The old saying is you can’t judge a book by its cover, but your book will be judged by the cover it has. I have been designing book covers since 2004 and for much of that providing the covers for Black Velvet Seductions as well as other companies and individuals. Rather than tell you about my process I thought it would be much more interesting to talk to our new art director Jessica Greeley and the way she works. Jessica took over the cover design from me for a couple of reasons, I felt our covers needed a new look, a fresh eye for design I had seen some of Jessica’s work and I simply love her covers. We had a chat about how she works on covers and talked about the process.
I asked, what drew you to the world of graphic design?
Jess: I love art. There are so many mediums and styles to choose from. I was drawn to graphic art because I also have a love for marketing. I have always been drawn to wartime propaganda art. The use of imagery with a strong message is a powerful and inspiring marketing tool. I think that’s what really set me on the graphic arts path.
Have you always been arty?
Jess: My family has always been an art influenced family. We are influenced by all sorts of artistic mediums. I grew up with a wealth of musical, imagery, and written based art. I remember getting into some trouble with a teacher because I didn’t think written words would do alone. I would add illustrations to my paper assignments to add a more detailed idea of the written report. Some of my teachers loved it, and some thought it was childish.
What is it you look for in a cover?
Jess: I love to see a cover that displays a strong image with a strong complimentary type graphic. I feel that image and type go hand in hand. If the typeface doesn’t exist on the same level as the graphic, then the elements begin to clash. Balance is important. All the elements should be able to stand as individual pieces but put together they should stand in harmony.
Can you talk us through your process of making a cover?
Jess: I like to get an in-depth understanding of the author’s book and a character analysis. This includes major events, plot, character features, time period, and character personalities. From there I start to imagine different images in my mind. Then I work on finding the image that I am envisioning. Type comes after. I like to work with the type to create a graphic in itself. Once I have those corresponding elements I choose the theme colors. There, of course, is editing that needs to be done to the image but that is a given. After I have all of my elements and story colors set I then begin to combine them. Most of the time I’m happy with the way things are unfolding, but occasionally I will change something because I feel that they are not working with the overall piece. When everything is in place, I finish my design and send it off to the CEO for approval. Once approved I send the art to the author. I like my work to grab the onlooker. The image evokes emotion or intrigue while the other elements create a visual map the onlooker can follow.
Where is your starting point for covers?
Jess: I ask for everything upfront, so I know exactly what the author’s book is about. They tell me what is important to them in the write up I request. From there I do my very best to make sure the work I put out is a reflection of the book they worked so hard to create. I love creating something that makes the author happy.
How closely do you work with authors?
Jess: I use their write up as a guideline to my creation. I envision their work and try to emulate that in an image. They don’t ask me to design the art in a certain way they just supply the in-depth look at their work I request. From there I try to create something that is a vision come to life. It is a melding of my creative style and the author’s literary work. My job is to show the viewer the amazing world that awaited them with a turn of a page. I am a person that has too many ideas. I get excited when I have something new to work on. Sometimes to set myself to the task I will choose my top six designs and draw them out. This helps me to edit down what I want for the artistic balance. I have not had any issue with author art balance, knock on wood. Other times I have a crystal clear idea that I roll with from the start. It really depends on the book.
Is there a favorite cover? Yours or someone else?
Jess: It’s hard for me to choose a favorite. Every piece I create has a special place in my heart, and they are all important for a different reason. So I would say no.
Thoughts on the future goals and ambitions?
Jess: I am always striving to create more art. I love the world of books, and the fact that I get to contribute in some small way is exhilarating. My goals include more artistic works for the book industry to help the company and the authors I represent. I would love to help the publisher become a large brand that brings joy to authors and readers alike.
Thank you, Jessica, always a pleasure to chat with you. I can’t wait to see our next cover.
I would be happy to hear your thoughts, reflections, and stories on covers. Or any views you might like to share. On here, the blog, facebook or twitter.