ecently I was hired by art director Rachael Cole at Random House to work on the debut novel May B. by Caroline Starr Rose. It's the story of a Twelve-year-old girl abandoned in a Kansas prairie homestead during the late 19th century, struggling to endure the harsh winter. Written in verse, the author really develops a large amount of imagery from the small amount of text on each page. It's an adventurous tale about overcoming feelings of isolation, mental conflict and insurmountable odds.
I always hope to approach my young reader covers in the same way that I would designing for adult fiction. I try to fit the story. If the story calls for something quiet, I draw quietly. I make shapes, textures and colors, just as I would in the rest of my work. Perhaps if there's any difference in my thinking, it's that YA covers are typically more character driven. Its something I'm aware of while sketching and I'm sure results in a filtering of ideas. Despite that, my first round of rough thumbnails included a few ideas that focused on the setting and a few based on the character.
Rachael wanted to see more. There were a few things the publisher wanted out of this cover. They wanted environment, they wanted the sod house, they wanted time period, the girl, and the emotional struggle. I wanted to convey a sense of isolation. My next round was much better. Even as a tiny roughs, the imagery was felt more, right. Rachael showed these to the editor and they deliberated.
I was really intrigued by the idea of silhouetting the character in the doorway or using an object such as her boots to convey her loneliness. We both agreed that we could use typography to mark the time period.
In the end, we put the main character on the cover, front and center but still left room for the house and some empty space. I did a tight sketch half drawn/ half digital.
After that was approved, I sketched the entire jacket including design for the spine and flaps.
I started pulling reference and inspiration. The author sent some nice sod house reference.
They loved the sketch but were concerned about my treatment of the sod house. I was concerned as well since a sod house is basically a pile of mud and sticks. They are not necessarily pretty to look at and in some instances are essentially formless. They wanted to make sure my house didn't look like a log cabin, I wanted to make sure it didn't look like a heap of garbage. We started pulling references and I did a tighter drawing of the house.
Everything was approved. I worked on the cover first and then moved on to the back and flaps. Rachael worked out the spine based on my sketch.
I lettered the cover by hand based on type from the Dover catalogue.
Here's the final lettering in process. I made texture using ink and added that digitally for the final.
And the final...
Good Luck Caroline on your first book. The first of many I hope!