An interview with the Tandem cover designer!
Posted on September 30th, 2013 by annakjarzab
I don’t know about you guys, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the cover for Tandem, my third YA novel that comes out next Tuesday (!!!!). If you haven’t seen the interiors of the book, they are also super beautiful. I’m totally fascinated by the process of creating packages for books–it’s a lengthy, and often much-debated process that people outside the industry don’t always get a glimpse into. So I asked Sarah Pierson, the designer of both the cover and the interior design of Tandem, a few questions about this mysterious but very, very important part of making a book.
You are a book designer at Random House–does this mean you design all aspects of the book: cover and interiors? Do you work on all imprints and age groups, or do you focus on YA/novels?
I currently work on all aspects; jacket, interior, and the hardbound case cover. I work on middle grade and YA for the Knopf and Delacorte imprints. I also do paperbacks for the Ember and Yearling paperback imprints.
Once you have a title assigned to you, what steps do you take? Does the editor usually have very specific ideas of what they want, or do you read the book and come up with a proposal of what you’d like to do?
This process varies book to book! I read the most recent draft of the manuscript. It helps me come up with ideas, from big concepts and motifs to small details. Having a strong sense of themes and mood is important to be able to approach the design. After reading the manuscript, I’ll sit down with the editor and talk about how they envision the cover. They tell me what they want the cover to convey and they may ask for specific imagery. Then I start making cover comps based on a few different concepts, either my own ideas, the editors’ or something we arrived at together.
How did you become a book designer? Did you go to art school? What made you want to design books for a living?
I went to Drexel for graphic design and I worked at the library throughout college. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to admit that I’ve never been a huge fiction reader! But I loved working at the library because I love books…jackets, paper, ink, bindings, headbands…I love them. I spent way too much time shelving art, design and photography books, stopping to leaf through them. I came across unusual old engineering and science books, and popular fiction was always circulating. I studied everything from a design perspective. Junior year I got an internship at a super cool independent publisher called Quirk Books. A few months after graduating in 2005, I got a job in the picture books group at HarperCollins and have been designing books ever since.
What are some other books you designed, besides TANDEM?
Mister Max by Cynthia Voigt, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, The Selection by Kiera Cass, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, Posses by Gretchen McNeil, Wildwood by Colin Meloy. Check out my website.
What was your thought process behind designing the TANDEM cover? Was your first idea much like the finished product, or did it go through a lot of revisions? How did you go about bringing together all of the visual elements (the girl, the bird, the colors, the amazing title treatment, etc.) into the beautiful cover we have now?
I read TANDEM very closely. It was so good! The story felt intricate and intimate and epic at the same time. As I was reading, I made note of different things could work as imagery for the cover. I had several ideas at first, and one of those eventually became the final cover. I searched for and used stock photography to use to build the image, combining elements in photoshop in a similar manner from the beginning. After initial comps were promising, I was directed through rounds of revisions adjusting the composition and scale, typography, color, and different models and poses for Sasha.
These are some of the comps from the first round. The basic concept and all the elements are here, but it took time to get to the end result.
Trying out different girls, sizes of the girl, typefaces, colors, ways of blending the sparrow and girl. I had the basic composition and down. This is just a few of the variations.
This is when we felt like we had hit it.
Livened it up with some color. I tried several different background color variations at this stage.
More color to Sasha’s face, more depth in the background, and some fine tuning. Series title is in place and quote at the top.
Knowing that TANDEM was the first book in a series, did that affect how you designed the cover? Did you design it with how you would create the covers for the other books in mind?
I kept in mind how I would change the various elements. I tried working on the second book along with the first once it was more developed to see how they would look together. The sort of soft glamourous starkness is what I hope will carry over through the series.
Okay, let’s talk about the interiors! What was your thought process behind how you did the interior design (which is really quite complex and thought out!)? Do you usually create such design-heavy interiors, or was this out of the ordinary?
I do not usually design such complex interiors but with its 3 parts, different points of view, and day countdown TANDEM presented a unique chance to do something interesting. At first I was totally stumped about all this! I think I spent a whole week just getting my head around it. I chipped away at it starting with the parts (Earth/Aurora) and then more ideas came out of that. I eventually mapped out the whole structure because it was helpful for me to see it that way.
What is your favorite part of the TANDEM interiors (or the cover!)?
I like the lines of little dots on the flaps, back jacket, under the page numbers…other places too. It’s a small detail but I think they’re elegant and have a little meaning. They represent ‘many worlds.’
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the TANDEM cover or interiors? Any designs that didn’t make the cut?
A part of the interior design was inspired by a music video from 2011! I am pretty sure music videos have less cultural impact these days but I find them to be a really nice source of visual inspiration!
Thanks so much to Sarah for giving us a little insight into how a cover gets made! You should absolutely check out her website, which showcases many of the beautiful book covers she’s worked on in her career, including many I know you’ll recognize.
MS Watson on
February 28th, 2014 at 2:41 am Said:
I love the cover of Tandem. It’s so beautiful and luring; it was what caught my eye. I’ll definitely be getting it when I can track it down in my local book store.
February 28th, 2014 at 3:23 am Said:
So glad you love it!