Searching for the Right Book Cover

14 01 2012

Suzanne Dean: the secret to a good book cover

Suzanne Dean designed the cover for the Man Booker prize winner ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes. She talks about creating some of the most striking book jackets of the past 20 years.

To judge a book by its cover is so patently unwise that it has long been a metaphor for other forms of misinterpretation. But only a very naive author would suppose that the cover of his or her book was irrelevant. It’s the first thing we see, and there’s no way to make it entirely objective: a book’s cover offers an interpretation of its contents – some inflection, if only by its typeface or colour. And yet its effect on the reader is mostly subliminal. Book designers are the ultimate hidden persuaders.

Earlier last year, in his acceptance speech for the Man Booker Prize, Julian Barnes effectively outed one of the women behind his throne: Suzanne Dean, the creative director of Random House, who has been designing the jackets of his books for years. And it seems about time that designers stepped forward and took more credit: with the rise of e-books, physical books have become even more covetable as objects. If you just want to read something, you can do that electronically; if you want to own it, the book should be as beautiful as possible.

Dean, who started designing for Penguin almost 20 years ago, then moved from there to Picador and Random House, now oversees all of Cornerstone and Vintage publishing; this week, she was the only designer included in The Bookseller’s list of “100 most influential people in the book trade”. Over the years, she has come up with a vast number of diverse and memorable covers: the silver first edition of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, the hardback of Don DeLillo’s Underworld, Ian McEwan’s Atonement and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, to name a few. Yet she has only started to put her name on them in the last four years or so.

She feels very strongly that e-books offer designers of physical books the opportunity to be more creative. “I absolutely think we should seize the initiative and make the best books we can,” she told me in her office earlier this week. “I can’t imagine a world that didn’t have books on shelves – it would be like having no paintings on walls or photographs in frames. All of these things are part of what makes you who you are.”

 Read full article @ The Telegraph
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