Here is a cover design post I've created for The Gingerbread Wife - which is a self-published anthology of amazing short stories by British author Sarah Vincent that I designed in 2015. The titular tale is about a woman in a post-apocalyptic time who is sold into the slavery of a sadist. It's a very dark and visceral read, unforgettable in its ominous imagery of a civilisation that has lost its way. I started by thinking about how I, as a reader of contemporary women's fiction, would respond to a title like that. It is unsettling because we know what generally happens to gingerbread and we know that is it a woman who will suffer. After reading the story, I started work with three ideas that formed the basic foundations for the final design: the female form, bones and fragility .
I wanted to convey the tragic concept of a woman as a chattel to be restricted, bartered and broken. I liked the idea that you could reach inside her and forcibly change and reshape her - hence the corseted shop dummy and zip feature that I had running down the length of the spine fixed in place with visciously placed pins. The dummy is a prop I bought from a junk shop for an earlier project that usually inhabits the corner of my studio covered in my cardigans and jumpers. Finding interesting ways to present inanimate objects in book design is one very effective way of peaking the interest of a potential reader and inviting them to find out more. I played about with the positioning and purpose of the zipper for ages. At one point I had the idea to depict the flesh slipping away from the form completely but decided that this was too gory for the genre. Like the title, the message of the story was much more subtle than that.
This is one of my favourite projects of recent years because it involved creative direction, photography and fine art illustration in addition to graphic design and typography and it was a joy from start to finish. The above is an early draft of the design before I got going with the layers, fine art pens and typography. I actually really liked where it was going at this stage but decided that the zipper device was too literal to make any actual sense as it stood and that the whole cover should to be more illustrative and metaphorical. Below is a thumbnail of me drawing the joints of the spine and ribs that would eventually become the background texture for the design. That was a lovely exercise. The human skeleton is fascinating and so much more complex in its construction than I had previously anticipated.
When it was done, Sarah Vincent said: "The detail is exquisite. The more you look at [Jennie's] covers the more you find in them...I could never work with anyone else. Truly, they are works of art." You can find out more about her writing here.
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