“The Behind the Design feature follows the very best of book cover designers and explores the inspiration behind their latest creations, the process behind the designs and the quest to find the perfect book covers. Book covers entice us over in a bookshop, they’re the spark of intrigue or fluttering of wonder that invite us to discover the world inside the words. To highlight some of these covers and their extraordinarily talented creators, I thought I’d launch a feature that will take a look at the process behind the design. I hope you enjoy it!”
Welcome to my very first post in my brand new feature! I’m thrilled to have the wonderful Neil Lang on the blog today, who will be talking about the cover for Selfie by Will Storr, published by Pan Macmillan. Neil designs covers for both fiction and non-fiction, and for authors such as Peter James, David Baldacci, China Meiville, Ken Follett. In this post, we’ll find out more about that striking cover, which was shortlisted for the British Design and Production Awards, and its talented designer.
Neil Lang on Selfie
I design covers for a varied selection of titles poetry, fiction and non fiction, with authors such as Peter James, David Baldacci, China Meiville, Ken Follett, but the challenge is the same trying to get a book cover to stand out amongst the competition. It could be the use of colour, type, images, illustration or for the hardback jacket of Selfie I was given the opportunity to do something a little different.
Selfie is in part a book about being self obsessed, and so I wanted to have a cover that reflected the reader, but there is a limited budget! The solution was a silver laminate which allowed me to keep the cover as simple and clean as possible, embossing all front cover copy to maximise the effect of the finishes, printing all copy in a deep black pantone. The final result worked well and was even shortlisted for the British Design and Production Awards.
The paperback is also a design led solution, but very different. In paperback you are trying to reach a much larger audience, but still how do you get someone to notice the book and hopefully get them to pick it up? Often with non fiction paperbacks it’s a challenge to get all the information to do the job it should, whilst bearing in mind the hierarchy of the information.
On the paperback I’ve kept the typographic approach, allowing the title to grab your attention with the subtitle gradually growing larger to emphasise the self obsession. Using strong bold lettering with a hit of pantone orange to emphasise the ‘i’, and also make more of the quotes. The title type design caused a few arguments as I originally wanted the i to appear more as a digit ‘1’, referring to one, the self. But after showing visuals at various meetings the use of an ‘i’ with the tittle was seen as a more obvious reference to the self. Obviously there should be a ligature, which in text most likely wouldn’t be noticed as it’s read as part of a sentence but wasn’t as clear when used as a large heading.
While most people will only ever see one cover, several visuals are presented to a team of people in house every week, when there are discussions and arguments as to which cover best represents the book. With every cover there are always several designs that never make it, so I’ve attached a few here.
Below are some of Neil’s early designs:
And here are the finished hardback and paperback designs:
About Neil Lang
After graduating Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication for over 20 years I’ve sold my soul as a graphic designer specialising in book design working on all genres for hundreds of different authors. With work and articles featured in Computer Arts magazine, Sci Fi Now, It’s Nice That, Casual Optimist, and D&AD among others. I’ve been lucky enough to have had my work recognised at several design awards, and was asked to be a D&AD judge for the Book Design Awards 2016 which was great experience. I’m also a keen photographer and a regular contributor to several image sites.
Follow Neil on Twitter
or find him at
Pan Macmillan Art Department on Twitter
Below are just a few of Neil’s stunning book Covers:
If you’d like to purchase a copy of Selfie by Will Storr, here is the link:
We live in the age of the individual. We are supposed to be slim, prosperous, happy, extroverted and popular. This is our culture’s image of the perfect self. We see this person everywhere: in advertising, in the press, all over social media. We’re told that to be this person you just have to follow your dreams, that our potential is limitless, that we are the source of our own success.
But this model of the perfect self can be extremely dangerous. People are suffering under the torture of this impossible fantasy. Unprecedented social pressure is leading to increases in depression and suicide. Where does this ideal come from? Why is it so powerful? Is there any way to break its spell?
To answer these questions, Selfie by Will Storr takes us from the shores of Ancient Greece, through the Christian Middle Ages, to the self-esteem evangelists of 1980s California, the rise of narcissism and the selfie generation, and right up to the era of hyper-individualistic neoliberalism in which we live now.
It tells the extraordinary story of the person we all know so intimately – our self.
About Will Storr:
Will Storr is a longform journalist and novelist. His features have appeared in various publications, including the Guardian, Sunday Times, Observer, Esquire, New Yorker and the Sydney Morning Herald. He is a contributing editor at Esquire magazine. He has been named New Journalist of the Year and Feature Writer of the Year, and has won a National Press Club award for excellence. In 2012, he was presented with the One World Press award and the Amnesty International award for his work for the Observer on sexual violence against men. In 2013, his BBC radio series `An Unspeakable Act’ won the AIB award for best investigative documentary.
That’s it! I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about the process behind the design as much as I have! Huge thank you to Neil Lang for appearing on my blog with his wonderful piece!
Keep an eye out for more posts in this feature soon!
If you’re a book cover designer and you’d like to be involved in my new feature please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org! I’d love to hear from you!