Wednesday, 21 February 2018

A Day in the Life of... A Cover Designer


In the first of a new series, JJ Marsh finds out about a typical day in the life of a publishing professional. Today, meet Henry Hyde, cover designer.
http://henryhyde.co.uk/

What do I tackle first, the pile of admin, or the mountain of creative work awaiting my Monday morning attention? I’m a freelancer, so the invoices come first. Three today, which is good. A day without an invoice to issue is a bad day.

A quick check of the emails. Junk, junk, boring, junk… Hang on, what’s this? A referral? Lovely.

It’s just an initial enquiry, so direct them to the page on my website where I explain in detail the procedures involved in a book jacket design from start to finish, and the likely costs involved.

More email. Aha, another potential client who has decided to go ahead. I need to set up a Skype meeting with them – they’re in Australia, so I need to check my international clock and ensure we link up when both of us are actually awake. It’s always best to start with a proper chat; however brief, it creates a bond and gets the creative juices flowing, as well as ensuring that the client understands everything involved and the likely timescale.

Okay, that’s enough email for now – I’ll quickly check the ALLi Facebook group to see if there are any interesting discussions going on. There are a couple, but I’ll just skim for now. The same with Twitter, another useful tool but massive time-suck. A couple of likes and retweets, then I’ll check back later.


Right, proper work. Let’s start with this one, initial visuals for a fantasy novelist who wants something unusual, to mimic books from a bygone age that had gold embossed hard covers, with elaborate patterns.

I spend some time researching old book jackets on Google, and I can see what she’s getting at. I even have a couple on my own bookshelves. My love of calligraphy and period typography helps here – I know just the kind of elaborate swashes and swirls she’s after, and I soon unearth some good examples in high quality vector art libraries. These will be taken into Adobe Illustrator, tweaked and modified and enhanced, resulting in a unique border for the jacket. Combined with a classic font like Trajan for the title and author name, it starts to look very elegant indeed. The illustrator work is then imported into Photoshop for some subtle background effects, before exporting in TIFF format to InDesign where a document has been created with the correct ‘bleed’ for print. Then PDF proofs are emailed to the client. Done. 



That’s the morning over, so now it’s another quick email and social media check, before doing some of my own tweets and retweets, and posting something on one of my Facebook pages. I also grab a few minutes to watch a video on the Adobe site to get to grips with their latest software update. This is a crucial aspect of the modern designer’s life – software and operating systems are being updated almost daily, and you need to stay abreast of the changes or you can be caught out. The same is true of the publishing methods used by Amazon, IngramSpark, Apple’s iTunes and so on – authors rely on their designer to understand and explain the technical specifications, especially when they are starting out. We often act as publishing consultants as much as designers. 

Okay, now it’s on to a more conventional book jacket, a business thriller. Here, we’re relying much more on appropriate stock photography and punchy typography. We start with Pixabay, which is a free stock art resource, but an extensive trawl reveals little of use, though there are a couple of images I’ll download as ‘reserves’. Shutterstock is my online library of choice – they have a huge range of images, covering most subjects imaginable, and they do good deals for designers who use many images over the course of a year, which means we can pass on that saving to clients who otherwise might be paying much higher rates for just one or two images a year. This is especially important when the final image might need to be a composite of several originals – for example, a queue of refugees posed in front of a striking nighttime riverscape, with another element (in this case, a burning boat on the river) superimposed on that.

The typeface choice is much bolder for this job. Typically, designers have thousands of fonts in their collections, ranging from cheap or free fonts found on the internet to expensive, classic font families from big-name font foundries. Adobe now has a brilliant system called Typekit, which enables those who have a regular subscription to their software to make use of hundreds of their beautiful fonts. For this job, I can’t quite make up my mind between Gill Sans and Geometric, so I’ll show the client versions of the design featuring both for them to choose.

The work of combining the various image elements in pleasing ways is very much a matter of trial and error, and will require feedback from the client to let me know whether I have interpreted their brief correctly – only the author can say whether it’s the refugees, or the burning boat or the specific landscape that needs to be emphasised. In addition, I’ve managed to find the precise view they mention in the brief – but all the images are bathed in daylight! So, some highly advanced photomanipulation follows to change day into night, and make all the other image elements match. Oh, and yes, Henry, don’t forget a full moon!

After an intense afternoon’s work, I send four options to the client, playing with the image combinations and with the title and author name in different positions. All of them look great at the crucial postage-stamp size too. Tick.

Crikey, it’s 7pm already! What about my own creative time? It’ll be at least 9pm before I’m able to sit down, open Scrivener and chip away at my own writing rockface. Oh, and that article about a typical design day I promised Jill, I’d better bash that out double-quick too!




© Henry Hyde February 2018

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating, Henry! And this really underlines how much your experience adds. I'm off to bother people with it on Twitter et al. R x

    ReplyDelete