Category Archives: book covers

New Releases – September 2020

The Brass Notebook: A Memoir by Devaki Jain

  • Publisher: Speaking Tiger
  • Year of publication: 2020 / September
  • Pages: 232
  • Price: INR 599

Book Blurb

In this no-holds-barred memoir, Devaki Jain begins with her childhood in south India, a life of comfort and ease with a father who served as dewan in the Princely States of Mysore and Gwalior. But there were restrictions too, that come with growing up in an orthodox Tamil Brahmin family, as well as the rarely spoken about dangers of predatory male relatives. Ruskin College, Oxford, gave her her first taste of freedom in 1955, at the age of 22. Oxford brought her a degree in philosophy and economics—as well as hardship, as she washed dishes in a cafe to pay her fees. It was here, too, that she had her early encounters with the sensual life. With rare candour, she writes of her romantic liaisons in Oxford and Harvard, and falling in love with her ‘unsuitable boy’—her husband,  Lakshmi Jain, whom she married against her beloved father’s wishes.

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32 beautiful early dust jackets for iconic books

(From the Lit Hub. Link to the complete article given below)

In the old days, before it seemed that the world was crashing down around us every minute, we used to have arguments on the internet about things like dust jackets. Yes, dust jackets, on which opinions were decidedly mixed! Now we put a lot of stock in dust jackets—no one really follows the rule about judging books by their covers, you know—but they didn’t even exist until the 1820s, and in the beginning they were usually plain, utilitarian things meant quite literally to prevent the books from gathering dust, and they were often discarded by booksellers before display, as much more effort was put into the cloth or cardboard bindings underneath. But beginning at the turn of the last century, publishers began producing decorated dust jackets and simpler bindings (for one thing, it was a lot cheaper), and by 1920 this was the norm.

So just for fun, and because it’s almost the holidays and we all need some Feel Good Content, I’ve collected 32 beautiful, interesting, or otherwise appealing dust jackets of classic works, mostly from the 1920s and 30s. NB that I left off a lot of classics whose covers would be familiar to contemporary readers—no one needs to see that same old covers of The Great Gatsby or Gone With the Wind on a list like this. You’ve seen them a million times already. But have you seen the first edition of Decline and Fall, designed by Evelyn Waugh himself? Either way, read on for some fine and utterly unproblematic book porn.

Read more at the Lit Hub link here

When a writer wants you and only you to design their cover

(From Lit Hub. Link to the complete post given below)

As an art director for the Simon & Schuster imprint, I’m fortunate to be able to work on some of the best books being published today and with some of the best editors in the industry. I often have more than enough on my plate designing and art directing our numerous titles, but because I truly love what I do, and I’m a bit of a workaholic, I also have an active freelance career in addition to my full-time job. In my free time, I design a wide range of fiction and non-fiction covers for publishing houses across the US and internationally.

When I was contacted by Grove Atlantic last year to design a memoir, I was thrilled—I had never worked with them before and I’ve always admired the books they publish. When a follow-up email mentioned that the author, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, had specifically asked for me—she found me through a Google search and said she loved the way I integrated illustrations and fonts—I was shocked and incredibly flattered . . . which quickly led to an overwhelming sense of dread that I would never be able to pull this off, and that all of my previous design work had been the result of divine intervention. Such is the roller coaster of creative work.

I soon got over myself and started working. I was immediately drawn in to Lisa’s beautiful manuscript, but it proved particularly difficult for me—I, too, had a messy, complicated, on-and-off relationship with my father for many years after my parents’ divorce. I’d never read anything else that captured the perspective of a young child dealing with a mercurial, often volatile, parent in quite the same way this book does. While it’s rare and wonderful to connect with a manuscript in this way, too much emotional investment can be detrimental to the design process. Often, if I truly love a book or connect with it on a personal level, there’s an added pressure to get it right—to do it justice.

Read more at the Lit Hub link here

Ahlawat Gunjan on the art of designing book covers, and why he loves experimenting with fonts

(From firstpost. Read full article at the link below.)

Ahlawat Gunjan, the design head of Penguin Random House India, has had a prolific career thus far; he has designed over 200 book covers. After having studied graphic design at the National Institute of Design, the maverick designer did his Master’s from The Glasgow School of Art. In this conversation with Firstpost, he talks about latest work — a series of covers for a box set of Premchand’s works, which have been appreciated for the subtle use of imagery and colors.

Was it a passion for design that led you to become a book designer?

In my case, I think it was purely accidental. I started off by working at Hidesign in Pondicherry as a graphic designer. I moved back to Delhi in 2006 and joined Dorling Kindersley. While at DK, I freelanced for Penguin with a cover, and this turned out to be the first of many. I then decided to move to Penguin, but I was always clear that I wanted to study further. I realised that my heart lies in creating book designs while pursuing my Master’s at the Glasgow School of Arts. This passion for books bagged me a job at Faber and Faber in London.

How do you ideate and settle in on the color, pattern, fonts and design?

While there is a process and parameters involved in designing a book cover, I think one needs to observe and listen, above all. You need to hear the echo in an author’s words and with your skill set, lend a visual personality to them. Also, it is quite an intuitive process and has a lot to do with one’s understanding of the subject at hand. But the one rule that I always stick to is to design, not decorate!

For me, fonts are the most important ingredient in cover design, and getting them right is very crucial. Choosing the right font is a sort of sensory experience. For example, you cannot use an Archie comics font for a book like Indica, and vice versa. It’s a marriage between the image and the typography. I do have ones I am partial to. For example, I’m currently hooked to ‘Baskerville’ and ‘Garamond’. I’ve used ‘Gotham’ and ‘Archer’ for a long time. Whether it’s the title, author, or sub-title, these particular fonts do find ways to sneak in somewhere. Font defines an image, too. There are different ways in which a designer can use the same font, just by playing with size, color, and letter case.

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What happens when a book designer is totally stumped

I find designing book covers to be tremendously difficult, and every time I start a new cover, my first thought is usually: Why on earth did I commit to this? Rarely do I find joy in this pursuit. I love the feeling of a perfect, beautifully finished cover in my hands, but getting there generally entails a long, hard journey.

When I’m lucky, a cover essentially designs itself—I read up on it, generate a few images, execute them, and one gets published! Designing Up Up, Down Down was not one of those times. I still consider it somewhat of a miracle that the final cover came out so nicely; looking at it brings back tortured memories of a painful process—a long, difficult exercise in “designy” design: a true exploration of concept, layout, color, and type. When I say exploration, picture not so much an expert explorer, but a hapless amateur, lost in the jungle, frantically trying every trick and tool they know, hoping and praying that one will be the way out. I am pretty sure lots of designers feel this way—or maybe it’s just me.

I tend to think I can have an intelligent opinion about most books I pick up. One of the things that drew me to book design is how much I like to pore over a book, pick it apart, pull out themes, discuss it, and dive deeply into it. It’s like a visual book report. But Up Up, Down Downstumped me. I read the entire manuscript, took tons of notes, made lots of sketches, and still closed the book wondering what the damn thing was about.

The text itself is a collection of short essays from one author. There was a lot of interesting subject matter. Normally I would relish rich visual material about amateur wrestling, UFO hunters, and skateboarding. But I couldn’t figure out what the author was trying to say with these pieces, especially when viewed as a whole. Essays would often start with what could almost be considered reporting, go straight into personal anecdote, and wind up circling the author’s anxieties about writing. I was stumped.

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