The Publishing Post
Celebrating Women in Cover Design
By Abbie Wright and Juliette Tulloch
To honour the beginning of Women’s History Month, our team has decided to look at some of our favourite women cover designers and how they have made an impact on the cover design world.
Jennifer Heuer is a book cover designer, illustrator and art director for Penguin Random House. Her work spans over ten years and her unique, modern style makes her work stand out on the shelves. Heuer’s work tends to focus on the title of the novel, with specific imagery placed in the forefront that gives the reader an idea of the story and the overall themes discussed in the book. For example, the cover of What the Family Needed by Steven Amsterdam is presented as a cross stitch, much like the token imagery of nuclear families of the past, immediately highlighting the familial tones of the novel. Additionally, Heuer again uses token imagery of a lightning bolt to reference the superhero element of the novel. Another of Heuer’s covers But You Seemed So Happy by Kimberly Harrington also contains her signature style by using simplistic imagery to show a relationship in disarray. The colouring outside of the lines tells the reader that there will be a fragmented relationship in this novel. Finally, Hap & Hazard and the End of the World combines the text and image perfectly to connote the complexity and uniqueness that Diane Desanders will convey in her novel.
In an interview with Casual Optimist, Heuer mentions a number of current trends in cover design that she applies to her own work. She refers to making books “the object of desire” and this is seen through her attention to detail and her own unique aesthetic. You can read more about Jennifer Heuer and her work on her website.
Emma Ewbank has worked in the design industry for fifteen years, working in–house for Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, Penguin Random House and Bloomsbury. Her work spans a multitude of genres and styles, illustrating her ability to adapt and utilise the stories she is representing. Amongst several nominations, her 2013 design for The Great Gatsby was shortlisted for an ABCD award in 2014 and in 2018, she was shortlisted for a British Book and production Award for A Line in the River. Her design style uses modern approaches, such as Saba Sams’ Send Nudes, but also blends a vintage style that experiments with texture, like Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins. One design that has gathered attention is her abstract and moving design of Losing the Plot by Derek Owusu. The cover perfectly illustrates the central theme of motherhood, whilst the moving title and figure mirror the journey that Owusu and the reader go on to learn about the immigrant experience. You can learn more about Ewbank’s work, including her interest in music covers and web design, here.
Jaya Miceli is a book cover designer and Senior Art Director for Scribner, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. She began her book design career after temping as an editorial assistant at Penguin. Since then, she has worked on many best–selling novels including Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson. In a previous interview, Jaya highlighted the importance that having an emotional connection to the book plays for her when designing a cover. Her designs are innovative and visually striking but not overdone and use colour in a clever, bold way. One example of this is the design for Milk Fed by Melissa Broder. The design is bold but minimal whilst relating clearly back to the book name and premise and the contrasting pink and orange gives the cover a retro feel. Her design for Black Cake also appears deceptively simple at first glance with the use of colour creating a bold visual. But what you might not notice to begin with is the face incorporated in the design and this helps bring an added layer of intrigue to the cover. The innovative use of faces is a recurring feature across Miceli’s work. To name just a few, her designs for Sisters by Daisy Johnson, Little Foxes Took Up Matches by Katcha Kazbek and The Girl Before by Rena Olsen all incorporate faces but with creative stylization. For example, The Girl Before by Rena Olsen depicts a woman's face which is distorted, as though you are looking at her through a fractured mirror. This ties to the story which follows a woman who has her life shattered by a life–changing event. The distortion of faces is certainly a running theme throughout her work and makes her covers compelling as she puts her creative spin on the standard human face by taking the ordinary and making it more intriguing. You can find more of Jaya Miceli’s work on her website.