Designing the Cover of A Change is Gonna Come
This anthology of stories and poetry from BAME YA writers explores the theme of change. Contributors include Tanya Byrne, Inua Ellams, Catherine Johnson, Patrice Lawrence, Ayisha Malik, Irfan Master, Musa Okwonga and Nikesh Shukla. Plus introducing four fresh new voices in YA fiction: Mary Bello, Aisha Bushby, Yasmin Rahman and Phoebe Roy.
Below, designer Lucy Banaji and Art Director Paul Coomey discuss the process of arriving at the final cover design.
Lucy Banaji, Designer
When I was first approached by Art Director Paul Coomey to draw some characters for a book cover I was really excited because I love drawing people, especially capturing them in movement and interacting with one another.
Paul had recently seen some of my screenprints that were being exhibited in Hackney. The prints showed groups of people engaged in various activities, like dancing, skating and swimming, and he wanted me to bring the energy and dynamism that he saw in these prints to the cover of a new book he was producing.
The catalyst for my screenprint series had come from looking at Ancient Greek art at the British Museum. I love the lines and curves of the simplified figures and had wanted to bring those stylized poses into a more contemporary context.
For the book cover I started by reading a few of the stories from the book so I had a clear understanding of the types of characters, their personalities and backgrounds, how they might dress and wear their hair.
I studied loads of reference images of dancing people along with my own reference photographs of ancient stone carvings showing figures in interesting positions. Then I sat down to sketch.
To draw a character in motion I firstly plot out very simple points and lines to find interesting body shapes and angles. Then, once I’m happy with the body geometry, I sketch them up with a pencil. Funnily enough the best figures I draw tend to be the ones I do without directly looking at a reference images. Nevertheless, it’s always helpful to use reference if you need to work out an awkward angle.
Once my sketches are working well, I scan them in to a computer and use a combination of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to process them. In Illustrator I build up the blocks of colour and shape before exporting them to Photoshop where I play around with texture using my own homemade brushes and some pattern brushes I have in my library.
Paul had a very clear vision about the colour for the cover and I worked with his bold palette, breaking up solid colours with textures and patterns here and there, with the aim of adding some variety and depth into the composition.
Overall I think I made around 20 different characters for Paul to select his favourites and he then arranged them into what’s a fantastically eye-catching book cover.
It’s been a wonderful project to be a part of and it’s really exciting for me that my work is now part of a multi-cultural book project like this especially as my ethnic background is both Indian and English.
Paul Coomey, Art Director:
When I first saw Lucy’s work, I was struck by the energy and immense sense of celebration in her dancing figures. For this book, it is crucial for us to convey that feeling of joy that goes with a change for the better, and we felt that a diverse group of Lucy’s dancers would most elegantly communicate this.
Once we’d met and discussed the book and the ideas behind it and Lucy had had a chance to read and respond to the characters in the stories, we began by arranging the dancers around a central title. We stuck to a limited palette of red, yellow and black, and then slowly began to simplify, taking out the less essential elements and movements. During this process, we moved away from red and towards blue, in order to detach the cover from any particular location.
We narrowed down our selection to nine variations, and the Stripes team unanimously chose the noisiest one. The chosen composition has clear Constructivist influences, and was also informed by recent historic events such as The Women’s March, which took place during the development of the cover.
Once the composition was finalized, Lucy added her wonderful textures and some tonal variations and other details, and we arranged the characters as they now appear on the cover.