behind the design: ellen lawson & gigged

Today’s post features the artist responsible for Gigged’s thought-provoking cover art. The purpose of this feature is to give you some insight on the processes behind great cover design. Please give a warm welcome to photographer and graphic designer, Ellen Lawson.

TCG: Did you get a chance to read Gigged before starting on its design? What information did you have to work with before the concept phase?

EL: I read some to get a feel of the book. I also get a summary, information on similar books in the genre, and audience info from the Acquisitions Editor.

TCG: What were your initial ideas for the cover? Do you have some early illustrations/mockups that you can share?

EL: Some of the initial ideas in our first meetings were of three stars on a shoulder of a cadet with one of the star’s points broken off, or a fist clutching dog tags, or a folded flag referencing the father’s death in Iraq. But I really thought the toy soldier was really iconic, and evoked a feeling right away.

TCG: What is your normal design process after you get a working draft? What were the parts that kept getting tweaked for Gigged?

EL: It’s different for each book. Some books need an illustration done, or a photoshoot. Or we need to purchase fonts or stock images. Sometimes the authors have problems with covers. I don’t think there was a lot of tweaking with GIGGED, everyone pretty much liked it as is.

TCG: What were the easiest parts of the design/process of this cover? The hardest?

EL: The easiest, I suppose, is reading! That’s fun, as well. The hardest is thinking of an image that will be true to the book, evoke emotion or thought, and be sellable.

TCG: What other YA covers have you designed? What’s been your favorite cover that you’ve designed so far?

EL: I’ve designed:

TCG: Who (artists/illustrators/cover designers/photographers) inspires you?

EL: Designers Alvin Lustig, Paul Rand, Jessica Hische. Photographer Alec Soth.

TCG: Do cover trends play into your ideas for designs? Also, where do you find the balance in prioritizing the message at the heart of a novel and including marketing at the same time? Or, do you feel cover art’s main focus always revolves around the art?

EL: No, I always think about selling the book and who is going to buy it. I want people to buy the books and enjoy them. I wouldn’t be happy with any piece that no one wanted to have around.

Thanks so much for the interview, Ellen! For the final installment of this series, check back tomorrow to hear from Gigged’s author, Heath Gibson. Here’s a little snippet from one of his responses toward cover art in general:

“It makes the reader become a participant even before they’ve read the first page. Attention for attention’s sake is no good. I wouldn’t want my readers to feel like the cover fooled them or cheated them in some way. That sense of tone and wonder must be delivered by the pages inside.”

See you tomorrow on the blog. =)

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