Friday 29 May 2009

Interview - Astred Hicks

Astred Hicks is the artist behind one of my fave new Aussie novels, Posse. She generously allowed me to interview her about what designing a cover really entails.

How did you begin cover design as part of your repertoire?
My dream as a young tenacious designer was to do everything, try all the disciplines and ultimately take over the world. A few years into this plan I joined a design studio that had a long history of book design and the idea of trying everything went out the window: I was hooked. Book design was what I wanted to do forever. I've been doing it for about five years now and I still can't think of anything else I want to do more. I am fascinated by the psychology of colour, image and type placement. I love problem solving – finding ways to grab a browser’s attention and entice them to pick up the book and read the blurb.

How much information are you provided with at the beginning of the assignment, specifically Posse?
I was given quite a lot of information for Posse. As well as the brief with the size specs and so on, I was given an extract from the book to get a feel for the protagonist's tone. I also had a written overview from the publisher telling me how they wanted people to feel when they looked at the book and as well as sample images for inspiration

Could you briefly talk about the steps involved in creating Posse's cover?
One thing the publisher stressed to me was "HEAT" -- the story is set in scorching hot summer holidays. So I started to search for images that made me feel the way I did on my summer holidays as a teenager... squinting in bright light, lethargic from the oppressive heat, but with the promise of romance and the expectation of new experiences. Originally we tried versions of a cover that showed the 'posse' but they lacked ‘edge’ By the second round of concepts we pretty much had the final cover.

The image we went with was so perfect – the girl has such strength, even though you only see one of her eyes as it looks through the keyhole ‘O’. It's symbolic of both discovery and existing knowledge.

How much of a say does an author have in determining the look of their book?
It really depends on the project. Often the author does get shown concepts and in these cases their opinion is always taken on board. But usually the look of the book relies on the vision of the publisher, the input of the marketing team and the inspiration of the creative.

Which other projects have you used your artistic genius?
Which ones am I most proud of? I loved doing 'Girl Secrets' by Kerrie Hess, not just because it was my first cover with holographic foil (which in itself is very exciting), but because I also did the internal page design. Working with those illustrations and content was a dream (it was commended in last years APA book design awards). I am also still excited about 'That's why I wrote this song' by Susanne Gervay and 'Game as Ned' by Tim Pegler. They are two of my favourite young adult books because I was able to delve deeply into the psychology of the content and create very edgy covers.

I’m also proud of 'Planet Earth', a Western Australian secondary education text book, because I commissioned a satellite photograph specially for the cover. The idea was to take an unusual view of the Earth and create an abstract piece of art from it. That one was a finalist in this year’s APA book design awards!

Thank you so much to Astred for taking the time to talk about her process. As you can see, her work is amazing and I will definitely be looking out for more books featuring her cover art.


Shalonda said...

That cover is what initially drew me into this book! It is so pretty. It was definitely seeing the eye through the letter "O".

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for posting this, it's fascinating to see another side of book production.

The interview makes it sound like you found the image of the girl rather than shooting it -- is that true, and if so, is that common? I'd always imagined most book cover photos being shot specifically for the cover, but now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not sure why I thought that.

Anonymous said...

Hiya! I thought I would answer Elizabeth's question:
It is very rare in Australian publishing to do a shoot specifically for a book. Often we rely on stock image libraries and photoshop skills and on the odd occasion our own photos (one designer I worked with needed a photo of a 13 year old boy in the 1970s for a cover, so she used a photo of her brother!).
Although I have worked on one book (the previously mentioned That's Why I Wrote This Song) where the publisher shot the characters in the band and supplied me with the photos to use.