It's easy to see why Catherine Bush's new novelBlaze Island (Goose Lane Editions) made all sorts of booklists: it's a page-turning cli-fi thriller about a cast of characters who are either fighting for the planet or trying to make a buck (sound familiar?). The book cover, designed by Goose Lane's creative director and designer Julie Scriver, sweeps you up too with its bold colours and rich imagery. Below, Julie chats with us about her process and design choices for the book.
All Lit Up: Can you tell us how you approach a new cover design? Where do you start?
Julie Scriver: I’ve usually read a good portion of a title (often at the acquisitions stage) before I begin. We have a team meeting about tone and flavour and how we will position a book, who the audience will be, and what bookstore shelf it will sit on. The author is invited to provide thoughts and imaginings for their book cover. Their connection to the work is obviously very strong and it’s important that they be part of the conversation. It is a real balancing act, though—there are many voices in that conversation including the in-house team, our sales reps, the chain buyers...
I try and sort out the tone question and consider other visual cues such as historical period or key elements in the narrative that might help anchor the cover. Much of it is intuitive and a process of exploration and consultation.
ALU: What inspired your design choices for Blaze Island, a novel described as cli-fi inspired by Shakespeare? Can you walk us through your process?
JS: I have a stash pile of images I really like and think would make a great book cover. The cover image for Blaze Island is a work by Newfoundland artist Christine Koch. I’d actually been waiting decades to find the right book for one of her works. Blaze Island and Christine’s work are such a perfect pairing. The bold colour, the fiery vertical gashes on the land mass of the island, and the haze of snow are all so evocative of Catherine’s narrative and the intensity of both the climate crisis theme and the relationship of the characters themselves.
ALU: Where there any other contending cover ideas for Blaze Island? If so, how did this design win out?
JS: I looked at a lot of frozen things and iceberg images, both photographic and illustrative, that played on the notion of an island. Ultimately though, the colour and texture of Christine’s work were just so right. I explored several pieces, but the fiery island was really the best fit. I also explored a variety of type styles: I felt an obligation to explore “hand drawn” type if only to rule it out. Ultimately, the contrast between the slim sans serif and the organic lines of the artwork proved best.
"Hand drawn" type
Evolution on the way to the final cover
Near final version
ALU: You have designed hundreds of book covers for Goose Lane Editions. Are there any special considerations when designing covers not only for each book, but also for the Goose Lane brand as a whole?
JS: We publish such a wide variety of genres, from poetry to guidebooks, from artbooks to biography. I guess the “brand” is to be true to each title. As a designer, I see my role as setting the stage. When the curtain goes up—when a prospective reader sees that book cover for the first time—it should be a breathtaking experience full of seduction and recognition, all at once. Sometimes it’s colour, texture, or cheekiness, or a visual narrative. The cover must have an affinity to the book that it enfolds but that isn’t necessarily an illustrative role. Cover design, as I see it, is evocative. It’s a matter of finding the right balance between information and inspiration.
ALU: What is your favourite typeface?
JS: I’m a sucker for a beautiful serif. Bodoni is one of my favourites, but slab serifs and sans serifs with a European bent are also appealing to me. The Hanken Sans family is always a strong contender. Like the context-setting elements of design, I see type as a vehicle with which to convey information. A reader shouldn’t be distracted by type but rather carried along by fine typesetting.
ALU: Are there any designers or artists you’re loving at the moment?
JS: There is so much good work out there, but to name a few who fuel my ambition: Ingrid Paulson, Scott Richardson, Coralie Bickford-Smith, Kimberly Glyder.
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Julie Scriver is the creative director and designer at Goose Lane Editions.
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A big thank you to Julie for joining us on the ALU blog.
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