Suspend Your Disbelief

Shop Talk |

"The blowtorch is the secret weapon in design"

Flame on!

Image credit: Flicker - hyper7pro

Think book designers are namby-pamby design nerds hunched over their Macs? Think again. The Guardian reveals the secret, extreme lengths designers will go to in order to get that perfect cover:

Deputy art director Glenn O’Neill tells me that the original jacket concept for Robert Harris’s Cicero novel, Lustrum, was to feature an image of a raging fire. Not content with plucking any old flame image from a picture library, however, the team set a field in Gloucestershire on fire. (No, it wasn’t arson – they had the farm owner’s permission). “We created a big bonfire from old crates and torched it,” says Glenn. “It was pretty epic. But in the end we went for something a bit more literary – we’re still trying to find a book to put the [original] image on.”

A blog post on the Windmill Books website tells more of the stories behind the “Shelf of Doom,” including a chopped-up copy of Mark Twain’s Diaries, real bones and live tarantulas, and a blowtorched stuffed bumblebee.

When I was in graduate school, one of my professors, Peter Ho Davies, brought in an early cover for his novel The Welsh Girl. The design featured several sheep lying in a meadow—but to my surprise, when the hardcover was released, the cover was exactly the same except that the sheep had been Photoshopped out, leaving (in my mind) a sheep-shaped hollow in the grass. So I’d assumed that most book covers were simply Photoshopped! Hearing the stories behind these various book covers gives me a new respect for how hard designers work to represent the spirit of the book itself.

Which covers do you suspect have exciting stories behind them?

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