World-class book cover designer Peter Mendelsund recently sat down with Fresh Air‘s Dave Davies to speak about his craft. The interview covers the why of a book jacket, why dead authors get the best covers, and the future of physical books. My favorite part was his anecdote on the process he goes through when he designs a cover. We should all beware creating “Frankenstein” designs.
DAVIES: And typically, how many versions will you make up?
MENDELSUND: Before I’ll show a jacket, I’ll tend to make a hundred and up various versions of a jacket for it. And that’s before I show in to an editor or an author. And when I show something, I tend to show one – the one that I think really works. I tend not to show multiple options because that sort of engenders confusion in people. And then there’s this kind of – there’s this kind of thing that happens where people look at the various things you’ve made, and they want to pull the aspects of the various comps that they like and put them together in kind of a – into a kind of a Frankenstein jacket. You know, take the color from this one. And the type from that one. And the imagery from that one. Can you make something out of that? One of the interesting things about jackets is that the material isn’t really transposable in that way. You know, one jacket works well with those components. You know, you bring in a different color, and all of a sudden, everything falls to pieces. So I like to show one thing only when I show the client.