By Juliette Tulloch, Maisie Jane Garvin and Beth Gater
Following on from our previous features spotlighting cover artists Erik Dávila and Yuko Shimizu, we wanted to highlight another artist you may not realise is the brains behind some of your favourite book cover designs!
Tyler Comrie is a New York City-based designer whose modern and innovative designs offer a fresh perspective in the graphic design world. Comrie has a BFA from the University of Utah and the School of Visual Arts (SVA), New York. After graduating, he was hired as a book designer for Farrar, Straus and Girroux, then moved onto illustrating for The New York Times and more recently designing book covers for an imprint of Penguin Random House, Alfred A. Knopf. On weekends, he also takes on illustration commissions. Comrie has incorporated photography and contemporary sculpture into his work, showcasing the vast scope of inspiration and materials that come to play within book design.
Shortlisted for the International Booker prize last year, The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa is an outstanding novel surrounding the terrors of state surveillance. Perhaps following in the footsteps of dystopian authors before her, namely George Orwell, Ogawa’s story investigates the power of identity and memory. Translated by Stephen Synder from Japanese to English, this novel follows a young writer who concocts a plan to save her editor from being arrested, leaving the reader to reflect on the trauma of loss. Comrie’s design for the cover is captivating, a mix of both photography and illustration. The overlay of the fragments of sketch that cover half the girl's forehead and lips indicate the overriding theme of the story: sense of self. In a novel that is about forgetting, the design seems to indicate a person can present themselves in a multitude of ways, a concept that is heightened when we consider Ogawa’s story is set in a dystopian world which questions the morality of state power. This idea is furthered in Comrie’s design, with the title The Memory Police being presented as a stamp form. The placement of the stamp, which is covering the girl’s face perhaps another hint at the investigation into identity within the novel.
The Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance) was created by American author Jeff Vandermeer in 2014 and its success has resulted in a film adaptation of the first novel. Characterised for his writing on the weird and the wonderful, Vandermeer’s style is accurately depicted in the bold but powerful cover design for the paperback edition. Working alongside cover designer Rodrigo Corral, Comrie designs in detail the core themes of the trilogy: the unknown, the environment and sci-fi. Area X is an inhabited and abandoned area of the US, into which the secret agency ‘Southern Reach’ organises expeditions. Comrie’s consistent style of contrasting bold primary colours with black fine lines is demonstrated here in a vivid composition, where the obscure entwining nature depicts a symbolic ‘X’.
What’s more, the stamp-styled title from The Memory Police is used again, a clever play on your average typography. Comrie notes he finds it important as a designer to be involved in all aspects of the design process. Comrie has gone on to design Vandermeer’s critically acclaimed Borne series, which features a striking depiction of the creature that once belonged to a biotech company.
A Burning is Megha Majumdar’s debut novel, published in June 2020. The novel follows the story of three protagonists whose goals include rising into the upper class, gaining political power, and becoming a famous actress. The novel uses these three perspectives to highlight issues within underprivileged groups in modern-day India and how they are encouraged to fight against each other rather than pursue their aspirations. Many problems arise for each character as they are constantly battling with a corrupt system and rarely offered solutions. Majumdar stated that “the parallels between India and the U.S. are stunning” as the novel was published during the Black Lives Matter protests in America.
Comrie’s cover design perfectly visualises a sense of chaos and destruction with the burning flames displayed across the entire cover. The image of the train is relevant to a place in the story but perhaps also suggests that underprivileged groups are constantly trying to move up in the world and are consistently met with considerable difficulties along the way. The fire represents the corruption of society and how it blocks the way for so many individuals.You can find out more about Tyler Comrie on his social media: