Behind the Cover – Nim Ben-Reuven
(Revenge and the Wild, by Michelle Modesto)

by Diana Sousa

BehindTheCover

Here with us today is Nim Ben-Reuven, the amazing letterer and designer behind the cover of Revenge and the Wild, by Michelle Modesto, published by Belzer + Bray (HarperCollins). We also have an introduction by Jenna Stempel, the designer!

Website | Behance | Instagram


Jenna Stempel: I knew this cover would be challenging from the start—the author packed so much imagery into a steampunk Western world full of magic, cannibals, and vampires. It felt especially important to hint at the boisterous adventure and occasional violence that had me entertained and telling everyone at the office about this book. I was a fan of Nim Ben-Reuven’s cheeky work on Instagram and thought his gorgeous and elegant hand-lettering was a perfect match to balance out the flames and blood splatter I had in mind.

How did you become a designer and illustrator? Was it an area you always wanted to explore, or did it simply happen?

Nim Ben-Reuven: One day I saw a book jacket that Chip Kidd made for Augusten Burroughs’ book, Dry, and immediately I wanted to learn how to create that type of stuff. Soon after, I applied to grad school and moved to New York, thinking I could somehow get in without any design background and somehow it worked. I’m still a bit shocked.

How was the process of developing the cover? Was there a clear goal in mind?

The creative team at Harper Collins had a pretty good idea of what they wanted from me (hand made, super elegant letters), so the process was quite smooth. They had a specific examples of other work I had done to shape how I created the title lettering for the cover so I was never left high and dry to try to read anyone’s mind (which happens often with clients). The photographic imagery below the lettering was put together exclusively by Jenna Stempel and her team.

RandW_handmade

How was the author involved? Was there some back and forth conversation with Michelle Modesto, any ideas or suggestions?

As far as I could tell, the author was not involved in the design process. In my experience working with large publishing houses, the author is only brought in toward the end of the process to sign off on final imagery. I’ve had experiences working almost exclusively with authors in the design of their book jackets but only when the authors themselves have enough sway to personally bring me on the project. Or if I’ve been kidnapped by the author and trapped in their basement until I do exactly what they tell me to do in terms of design sketches.

Do you have pictures of earlier designs?

REVENGEWILD_nimbr_sketch_01  REVENGEWILD_nimbr_sketch_02

revengewild_finalsketch_small  REVENGEWILD_mockup_03

From your experience, does the publisher have the final say regarding the design of the book, or does the designer (and in some small ways the writer) have free rein?

I’d say the publisher (specifically the marketing team) has the final say in how most jackets are designed. This can be frustrating at times when the final goal becomes a marketing ploy rather than an engaging and unique piece of design art. Oftentimes, for better or worse, a publisher will try to shape the design of a cover in order to sell the book quickly rather than actually look interesting. The only time I’ve experienced any free rein is when an author is self-publishing or paying me out of their own pocket to design the book.

Finally, what are some of the favourite book covers that you’ve seen (recently or not), from other designers and illustrators?

I’d have to say that Rodrigo Corral is always killing it with his jackets. But pretty much any book store I walk into, I’m floored by the art and typography out there these days…

    

 

Michelle Modesto said: I loved this cover immediately. It was beautiful and unique, and fit the tone of the novel perfectly.


Thank you Nim for this amazing interview, and Michelle for your words! Let’s hope that part about an author kidnapping you is not based on real experiences ;)

I leave you with more of Nim’s great work, and see you next time!

  

Behind the Cover – Jenna Stempel
(This Savage Song, by V. E. Schwab)

by Diana Sousa

BehindTheCover

New year means new amazing covers to talk about! Today I’ll be talking with the very talented Jenna Stempel about This Savage Song, by V. E. Schwab published by Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins).

Website | Twitter


How did you become a designer? Was it an area you always wanted to explore, or did it simply happen?

As a teenager, I had a brief fantasy of becoming a badass printmaker, making enigmatic posters to paste up around town in the dead of night. (The documentary Beautiful Losers came out around when I was graduating high school and I had romanticized the idea of vandalism in the name of self-expression.) Otherwise, I was pretty set as a teenager on studying illustration.

I went to Washington University in St. Louis where illustration and design were both under the umbrella Communication Design major, and it turned out I liked design and typography just as much as image-making. After school, I discovered publishing was the perfect combination of the two. I worked at a small children’s book publisher outside Chicago for a little over a year before moving out to New York to work at HarperCollins.

How was the process of developing the cover? Was there a clear goal in mind?

Overall, Greenwillow art director Paul Zakris wanted a mysterious atmosphere. It was a great opportunity to read the manuscript and run wild! The design process on this title was actually quite linear; it definitely helps when the narrative is engaging and there is such strong sense of tone. I submitted an array of concepts and once one was picked, there were only a few rounds of minor iterations.

How was the author involved? Was there some back and forth conversation with V. E. Schwab, any ideas or suggestions?

It’s a designer’s dream to work with an author who lets us do our thing with no creative limitations.

Do you have pictures of earlier designs?

I do! You can tell I really wanted to make something drip, but I also liked the idea of a knife with a violin scroll handle.

SavageSong_Comp1  SavageSong_Comp2  SavageSong_Comp3

From your experience, does the publisher have the final say regarding the design of the book, or does the designer (and in some small ways the writer) have free rein?

I definitely don’t have free rein—at the very least the publisher, author, editor, marketing and sales departments, and our big accounts all want to agree that the final cover suits the market, genre, and narrative. I don’t mean to make the cover design process as complicated as putting together furniture from IKEA, but I’m definitely not at the top of the food chain.

Was there anything particularly different or interesting about this book cover, interesting facts you’d like to share?

Working with a couple concepts involving violins brought back some repressed memories of playing in the orchestra in middle school, where I frequently competed for the second-to-last chair. I’d say my rivalry to be second-worst really prepared me for the high stakes, cut-throat industry of teen book covers, haha. In any case, I really enjoyed working with a limited color palette, as well as lettering a script that was both gritty and decorative.

Finally, what are some of the favorite book covers that you’ve seen (recently or not), from other designers and illustrators?

My coworkers aren’t just willing to chuckle politely at my anecdotes and commiserate over the rattling noise from the coffee maker nearby— they also make really inspiring work. I love Joel Tippie’s The Crown’s Game and Aurora Parlagreco’s Dumplin’. Outside our department and genre, I also really admire covers by Coralie Bickford-Smith, Jon Gray (below), Isaac Tobin, and vintage covers by Roy Kuhlman.

    

Victoria Schwab, amazing author and a very lucky person when it comes to covers( as seen on our previous interview) said:

I am beyond thrilled with the cover of This Savage Song. The designer had the seemingly impossible task of conveying not only the book’s thriller underpinnings and supernatural content, but also its more universal notes of identity, of hope. She did an extraordinary job.


Thank you Jenna for taking the time to do this interview, and Victoria for your comment!

As always, I accept any and every suggestion on what covers we should talk about. For now, I leave you with more of Jenna’s work – even though the next interview will also be about another amazing cover she’s worked on!