Hello NY: Behind the Scenes of the Cover Process

I think it’s always interesting to see the process of a project. I thought it would be fun to share a little bit of what it was like coming up for the cover of my book Hello NY and some of the rejected covers.

Here is a short list of the things I was hoping to achieve with my cover before I started:

- A striking image that you would notice in a store on display.

- Something that encompasses the feeling of New York City without being too cheesy or expected.

- A illustration that shows off what I do best- something pretty detailed.

- An image that is colorful in a sophisticated way, but has a palette that won’t go out of style too quickly.

- A cover that appeals to all ages and all genders- nothing too girly.

Chronicle asked for three cover sketches but I came up with four.

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The first cover was made from a bunch of drawings of people walking on West 4th Street. Before my ceramics class, I sat on a stoop and took a bunch of pictures with my phone of people walking by. Later I came home and drew them thinking I would use them as a page in my book capturing one hour- something titled “Everyone who walked by me from 5-5:30 on West 4th Street.” But the idea didn’t wind up making it in the book so I had all these drawings of people. I decided to try and use them for a cover, capturing the feeling of a crowded street.

For the second cover I wanted to make an image that felt like you were looking out from a rooftop. I have a great view from my roof. You can even see the Statue of Liberty. But when I went upstairs and took pictures, I couldn’t get a shot I liked. So instead I typed my address into Google Earth and started scanning around Brooklyn trying to find a view that felt right. Once I did I drew directly from my screen, sketching first to make sure the perspective matched.

These first two covers were my favorites and I couldn’t decide which I liked better.

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Then I had another idea, to focus on a small detail of New York, something you might fail to appreciate. I felt like that matched the theme of my book. That’s where the idea to do a hopscotch game came. It also provided a great structure for the type. I added the legs last minute when it felt too empty. But the cover was a bit bland and I felt the others were stronger.

After trying those ideas, I also wanted to try a safe option. I made this last cover by collaging a bunch of images from the interior that felt very New York. It looked fine but I felt like I’d seen it a million times before.

I sent the sketches to Chronicle making a case for the first two. I was working with Brooke Johnson (as usual!) and I really trusted her option on these. She shared the sketches with her team and here were their comments:

They really liked the first one but wanted to see more of a variety of people. They also liked the second one but wanted it to feel more colorful. They felt like the title and subtitle needed to read more immediately. They said the third, was out of the running, there were too many better options. And their favorite was the last!

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(above: just the line drawing scan and the scan colored in the computer with the title changed to be on the rooftop)

I revised per their requests and really tried to fix my rooftop one so that it read better. I pow-wowed with Jenny who helped me come up with solutions for getting the text to work better. One smart suggestion was to add a street, so I moved the drawing up and was able to get the subtitle to run across the road. I added some closer building and was able to add a lady sunbathing on her roof. Maybe it is supposed to represent me… Now I was sold! I wrote Brooke pleading that this would be the cover and that the other option was just too generic. I got an email back that hands down everyone loved the new version and that it was the winner. I was so happy!

I showed them the new version in vector color but once it was approved I went to paint. I printed my image at 10% transparency and painted it like a coloring book. Then I scanned the paint and put it on a layer below my line art.

 

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(above: just the paint layer of the cover and the paint with the line drawing on top before cropping.

As for the drawings of the walking people, they didn’t go to waste. I made a pattern from them and decided to use it on the endpages of the book. You can see more about this book here and pick up a copy here.

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