As most of you may know, I spent my summer working as an intern at Penguin Group. On one of my last days there, my art director told me that if I was interested in getting into the book design industry, a good project to work on would be designing multiple covers for a book, using different styles, focusing on different themes, and aiming them at different demographics. So here I am, three months later with what I consider my biggest self-initiated project to date: nine unique book cover designs for one book!
At the risk of seeming like a super hipster, I chose J. D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey. I chose this because:
1) It is a modern classic that most people are familiar with.
2) The cover that is most often associated with Franny and Zooey is this one: a design from a series of Salinger's works that all follow the same design. No cover design has been exclusive to the story and its characters, so I thought there was an opportunity there.
3) It is read by a wide range of ages. While I first read this book when I was fourteen, others just as easily read later in life. Because so many different ages appreciate this book, I can create different cover designs to appeal to a wide range of demographics.
For those of you who haven't read Franny and Zooey, the book is about a brother and sister and is divided into two parts: the first part focuses on Franny Glass, a university girl in her early twenties visiting her scholarly boyfriend for the weekend. She is feeling very disenchanted with her school, its professors, her hobbies, and the egos of everyone around her and wants to focus on something other than competition or academics so she tries to find a pure state of mind through repeated prayer.
Part two of the book takes place in the Glass' family apartment in Manhattan. Franny is visiting home, experiencing an existential breakdown while her brother Zooey, having a bath, reads an old letter from his older brother and chats with their mother Bessie. Zooey is unsympathetic towards Franny's spiritual dilemma and a conversation between the two ends with Franny in tears. The story ends with the two siblings making amends after Zooey gives Franny some advice that their older brother had once shared with him when he was going through a similar breakdown. This book is considered a modern zen tale and features a lot of Buddhist undertones.
It took me a while before I knew when to stop this project but I was lucky enough to have recently met with Canadian book designer Stan Bevington, the founder of Coach House Books. I met him at the beatiful, tiny Coach House headquarters and got myself a little tour of the actual printing room because (oops) I couldn't find the front entrance and was let in through the back. Stan has received pretty much every award there is for Canadian book design so it was a real honour having him look over my Franny and Zooey designs and tell me they're very nice and contemporary. After getting his seal of approval, it was easier for me to feel like the project was finished. Okay, I'll stop talking now. Here they are!
There is a lot to bite into thematically when designing a cover for Franny and Zooey so I tried to focus on something different in each cover design. I wanted this first one to look like an unusual classic, which is exactly how I interpret Franny and Zooey. I thought using tame colours helped give the cover a nostalgic look while keeping it fresh and clean.
It took me a while to feel satisfied with the layout of this kaleidoscopic design, as I'd been playing around for weeks with the composition. Here are some earlier stages of the cover, from "most awkward" to "eh, almost there":
I liked the idea of adding colour to the black and white image of the girl's face, but these warm pink tones weren't working. Finally, after replacing them with blue, everything fell into place.
This was the most recent cover I completed. I really wanted it to be eye-catching and set the scene for the story by using different elements from the story's landscape. I thought that, though the cover is bright and the illustrations are simple, this cover seems more mature and would probably be enjoyed by people in their twenties to thirties. There weren't many interesting variations of this cover, as I knew I wanted a dark salmon colour for the background, so I won't bore anyone with the process.
Because Franny and Zooey is considered a modern classic, I thought it deserved a specialty cover. With a gold foil on the title's lettering and a timeless look, I imagine collectors gravitating towards this one.
It took me a while to find a proper execution for this cover. I had originally been playing around with reds and navy blues to make it look all-American and traditional:
I liked the design on the right but it never felt like it knew where it was going, while the one on the left was more satisfying but still needed that extra special quality. I think that my faux-gold text in the final design helped it look more classic.
I wanted this one to emphasize the Buddhist undertones in a discreet way. The second "O" in "Zooey" is made to look like an enso: a symbol in Zen Buddhism that 'symbolizes a moment when the mind is free to simply let the body/spirit create' (definition courtesy of the Wikipedia page for Enso). The title is handwritten, as I wanted the cover to have a sort of unique personality since the imagery is so simple. I felt like a crazy person the day I was working on the enso because I had pages and pages on my desk of the repeated circle shape in black ink to get that perfect ring.
I had originally planned on this cover being a simpler two-colour design, but I much prefer having the photograph in the background.
The whole book surrounds siblings Franny and Zooey, so I wanted at least one cover to emphasize that stubborn sibling dynamic. I think this is a youthful cover design, probably most appealing to young women. Sidenote: I was watching John Mulaney's New in Town the night I was drawing Zooey so I think I unknowingly made him look like John Mulaney. No complaints though, they're both pretty cute.
This design is the most "classic" out of my nine covers. In the same vein as the Penguin Classics series, this cover features an interesting graphic that may not look immediately relevant to the story and appeals primarily to an older demographic. The reason I chose this illustration of a fat lady for the cover graphic is because "The Fat Lady" is actually a significant symbol in the book (I won't spoil why but it's very sweet).
I based this Fat Lady illustration off a tiny old-timey comic book lady drawing I found. I drew her in Illustrator but made sure to keep the Benday printing look that I think really harks back to the time Franny and Zooey is set in (written in the mid-'50s but published in 1961). It is almost like a little surprise for the reader to not understand and appreciate the cover's significance until the book's last page.
This cover is aimed at teens (canya tell?!) Though a few of my other covers feature handwritten type, I think this crooked, colorful composition is a perfect design for those awkward teens who pick up Salinger to feel intellectual (cough cough, me circa 2004). I was kind of picturing the same crowd that gravitates towards the covers for Paul Murray's Skippy Dies and Joe Dunthorne's Submarine to be attracted to this cover. The additional intrigue between the two characters on the cover may entice teenage readers too.
Initially, the background was white but it looked so boring so I knew there had to be a third colour. Below are some unsuccessful possibilities I was considering.
This cover is the only design that puts so much emphasis on photography. Since it is the only photography-based cover, I knew I had to find the perfect image to depict what exactly I wanted to see in Franny's expression. This cover displays a pretty serious tone so I envision a more mature audience being drawn to this design.
I had such a specific idea of Franny while I was reading so I did a lot of visual research to find the right Franny for this cover.
Finally, I found this Russian photographer named Margo Ovcharenko whose photographs are sophisticated and melancholic, suiting Salinger's work perfectly. For some reason, I thought these photos were from the '80s or so, but it turns out Margo is my age and these are contemporary works. Modern-day Russian Franny and Zooey:
My final cover! This was probably the one cover that I integrated my own personal agenda into. I'd wanted to do some decorative handlettering and experiment with texture in an illustration, so here is the result of that creative desire. I was so torn for a while between the final blue cover above and the rusty orange colour below, which I thought was an interesting pallette. Ultimately, I think the blue is the most visually appealing and would look the best on a bookshelf.
I'm feeling pretty satisfied with this outcome. Since it was a personal project, I was initially afraid I would get easily discouraged and not finish but I'm actually pretty pleased with the nine final covers.