The graphic designer riffs on powerful book covers, fonts and “Charlotte's Webb.”
A cover is to content as...The frame is to the picture.
Would you buy a book just for its cover?I really wouldn’t. And I wouldn’t date someone only because of what he looks like. (Okay, my partner of 17 years — J. D. McClatchy — is gorgeous, but that’s a coincidence!).
Cover you are most proud of…“The New Testament,” translated by Richmond Lattimore. I used a photograph by Andres Serrano, which turned out to damn the book by association. But it embodies the idea of life beyond death, which is a major theme of the book....
Favorite covers by other designers...A zillion. Off the top of my head, Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking,” designed by Carol Devine Carson.
James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” , designed by Rodrigo Corrall.
The key to good design is…Defining the problem. The better you do that, the better you design the solution.
When you start a book design, what's the first step?To read the manuscript. Always. Then talk with the author about what he or she has done and what the expectations are.
Hardcover, paperback or e-reader?Hardcover and paperback, I don’t have an e-reader. Honest! There's nothing like a hardcopy for taking off and landing. Even I will admit that when I read a hardcover book, I remove the jacket, but only because I want to keep it in perfect shape.
Best reaction you've ever had to one of your book covers…My favorite reaction, consistently, is: ‘I saw this book cover and loved it and I would never have guessed in a million years that you did it. But you did.’
Favorite author...Hmmm. J. D. McClatchy, see a few answers ago.
What's your favorite font?If I were reduced to two, Bodoni for serif, Futura for sans serif.
When can we expect a follow-up to your last novel “The Learners?”Good question. Technically, I am working on it. There are 20 pages of it on my laptop. Knowing myself, I think it will be at least seven years before it sees the light of day.
Book that changed your life…Wow, so many, but the first one I remember is “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White, read to us by dear Mrs. Wegter at Lincoln Park Elementary in the third grade. Many years later I realized that the story is about the power of typography and advertising. And sacrificial love.
Book you are reading now…“A Hologram For The King” ,by Dave Eggers. It’s basically “Waiting For Godot” for our time, but better, because there’s something actually worth waiting for.
Book that you like to give as a gift…Recently, I’ve been giving friends “The Making of The Dark Knight Trilogy” by Jody Duncan Jessor and Janine Pourroy. A fascinating account of the creation of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies.
What's on your coffee table?“The World Of Gloria Vanderbilt” by Wendy Goodman. Full disclosure: I designed and art-directed this book, but even if I hadn’t I’d be fascinated, because she’s lived about 10 lifetimes (and counting!), and the book itself is a de facto history of 20th Century fashion and photography. She sat for all of the greats: Horst, George Hurrell, Cecil Beaton, Carl Van Vechton, Francesco Scavullo, Annie Liebowitz, Gordon Parks, Diane Arbus and, most notably (and prolifically), Richard Avedon. It’s breathtaking, and most important, she’s the nicest person in the world.
If you were a superhero who would you be?I’d like to think I could be Batman, but I’d need to be born a Vanderbilt first. And then I’d have to have a lot more discipline than I think I do.
See all our tastemakers' book suggestions from seasons past and present here.
Photo courtesy of John Madere