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Cover Designer Spotlight: Rachel Willey

By Juliette Tulloch & Abbie Wright


Rachel Willey is currently the Deputy Arts Director at The New York Times Magazine and has a history of eye-catching cover designs. She obtained a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, worked in bookstores in Southern California for nearly seven years and has worked for the likes of Abrams and Penguin USA. Our team has collected some of our favourite of Willey’s works to share with you.


Outlawed by Anna North


Anna North’s Western-style novel follows Ada as she leaves behind everything she knows and joins the Hole in the Wall gang. The book is an empowering feminist story, and the book cover is a perfect fit. The central image features a cowboy hat and bandana along with a pair of red lips, and this connects the Western theme of the novel and the new feminine twist that makes this story unique. Additionally, the use of cut-out style and abstract imagery is interesting as it is a common theme in Willey’s work, and this unique signature style keeps readers coming back for more.


The colours also create an eye-catching and striking image. We particularly like the use of pink and red for the title, as it again links to femininity but also creates a clashing and contrasting colour palette that lets the reader know that this is a different take on an extremely masculine genre. Overall Willey’s use of colour and imagery create the perfect cover for this Western-feminist tale.


The Pisces by Melissa Broder


The Pisces by Melissa Broder, which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019, is a classic summer reader that follows main character Lucy as she retreats to Venice Beach after a messy break-up. Lucy is captivated by a good-looking swimmer as she dog-sits in the area, but all is not as it seems when it comes to his identity and their connection. Willey’s design merges a vintage-style image with a mysterious outline of a fish, hinting at the supernatural themes that will unravel in the book. The placement of Lucy as she passionately hugs the outline, suggests a complicated dynamic between the two main characters, yet the bold and colourful contrasts of Lucy and the turquoise background radiate the upbeat lifestyle of Venice Beach. The design is careful not to give too much away with the single author quote but it’s clear this will be an enthralling romantic read.


Witches of America by Alex Mar


Alex Mar’s non-fiction book Witches of America was published in 2015 and follows her five-year trip exploring the occult, starting in 1950s America and ending in modern-day paganism. Drawing on the experiences of thousands of witches (including in New Orleans, San Francisco and Illinois) Mar takes part in rituals herself and meets different characters from various walks of life. Some of the people she meets also feature in her documentary American Mystic, and it’s clear she has heavily researched the topic and its movements across the decades. Willey’s striking design captures the elusive nature of these groups that exist today, and the expansive nature of their beliefs that struggle to be defined in one definition, by sticking to a bold moon that is embellished with gold foiled rings. The image of the dead crow alludes to the darker side of these practices, and perhaps the more stereotypical image that many readers will have drawn from their favourite fantasy TV programmes, but it’s clear that Mar seeks to uncover these tropes and explore these very real religions and their followers.


Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford


Ashley’s Ford’s 2021 debut and memoir, Somebody’s Daughter, is a gut-wrenching tale of adolescence as Ford navigates growing up as a poor Black girl in Indiana. Including themes of incarceration, familial love, the environment, grief and assault, the memoir is exquisitely written and shines a light on fragmented childhoods and the loneliness that comes with this. Willey’s design is bold and inviting, entwining the abstract shapes with a snake, clearly illustrating the fragmented pieces of Ford’s life as she deals with the complicated connection with her father. The shape of the snake as it weaves its way onto each piece echoes Ford’s struggles and ambition to tie her life back together in the wake of harsh truths and bad relationships. 


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