We asked three designers—Jennifer Heuer, Post Typography, and Andy Pressman from Rumors—to tell us about their favorite projects that never saw the light of day.
Cover designs for W. W. Norton & Company’s paperback edition of Touch
What was the brief?
It was fairly open. The editor felt that the hardcover design was a bit too wintry for the paperback and wanted something different. Otherwise, I was on my own with the manuscript. The novel itself is a charmingly eerie story following three generations. It starts when the character Stephen returns to his isolated, haunting hometown as an adult. He begins to reminisce about the lore of his legendary grandfather, the town’s founder during the gold rush, in the late 19th century. It’s heavy on magical realism and paints a beautiful setting with sublime characters.
What was the basic idea of the design?
There’s a point in the book where the grandfather and his new bride are wandering through the forest and come across this beautiful golden caribou in a clearing. The novel has lots of mystic references, but it turns out this caribou wasn’t magical—it was rubbing against a boulder-size piece of gold and coating its body in gold dust. That scene really stood out to me visually. It pulled together the feeling of wilderness, the gold rush, and the spiritualism surrounding the forest. There were also many references to an ax that was passed down through the three generations, which is where the second cover idea came from.
Since the fictional town of Sawgamet had a gold and, later, logging boom, I referenced those materials to create the ax. I created the golden caribou out of hand-brushed glitter and built custom type from old woodblock letters.
What do you think worked well, and what didn’t?
Because the title is so short, it can really stand out. I was happy with the lettering on the caribou cover and how it interacted with the illustration. Both were an opportunity to capture the spirit and setting of the story through illustration and materials. Of course, whenever you’re illustrating animals with craft supplies, you need to keep your adult reader in mind. And the ax cover was leaning toward a more literary style, so it took some playing with scale and color to strike the right commercial look.