Author: Rana Dasgupta
Designer/Illustrator: The Heads of State
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Typeface: The cover face is a found typeface scanned from an old spec book and then redrawn.
Printing Specs: Nothing special with the printing however the cover stock
is a nice dull stock that really compliments the cover aesthetic.
I've been a long time fan of The Heads of State. Solo is a particular
favorite of mine. Thanks to Jason and Dustin for taking the time to contribute
to our blog!
How did you become a book cover designer? What do you enjoy about your job?
We found our way to book cover design through poster design and
editorial illustration. Book covers are sort of close cousins to posters, especially illustrative posters. Designing covers is always a big honor
and an even bigger challenge. We're both avid readers, so seeing
our work wrapped around a bound book is always quite a kick. But it's
a unpredictable challenge. Digging in and finding the right cover for a
story is a different errand every time and that is what makes it terrifying
What is Solo about?
The story is told partially from the perspective of a 100 year old man on his deathbed who recollects the pieces of his life as seen through the events of the 20th century. Did I mention he is also blind and Romanian? It's kind of like Murakami meets Garcia Marquez, Ionesco, and Terry Gilliam. Sort of.
Were there any steps taken before starting, and was there a clear working process that led to the final? Any known influences?
The story was too grandiose to be specific. We tried a lot of different imagery as symbolism for the main character. Eyeglasses. Soviet-era housing structures with many, many windows. In the end, we felt the solitary figure dissipating seemed to speak volumes on it's own. It had the right feel. It started out as a sketch that we actually passed on. But as our first few rounds of comps failed to resonate, we went back to our sketchbooks and found this idea. This is a big part of our process. We're always diving back into notes and doodles to see if we missed something interesting.
What was the message behind the design? And what's something unique you learned while working on this project?
With the scope of the story being so broad it was hard to sum it all up in one image but we feel the birds represent both the entirety of the character's life as well as his memories. A parrot also plays into the story so there is a literal nod as well.
When you have a story with such a broad range with some many aspects that a person can get latched on to, we feel it's best to approach in in a more general manner. Simplicity can be an evocative device.
When all else fails, go back over your thoughts and ideas. In this instance
we went through a number of rounds and nothing seemed to work. We started paging back through sketch books and stumbled on a little tertiary sketch that never made it past this kind of after thought, didn't even make
it into our internal crop of potential covers. But after all the dust settles
that little spec of a sketch really encapsulated the story.
Solo is in the AIGA Archives for 50 Books/50 Covers of 2010.
Check out their website to see even more work.