Art director explains how book covers are made

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They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but when the cover looks amazingly beautiful, who can blame you? Definitely not Alyssa nassner, associate artistic director at ABRAMS Children. His work requires creativity; browse bookstores; and work with publishers, artists, and booksellers to create a beautiful cover that you can’t wait to add to your library. It sounds like a dream concert for us.

We caught up with Nassner and got the 411 on how she landed her spot at ABRAMS, what she does when she’s at her desk, and more. Scroll down to find out more about her dream job!


What does an artistic director do?

When it comes to selling books, there are a LOT of cooks in the kitchen – not just authors, but also publishers, sales teams, and bookstore buyers. With all of these voices, it can be hard to find a compelling book cover that everyone agrees on.

This is where Nassner comes in. She tells us: “It’s my job as a designer to mediate between the two voices [sales and editorial teams] and find a creative solution that is both true to the vision of the book, but also salable and competitive with the titles it will be on the shelf next to.

For Nassner, art direction combines two things that she enjoys: “examining a problem with a business objective and finding a creative solution that also meets the demands of the market”.

How is a book cover made?

When a publisher acquires a book, they will send guidelines to Nassner on cover design ideas – similar book titles, age ranges, author comments, and vision. The sales team also kicks in, “based on what is selling, what is not, what our accounts like Barnes & Noble and Target require.”

From there, Nassner works with the Creative Director to create mood boards for the publisher. She says, “We’re going to shoot the trends, look at the designers, do bookstore tours, and overall try to get a feel for what this book should like and where it will be in the store.” Once the editors are satisfied, Nassner hires a designer to conceptualize and / or an illustrator to execute the design concept.

Nassner tells us, “From there, I’ll share the sketches / concepts with all the teams involved and get their feedback. We will decide on the priorities and work with the artist to develop solutions to address them, which will then be presented again to the team. It’s a pretty long process and we are learning new things with every step.

How do you become an artistic director?

Prior to working in publishing, Nassner was a textile designer for Target’s in-house children’s brands. At the same time, she was a freelance illustrator, creating illustrations for stationery products, children’s books and greeting cards. Nassner had illustrated five books for ABRAMS before landing a full-time art director job – without a book design portfolio or even specific publishing experience. “It shows that the career experience does not have to be linear for a candidate to be suitable for a position. “

Tips for aspiring book cover designers

1. Create a portfolio of covers. If you’re interested in freelance cover design, Nassner suggests “start creating a portfolio of covers, whether they are reimagined or imagined published titles that feature solid conceptual thinking and design aesthetics.” She says it’s important to show what you know, like market and design sensibilities, illustration skills, and photo editing abilities. At the same time, you don’t have to include skills that you hate, but instead think about ways to highlight what excites you. “In math class your teacher always told you to ‘show your work’, and I think that’s also true for designing book covers.”

2.Improve your software design skills. Nassner tells us it’s also important to be realistic on the job – it’s not just about designing covers all day. She also takes care of the creation and design of interior texts, corrects text, cleans and manipulates photos and works with production for prints and interiors. It is mandatory to upgrade your typography and inDesign skills.

3.Work and study hard. Nassner says, “All that being said, I came to my post with minimal book design experience, so I think it’s possible that knowledge of trends and the industry, good taste and hard work. hard work outweigh the technical skills you will learn on the job. “

The designers you need to know

Nassner tells us, “Right now I’m working with two super talented women whose work I’ve admired for quite some time. Na Kim designs a cover for the second book we’re publishing by Sarah Nicole Lemon, author of No more dirt cheap.

Kimberly Glyder is working on a mid-level novel called Every shining thing it is sure to dazzle. Her Instagram feed is one of my current favorites. These two women have killer portfolios, and you can’t go to the bookstore without seeing their titles face to face on the shelf (one of merchandising’s biggest honors)! “

“In addition to the people I have hired, I would like to recognize my friend and colleague designer Maria T. Middleton. She was my mentor at ABRAMS before joining the Random House design team. Her passion for book design is contagious and the care she gives to every detail of every book she designs – not just the cover – is truly inspiring.

What is your dream job? Tweet us @BritandCo And keep us updated !

(Portrait images via Sung park, reserve images via ABRAMS)



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