The world of design is a very strange one. We see the world through a unique prism, noticing the space between letters, the specific RGB value of a sunset and judging books solely on their covers.
We also have heroes and idols that none of our friends have heard of. One such hero of mine is Peter Mendelsund. Last year I attended my first “DesignThinkers” conference held in Toronto by the Association of Registered Graphic Designers. One speaker that I was able to attend, really caught hold of something in my mind and I’ve carried a lot of what he said with me. Peter Mendelsund is a terrific book cover designer having worked with the greats like Chip Kidd and is now one of the greats in his own right. Check out his work on his site. The one thing I have carried with me the most was the notion that
a cover should evolve with the reading of the book.
This fascinated me. I wanted to explore what it would mean to design with this in mind. Last year I had a project called the "Children’s Book Illustration", that involved illustrating a cover and an interior chapter feature page that I used to explore this concept that Peter had introduced me to. I chose to tackle 20’000 Leagues Under the Sea, admittedly not a “children’s book” but certainly a young readers novel, one that I enjoyed when I was fairly young. I explored the book, looking for a moment that could serve to be a strong tie between the interior and the cover. I selected a chapter late in the novel where Captain Nemo discovers a shipwreck that hold significant traumatic resonance. All at once the jovial, adventurous Captain becomes dark, and brooding. This moment hinted at the chasm of pain that must be at the core of Nemo for him to reject the world of dry land so completely. In this chapter he was remembering the moment, I knew this moment was what I would illustrate on the cover and the two illustrations would the connective tissue between the content and the design. I created a contrasting design that would highlight that the moment and time happening on the cover existed outside the novel (both figuratively and literally). For the interior I chose a more classic black and white illustration style inspired by Aubrey Beardsley. The exterior is a far harsher, vector planar style that is meant to show the pressure and weight that the reader would be exploring in Captain Nemo. Check out the finished product here. I am currently in the middle of retouching and extending this project. I am still thrilled with how it turned out and it remains one of the highlights of my portfolio however there are small parts of the exterior illustration that I am fixing and I am considering altering the colour scheme of the cover as well.
I will be adjusting the typography of the piece as well to create a more cohesive, fluid experience. An aspect of what I will revisit is exploring the Van De Graas layout canon.
Specifically how I can create a harmonious page layout and relationship between illustration and type block. The last portion of this revisit that I am excited to explore is doing another illustration for a second spread. I explored the style of Aubrey Beardsley and was very happy with how the illustration turned out and how well it fit the tone I was looking for.
I am currently in the research phase of that however, looking through photos of his work trying to glean whatever technique I can.I am enjoying diving back into these projects, hunting through every last fault, polishing it into something I can really be proud of. Revisiting truly sates the OCD part of my brain. Stay tuned for further updates on this and other projects.