If you haven’t heard of 404 INK, then I’ll assume you’ve been living under a rock for the past year. The new, tell-it-like-it-is indie publisher on the block rose to fame after publishing Nasty Women in early 2017 (Margaret Atwood got involved and the whole thing BLEW UP).
I was chuffed when 404 INK asked me to design the cover for their second book, Hings by the brand new Scottish writer Chris McQueer who was destined for great things. No pressure.
Here’s a peek into my 4 step process.
Step 1: Brain rinse
First, I read the brief and then spew out EVERYTHING that comes to mind onto paper as I do so. Images, words, almost-copyright-infringing illustrations; I get them all out and make sense of them later.
I didn’t have a prescriptive brief for the Hings cover. I was sent some covers Chris and the 404 INK duo liked and they were all pretty bold = big hint. Pay attention to these ‘competition covers’ if you’re given them.
Overall, the feeling of Chris’s writing was the brief – that was what has to be visualised. All the best book covers evoke the feeling of the narrative – remember that, if nothing else.
I was able to read an early edit of Hings and it was like being slapped across the face by a really friendly hand. That was I needed to put on the cover!
Step 2: Just start making
Next, I just got stuck into making visuals, pulling together all the ideas that came out in the Brain Dump phase. All the while I referred back to the brief and the competition covers to make sure I didn’t go off-piste.
Two concepts came out: a scuzzy halftone idea and a mad, trippy paint one. You’ll have a favourite (even though you’re supposed to love them all equally, like your kids), but always show more than one concept to your client. It’s hard to pick a favourite anything with only one to choose from.
Step 3: Be judged
Thankfully, this is a job and it’s not personal. Don’t forget that; many designers do.
Step 4: Refine
Feedback received; the paint concept was the way to go. We needed a sharper font as well as suggestions of themes from Chris’s stories.
I started working on a way of incorporating objects from the storied into the paint – can you spot all four? Answers on the back of a postcard.
No? Didn’t think so. Neither could anyone else, so we moved on! Bottle = bigger impact.
Always listen to your clients. My clients know their products better than I do, and with every round of feedback they make my work better. (I’m not just saying that because I know the 404 INK ladies are reading this.)
Now it’s a real live book, owned by all the biggest celebrities*
*Brought to you by the magic of Photoshop and Chris’s fans. (Comment below if you know who they belong to and I will edit and credit!)
Overall, this was a brilliant project for a book filled with top-notch writing. Go get one (or five).
Originally posted on tracesofthem.tumblr.com/