read, discuss, think, sketch, research, visualise, trial, error, copy, paste, discuss, refine, refine, discuss, refine … and that’s it.
How did you become a designer?
Before working in publishing I spent a few years as a freelance designer/illustrator doing occasional fun things like album covers but mainly less-fun things like corporate logos.
My dream was to work in children’s books so I wrote to my top two publishers – Walker Books and Nosy Crow – and asked if I could come and meet someone to talk design. Nothing happened for ages but then, about six months later, a junior position came up in the Fiction department at Walker. I applied and somehow ended up getting the job.
Do you have any favourite illustrators/cover designs that you remember from your childhood?
Yes! These ones:
What are your favourite and least favourite things about working in cover design?
How did you go about designing the cover for The Next Together?
I started by reading the manuscript and discussing ideas with the editor, Annalie. We also pulled together relevant book covers and other imagery for reference. This stage is important. Fun too!
I noticed that time-travel themed stories are often represented as layers. (I guess because time is linear and the layers are like different dimensions? I’m not 100% clear on the physics.) I knew I wanted to play on this for The Next Together as it fit well with my reading of the story, with the characters being consistent through the different time periods.
I started playing around with layers to represent the time-periods from the story.
I created dozens of variations. The whole way through I discussed the progress with Annalie as well as David, the Walker Books fiction art director, and our Sales and Marketing teams. We also occasionally shared it with you, the author!
One breakthrough (though it seems incredibly obvious now) was switching to the vertical bands. We read images like text – from left to right – and so this arrangement makes a lot more sense. The bands are made up of a mixture of old artwork, textures and stock imagery.
It took many many iterations to get the balance between the high-concept stuff and the romance but I think we got there in the end. I’m definitely pleased with how it all came out. I hope it lives up to the scope and emotion of the book.
Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?
Yes – now I always start by checking the copyright page for credits.
What trends do you predict will become more common in cover design?
Most covers now are encountered online, so I think there’ll be more and more moving and interactive ones. I hope so. I like them.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to get into cover design?
Decide exactly what kind of books you’d like to work with and then make your portfolio as focused and as relevant as possible. Then keep showing it to people and listen to any feedback you can get. Also: good choice! It is fun.
Jack is an illustrator/designer type from London/Brighton. He was the Brighton Cooperative Beautiful Baby winner 1986. He also knows some words in Spanish.
A rebloggable version of this post can be found here.