Amy Davies - May 28th, 2015
Steve Marking, Art Director here at W&N and brain behind the beautiful The Versions of Us cover, explains the journey from manuscript to book with some of the inspirational images behind the cover and rejected designs for Laura Barnett’s debut.
There was a great deal of excitement about the publication of The Versions of Us, which made the design of the cover an exciting but challenging prospect – when there are high expectations about a book, there’s a lot of pressure to come up with something special for the cover.
The aim was to get across the concept of three people and three versions of a story. We started by trying to illustrate the initial events of the book – the meeting of Eva and Jim and how three different scenarios led to three different stories. The idea was to have Eva on her bike, with three coloured lines leading her off into different directions. It seemed like a straightforward approach, but an illustrated woman on a bike just looked too feminine and didn’t have a wide enough appeal.
Continuing with the theme of three versions of the story, I tried combining three separate typographic designs into one cover. This however became even more complicated and didn’t get across the human stories central to the book. Sometimes the desire to visualise a concept just gets in the way of the basic need for a simple and visually strong cover.
Back to the drawing board, I took inspiration from design from the late 1950s, the period in which the book begins, and in particular 1950s packaging and wallpaper designs. I wanted a pattern of objects which would represent the three characters. So we tried designs using bikes, satchels, artist’s palettes, typewriters, dogs.
The objects alone didn’t make a particularly interesting design, so instead I commissioned the illustrator Sinem Erkas to illustrate a number of locations from the book – Kings College, the house in Cornwall, the Tate Gallery, the house of Gypsy Hill, the Algonquin Hotel in New York. Keeping the theme of three different versions, the title was placed on three banners, using three colours.
It took a while to get the design right, but with the printing on the cover board and the illustrated endpapers, I’m really pleased with the final result. Here are some that didn’t make it!
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