Do Designers Read?

I have been a designer at Lerner Publication Group for 9 years and invariably the question that comes up the most when I tell people what I do for a living is: Do you read all of the books you work on? The answer is always an emphatic YES. Reading the manuscripts—especially for our novels—is one of the most important steps for my creative process. Not only do I gain insight into the author’s work and/or the subject matter, it generates themes, concepts and visual motifs that help steer me in my efforts to design the book’s make or break piece: the cover.

Unfortunately, even though it’s smart not to “judge a book by it’s cover,” that’s really what happens about 97% of the time (I mean we’ve all done it!). Reading the work gives me an edge to create the best “hey-that’s-intriguing-what’s-this-book-all-about” cover, instead of the “nope-not-for-me” cover. I also find that readers are more gratified when they finish the book and look at the cover again and discover new meanings there that they only could come to by reading the story. When you can accomplish that, well, I think it’s something very special, and I strive to do that every time.
Of course, you can’t please everyone all of the time. Quite often a book will have several good directions but, for one reason or another, some are discarded and some become the “Chosen One”. Take for example one of our new Young Adult offerings Sex and Violence: A Novel by Carrie Mesrobian (available October 2013). When I started working on this I was struck by many different scenes and visuals from the text. Without giving any spoilers I can tell you I focused in on the haze of a smoked filled room, how the seemingly benign and blank features of a bathroom could be menacing, the order and peacefulness of nature juxtaposed with the chaos of violence, and water as a substance both calming and violent. This is the cover we landed on:
And these are some of the others that didn’t make the cut: 

How did we do? Did we pick the winner? Which one do you like the most and why? I hope you’ll seek out Sex and Violence: A Novel in your bookstores and libraries and let me know after you’ve read it if I made the grade or missed the mark. 

4 thoughts on “Do Designers Read?

  1. Anonymous

    I like the one you picked, but I like the Magritte hat underwater one best.

  2. Pat Schmatz

    I love the look of the tree/island one, but I think the one you picked best suits the book. Such a nice job on this book, all the way around, inside out and back again.

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