You can’t judge a book by its cover. That’s how the old saying goes, and it’s true. But a good cover does help you pick up that book to judge it later. That’s part of the work of the book’s designer. We’re going into our design and production team for this Inside Dundurn. Meet Laura, our Senior Designer.
Laura is the person who is responsible for both the interior and exterior of a book. She began at Dundurn as the marketing designer, but then moved into the production, moving up to her role as senior designer.
“I design the covers and lay out the interiors. I’ve found that some people don’t really know that’s a thing; that books need to be designed,” she smiles and shrugs, “I supposed they imagine that books come out already formatted? Even my sister was like, ‘Why isn’t there a program that does that?’ Good question, but nope, that’s me.”
That might fit the idea of what a designer does, creating the cover and designing the inside of the book, but surely there is more to it than that?
“There’s a lot more but a lot less, too,” Laura says, contemplating, “For instance, I’m not necessarily creating the artwork that you’d see on the cover. My job involves shopping for the best image and finding ways to feature it and incorporate the typography. Sometimes the image falls in my lap, and sometimes I spend hours or even days on photo research.”
Then there is the interior of the book. The designer makes a multitude of visual decisions like where images are placed, how the running heads will look, how chapters will begin, etc. As far as book’s interior goes, it’s extensive, but surprisingly subtle work. Pictured below is the interior for The Beaver Hall Group and Its Legacy.
Laura acknowledges the requirement for subtlety. “You’re not supposed to notice the design inside of a book. If a designer is doing their job properly, you won’t notice the interior design because it shouldn’t call attention to itself.”
Now this all sounds very glamourous indeed, but let’s get to the fun part. What makes a book “fun” to work on?
“I think ‘fun’ is when something comes together and I have this sense that I know exactly what I’m doing. I know what it’s going to look like without question,” Laura says definitively, “I feel almost like I’m possessed. Yeah, it’s fun to be possessed when it’s by the… design demon.”
Not muse. Design demon. Our senior designer does have quite a way with metaphors. But also with covers that stand out of the crowd. Two of Laura’s covers, All Inclusive and Cover Before Striking, were selected as CBC Book’s Best Canlit Covers of 2015. Another, Finding Hope, placed third in a monthly cover vote on NetGalley.
“As for books I had fun with, I think one would be Under The Dusty Moon,” Laura answers, suddenly lightening up, “That was a lot of fun to work on. I loved playing with the moon cycles, the colours, and the fonts. Yeah, I enjoy working on Young Adult books.”
Speaking of fonts, they happen to be a very powerful tool in a designer’s arsenal. Often, font style is guided by what comparable books are doing in a specific genre, but there is a subconscious influence to them.
“There’s a reason why certain fonts are trendy,” Laura explains, “Without even realizing it, people can tell what sort of book it will be from the font. The Slip is one example. I initially had another idea for The Slip. I actually really loved this version [left]. It’s like a conversation. But we eventually went with the other one. It just worked.”
That’s how it is sometimes in the book industry, something just works.