Illustrating Book Jackets
I confess that I am the sort of person who judges books by their covers. When I walk into a bookstore, I usually spend about ten minutes just browsing the covers of the books that are spread out on the nearest table. I’m not interested in the content, I don’t care about the story. All I want at that moment is to look at is the image, the type choices, the paper and printing. Nothing against authors. I just like the look and feel of paper books.
Happily, I’ve been designing a few books covers myself lately. I have one title still in process for Penguin that I can’t show you yet, and another for the small local publisher Red Wheel Weiser on the way. But here are a few covers that I have in printed form — I keep these on a special section of my bookshelf devoted to books I have designed. I did the front, back and spine for each of these, along with tons of feedback and encouragement from art directors.
This is the cover I did for Barnes & Noble’s classic books division, timed to coincide with the new Alice film. It’s printed with white, black and gold ink on raspberry colored leather. I love the feel of this, but I have some ambivalence about the end product — maybe we did too many revisions.
The nice thing about this project was reading the text in preparation. It’s a brilliantly funny memoir about a bad relationship and messy breakup, set here in San Francisco, with much of the action taking place in bars and locales that I know well. But even better was the fact that the author, Linda Robertson, was so happy with the piece that she had my name written into her contract for future books as the cover designer. Can’t wait for the next book!
I’ve done a series of covers for the yearly collection of stories by San Francisco public school students put out by the fantastic non-profit Streetside Stories. This one is my favorite.
For most of these covers, I did the front cover as well as the spine and the back cover. I really think those elements are integral to the whole, and I’d rather do that work than have another designer put their gloss on my work. This one is for the local anarchist publisher, AK Press. I own so many of their books, so it’s nice that at least one of them has my work on the cover.
Last but not least is the cover I did for my friend and frequent collaborator on political projects, Chris Carlsson. This book, which you can download for free or buy here, is a novel in the utopian tradition set here in San Francisco. My favorite thing about the book is that, while you’re reading it, you begin to see little hints of the utopia Chris is describing that seem to exist right now, in our current city. Which seems to be part of the point. If we can get a few things right, why not the whole enchilada? Why not dream big?
I’ll post the new two new cover projects as soon as I have the actual books in hand!