Behind the Design
“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 the second post in my brand new feature! I’m thrilled to have the lovely Steve Marking on the blog today, who will be talking about the cover for Bitter By Francesca Jakobi, published by W&N. Steve is a London-based graphic designer, who has spent ten years as Art Director for the Weidenfeld & Nicolson imprint at Orion Books. In this post, we’ll find out more about that striking red cover and its talented designer. I loved reading Steve’s piece about this design because this is one of the most stunning covers I’ve seen!
Designing the cover for Bitter
Bitter by Fancesca Jakobi is a powerful debut novel set between Germany and London in the 1940s and ’60s. It tells the story of Gilda, a woman consumed by the mistakes of her past and desperate to reconnect with the son she abandoned as a young boy. Gilda is obsessive and manipulative – and for the cover, we wanted a strong, confident package to suggest a creeping atmosphere of dread that also reflected the period. I wanted to get across the idea of someone being watched and followed, while maintaining a literary feel. It had to be eye-catching and intriguing.
I came up with the first design quite quickly – a ’60s-style cover featuring simple eye illustrations and broken-up type to give it a slightly menacing feel. Although this design was quite striking, we did have some reservations about it being right for the market. It felt a little too much like a thriller, and we wanted a look that was warmer and more personal, a cover that hinted at Gilda’s complex emotions – her bitterness but also her vulnerability – that would connect more with a female, literary audience.
We decided it should be a photographic cover rather than illustrated, so I began searching for the right image – a woman, with a sense of danger or menace, either being watched or followed. After trying a few images that didn’t quite work, I found a perfect image of a woman looking through a window on Arcangel Images. I cropped the image, concealing much of the woman’s face, as I wanted her age to be ambiguous so that she could be seen as Gilda or her daughter-in-law, either the one watching or the one being watched.
I added the corrugated glass effect in Photoshop. It was a good way to add some mystery and a sense of danger, and it also helped to place the image in the period. The lettering is simple with a slight ’60s feel, and although placed behind the ‘glass’, it’s still bold and legible.
I’m very happy with the result. It feels classy, approachable and full of intrigue. It hints at the themes of the book without giving too much away. And more importantly, everyone seems to love her shade of lipstick.
These are some of Steve’s early designs (as mentioned above)
And here is the finished design (Love the lipstick!)
About Steve Marking:
I am a London-based graphic designer and art director specializing in book design. I have worked in-house at Penguin Books and Orion Books, and previously as an art director in magazine publishing. I have been designing and art directing book covers since 2001, and have spent ten years as Art Director for the Weidenfeld & Nicolson imprint at Orion Books.
You can find more about Steve via his
Below are just a few of Steve’s remarkable cover designs!
To purchase a copy of Bitter, you can follow the links below:
It’s 1969, and while the summer of love lingers in London, Gilda is consumed by the mistakes of her past. She walked out on her beloved son Reuben when he was just a boy and fears he’ll never forgive her. Yet she hopes desperately they can mend their shattered relationship.
When Reuben marries a petite blonde gentile, Gilda takes it as the ultimate rejection. Her cold, distant son seems transformed by love – a love she’s craved his entire adult life. What does his new wife have that she doesn’t? It’s an obsession that will bring shocking truths about the past to light . . .
Bitter is a beautiful and devastating novel about the decisions that define our lives, the fragility of love and the bond between mother and son.
You can find my review of Bitter here!
About Francesca Jakobi:
Francesca studied psychology at the University of Sussex, followed by a stint teaching English in Turkey and the Czech Republic. On returning to her native London she got a job as a reporter on a local paper and has worked in journalism ever since. She’s currently a layout editor at the Financial Times.
Bitter is her first novel, inspired by her grandmother who was sued for divorce in the 1940s.
Find her on Twitter
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 Steve Marking 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 email@example.com! I’d love to hear from you!