Friday, December 19, 2008

Readerville's Blog of the Week

Before the proliferation of blogs dedicated to the appreciation of cover design today, was the only site on the web where you could read any discussions focusing on the cover design instead of the content. The Most Coveted Covers features were a must read and the follow up comments that began with admiration but quickly degraded to negativity was even more fun to read. Even though it sometimes annoyed the sh*t out of me.

So a big thanks to Karen Templer for highlighting my blog as the Blog of the Week.
The web is full of beautiful websites by book cover designers showcasing their work, but they are strictly that—portfolios of finished work. Henry Sene Yee (whose work, I should note, often appears in Most Coveted Covers) has taken a very different approach....

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Biggest Game in Town

by Al Alvarez // Picador

Illustration by Eddie Guy
Al Alvarez touched down in Las Vegas one hot day in 1981, a poker novice and a stranger to the excesses of the American game. Soon enough he was in the casino back rooms and musty bars of Las Vegas, meeting the flamboyant characters who dominate the World Series of Poker—roving gamblers who have won and lost many fortunes at the tables. Set over the course of one tournament, The Biggest Game in Town is both a chronicle of the World Series of Poker and a history of the hustlers, madmen, and masterminds who created the high-stakes game in America. With a new introduction by the author, Alvarez’s classic account is one of the greatest gaming stories ever told.

My original concept was to depict a city built on poker. I hired collage illustrator Eddie Guy to bring this idea alive. He collaged up the Las Vegas Strip out of playing cards and poker chips. But trying to depict the Strip was less than satisfying. We focused instead on the larger than life personalities of these poker mavericks. Thus, Giant Poker Guy.


Poker Hand Rankings (Because you got to know when hold 'em, know when to fold 'em):

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Other Side of the Island

by Allegra Goodman

Editor/Art Director: Jessica Rothenberg // Razorbill Books / Penguin
Jacket photograph by Andrea Chu
Model: Alexis Y // Generation

In the eighteenth glorious year of Enclosure, long after The Flood, a young girl named Honor moves with her parents to Island 365 in the Tranquil Sea. Life on the tropical island is peaceful—there is no sadness and no visible violence in this world. Earth Mother and her Corporation have created New Weather. Sky color is regulated and it almost never rains. Every family fits into its rightful, orderly, and predictable place...
Except Honor’s. Her family does not follow the rules. They ignore curfew, sing songs, and do not pray to Earth Mother. Honor doesn’t fit in with the other children at the Old Colony School. Then she meets Helix, a boy who slowly helps her uncover a terrible secret about the Island: Sooner or later, those who do not fit disappear, and they don’t ever come back.

This was my first assignment working with a YA (Young Adult) Publisher.

Having worked strictly for the adult trade market, I had to learn as I designed what was the appropriate look for the teen/tween market. My first attempts were either too sophisticated or too subtle for young reader. I had to learn a more direct language.

My first approach was to suggest the near future Utopian Island:
How about bullseye, because the character is an expert archer, overprinting in silver to represent a technology that blocks any signs of bad weather and the truth.

Nope? How about Adventure? (Honor is an excellent shot with a bow and arrow and uses her skills to save her parents):

Nope? Maybe I'll focus on the extreme atmospheric changes on the other side of the island
(In the future, They can control the weather so that it's always sunny over their community):

That's close. Let's depict the girl running in a storm (She searches for her missing parents on the "Other Side" on the island where the weather isn't under the government's control) Usually in adult trade, I try to avoid depicting the main character so up front. But for the YA market, it's OK to visualize them. Sorta like how Harry Potter is visualized as a branded character:

Out of all of those, let's go with this one:

Love the concept but can I find another stock image where the girl is much younger, wears no make-up, has the right expression of fear and determination and is set against a much stormier sky.

Hmmm, trying to find all of this in a single stock photo is impossible. IMPOSSIBLE. It would be much easier to shoot this. Luckily they agreed and increased my budget.

Photographer Andrea Chu had sent me a promo earlier in the week and Kelly Blair also recommended her as a person she worked with. Her portfolio showed lots of experience with working with children so I hired her for the shoot. We found the lovely model Alexis Y through a modeling agency.

The photoshoot. Alexis was so professional, patient, conveyed the characters emotions perfectly and was just a breeze to work with.

An outtake shot:

Thanks to LeeAnn Falciani for manning the wind machine.

and the storm cloud background by ryan/beyer/getty images

Almost there:

But the type was too active. Go simpler and more legible please.

After a bunch of tweaks to the type, coloration of the sky, and opening up the shadows on her neck and hair, VOILÀ! The FINAL DESIGN:

Here's a good tutorial on Masking Details No Bigger Than a Hair in Photoshop and a video tutorial: Masking Hair in Photoshop CS3

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Best Book Cover Designs of 2008?

According to Joseph's The Book Design Review blog site, these are his Favorite Book Covers of 2008. Two of mine are represented here.

Vote for your favorite. I did.