Thursday, August 11, 2011

By Nightfall

by Michael Cunningham // Picador

Cover photograph by Plain Picture / Jeff Spielman

A New York Times Bestseller

Peter and Rebecca Harris, midforties, are prosperous denizens of Manhattan. He’s an art dealer, she’s an editor. They live well. They have their troubles—their ebbing passions, their wayward daughter, and certain doubts about their careers—but they feel as though they’re happy. Happy enough. Until Rebecca’s much younger, look-alike brother, Ethan (known in the family as Mizzy, short for the Mistake), comes to visit. And after he arrives, nothing will ever be the same again.

This poetic and compelling masterpiece is a heartbreaking look at a marriage and the way we now live. Full of shocks and aftershocks, By Nightfall is a novel about the uses and meaning of beauty, and the place of love in our lives.


For the previous Cunningham titles I designed, The Hours, Flesh and Blood, Specimen Days, and Laws of Creations, I had an unintentional floral motif going on. Like a vine, visually tying them all together. So I originally approach this book in the same way. I hired Marc Yankus to photograph this idea for me. A flower arrangement on an apartment window overlooking the SOHO neighborhood outside. Although pretty, it wasn't the right tone for the book:

I found this previously shot image on Marc's website. Although it connected with the storyline, we didn't want to suggest that this was a gay novel. Plus, it had already been used on another cover:

We then wanted to get a sense of the city at night. Not any specific neighborhood but more dream like. To suggest getting lost and searching for something. I tried using one of my photographs but it was too vague:

Approved comp:

Everyone loved this chosen image. Right before it went to the printers, I had to add a New York Times Bestseller to the front. It gave me a moment to rethink my original type solution which bugged me. The serifs were too thin and quiet and I wanted it to interact with the image more. So first, I changed all my type to the beautiful Archer, and then centered and anchored it to the red traffic light. I decided to pivot the entire type block on a slight counter clockwise rotation to match the slight skew of the photo's horizon line and positioned it uncomfortably tight to the top. Just to make it not so perfect. Everyone has been so kind to warn me that the type is crooked on the cover.
Thanks, but it's a designer's thing. I hope you understand.

Michael Cunningham & James Franco Meet: Part I of III


Ian Koviak said...

Love the photo. Love the typeface. LOVE THAT SPINE. But alas! The type is crooked...

Jen Heuer said...

This is great! Glad you re-tooled the type at the end there. It was lovely before, but I love the way it now frames the red light.

Alisa Bobzien said...

So cool to see the process, love how it turned out.

Alisa Bobzien said...

I love seeing the design process, it turned out perfect!