Here’s a thing you may or may not know about me, in my not-shouting-at-hapless-bystanders-on-the-internet life, I’m a graphic designer. Fun fact, my love of books is indirectly responsible for me becoming a graphic designer in the first place. Back when I was a freshman in college, idly wandering the halls, taking random classes and trying to figure out how I could turn decent but not anything resembling remarkable drawing skills into a career that would pay me actual money, I more or less randomly ended up in an intro to graphic design class. One of the first guest speakers to come in was a book cover designer and I was immediately sold. Being a cover designer was my dream job and there was nothing I wanted to do more than that. Naturally, I spent the next six years doing nothing remotely like that (I mean, okay, remotely in the sense it was graphic design but not that in every other way).
For awhile now I’ve been thinking and occasionally talking about how I would design covers and I should just do my own for fun (and then never actually doing anything because inertia is a problem for me. BUT NO LONGER. I’ve started working on some of my own versions of various covers and I’ve decided to share them with you because hording them on my computer and never letting them see the sun seems unproductive.
ANYWAY. On to my super awesome covers for the Fire and Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson (bonus points to anyone who can think of an even more super awesome title for these posts because I suck at titling things).
I went with a typography-focused design because I am a gigantic fucking type nerd (like, obscure facts and terms, fixating on the miniscule differences between seemingly identical sans serif fonts, there’s an hour and a half documentary on Helvetica on Netflix and it’s fascinating and you should totally watch it level of nerd). I found a fantastical, serif-based typeface and then spent an unreasonable amount of time customizing the letters because nothing makes me happier than customizing typography (I’d forgo cake, if this surprises you, see above parenthetical about how much of a type nerd I am).
I’m also super into iconography so I chose an icon for each book that represents a literal element/plot point in the trilogy and also symbolizes Elisa’s arc (Elisa is the main character for those of you who haven’t read this series and also what are you doing here? Go check these books out, they’re amazing). One of the cool things about designing your own covers for shits and giggles, is that I’m not working on any kind of timeline and can choose books and series that I’ve read in entirety. I know what themes and symbols will be important and can design with them in mind. This is kind of tricky when designers are coming up with cover concepts when the rest of a series hasn’t been written yet.
For Girl of Fire and Thorns I went with a rose icon. It both literally represents a major symbol of Elisa’s religion and also the beginning of Elisa’s arc. In the first book, she is very much a product of her religion, it was the major shaping force of her upbringing and she’s only just starting to question who she is outside of it. I went with a purple paper for the cover to represent the desert sky at night, the desert being a major part of book one’s setting (yes I could’ve gone with a sand-dune sort of color but it would’ve fucked up this whole cool palette thing I’ve got going on).
In The Crown of Embers, Elisa goes on a literal and metaphorical journey. I don’t want to get too spoilery but book two is all about Elisa finding answers to questions raised in the first book, hence, a compass. I went with green for this book because a tropical jungle-y environment plays a big role.
The Bitter Kingdom is all about Elisa being a badass queen who gets shit done, goes after what she wants and takes care of her people. A crown works on both a literal level (disclaimer, this isn’t actually how I envision the godstone crown but unless I was willing to draw it myself, my options were limited) and on a metaphorical level. In book three, Elisa is on top of her shit. She’s figured out who she is and what she wants, she’s come into her own, she’s a queen. I went with blue for the godstone and also to represent cold because you may have noticed that the color choices are tied into the setting.
Another cool thing about designing my own theoretical versions of book covers is that my budget is also theoretical and therefore infinite. For the Fire and Thorns trilogy, I envisioned gold foil stamping (exactly what it sounds like, you literally stamp press heated metallic foils into the surface) on a super textured, jewel-toned paper. Visually and tactilely an incredible idea, in terms of cost per book? Not super practical in a financial sense. But hahahaha, I can do whatever the hell I want. I’m basically working with the rosebud code from the original Sims (or was that Sims 2? I don’t know, I’m old).
So, yeah, there’s that (I am awesome at conclusions). I have a bunch of ideas floating around in my head and would really like to make this a semi-regular series. Hopefully I can build up enough of a portfolio and turn this into an actual thing I do in addition to a fun fan art outlet. What do you guys think?